THE BAY OF PLENTY
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The freshwater swimming spots in the Bay of Plenty are cool, clear and refreshing; perfect for escaping that summer heat and rinsing off the sand between your toes.
Raparapahoe Falls is a 3-metre high waterfall that plunges into a cool and clear pool that will literally take your breath away. This Te Puke waterfall is accessible by a steep and rough 1-kilometre track that will take you approximately 15-minutes each way. There’s plenty of steps and the track can be slippery as it zig-zags down into the valley, so maybe leave your jandals at home. The view from the bottom is a sight to behold. Cliffs and a fringe of native punga trees rise sharply above the blue pool of water.
Location: 282 Number 4 Road, Te Puke
Pori Pori is one of the Bay’s best-known freshwater swimming spots. The popular swimming hole is ideal for when you’ve had enough salt from New Zealand’s best beaches. Pori Pori gets all day sun so the freshwater is relatively warm and the surrounding rocks make great platforms for doing bombs from. There is a great variety of swimming holes and rock pools of varying depth, so there’s something for both the small kids and the big kids. The rocks that line the Pori Pori River heat up during the day making them toasty spots to sunbathe on and warm up before jumping in the water again.
Location: 10 Poripori Road, Tauriko, Lower Kaimai
The pools of water beneath and above the bridge when you enter McLaren Falls (pictured) are the local’s favourite swimming spots during the summer months. With a cascading waterfall and trees on either side, the Falls are a scenic spot to spend an afternoon. If you’re not a strong swimmer, Lake McLaren inside the park has plenty of safe spots to swim in that are also perfect for children. Surrounding Lake McLaren are picnic tables, BBQs, toilets, camping spots, the delicious Falls Café, and, of course, one of New Zealand’s best botanical collections.
Location: McLaren Falls Road, Lower Kaimai, Tauranga
If you’re still searching for adventure after the scenic coastal cliff walk from Waihī Beach to Orokawa Bay, head to the next bay over, Homunga Bay. The waterfall sprinkles down a rockface and lands directly onto the beach, making it the perfect freshwater shower to rinse off under after a swim in the sea. The walk from Waihī Beach over to Orokawa Bay is 45-minutes one way, and then Homunga Bay is an additional 1.5-hours walk one way. These secluded beaches are perfect for families and adventurers looking to avoid the crowds.
Located: The Esplanade, Waihī Beach
Fed by an underground spring, Te Waiū ō Pukemaire (pictured) is a beautifully clear and fresh swimming hole. The water of Te Waiū ō Pukemaire is surrounded by stone walls that are perfect to dangle your feet from and there’s plenty of grass to lay out your picnic or your towel for a sunbathe. The dormant volcano, Mount Pūtauaki, can be viewed from Te Waiū ō Pukemaire, making it the perfect spot to ponder the torrid love story of Mount Pūtauaki, Lake Tarawera and Whakaari (White Island).
Location: 488 Braemar Road, Rotoma
The Otanewainuku Forest is one of New Zealand’s best examples of unlogged native flora and fauna, with clear and cool streams running throughout. The 2-hour return Whataroa Waterfall track takes you through towering Rimu trees and finishes at a cascading waterfall perfect for a picnic and a cool off. You may even run into a Kiwi bird thanks to the work of the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and the Department of Conservation which have been protecting the North Island Brown Kiwi population there since the ‘90s.
Located: Mountain Road, Ōropi, Tauranga
The Whirinaki Forest boasts some of the clearest freshwater rivers in the North Island; combined with their chilly temperature, the rivers make for a refreshing dip! Nearly all the Whirinaki tracks and huts are along rivers or streams and make the perfect spot to cool off in after a long summer’s day of walking, hiking or mountain biking. The Whirinaki River runs next to the Central Whirinaki Hut and has a deep pool surrounded by one of the world’s greatest old-growth forests.
Located: Whirinaki Forest Car Park, River Road, Whirinaki Forest Park
Please make sure you take your rubbish with you.
Always check whether dogs are permitted before you go as special places in the Bay of Plenty like the Otanewainuku Forest are home to vulnerable Kiwi chicks and other native birds.
The Bay of Plenty is the only place in Aotearoa without kauri dieback disease, so please scrub your shoes, spray them with antiseptic (if provided) and stay on the track.