Located in the East Coast region
IntroductionRemote, rugged, immense, Te Urewera is the home of the Tūhoe people and is famous for its lakes and forested beauty.
Te Urewera is recognised in New Zealand law as a living person. Te Urewera is spoken for and governed by a board. Care for Te Urewera, including the tracks and facilities, is carried out by Te Uru Taumatua – Ngāi Tūhoe’s operational entity.
Te Uru Taumatua are working to develop a new kind of visitor experience – one that is rich with culture, appreciation of Papatūānuku, and care for nature and people. Manuhiri (visitors) are welcome in Te Urewera and are encouraged to experience this unique and special place.
Te Uru Taumatua are making changes to visitor infrastructure and huts are being removed.
Find things to do and places to stay Te Urewera
The Ruapani Circuit Track, which passes 7 wetlands, is a great place to see wetland birds such as scaups/pāpango, grey ducks/pārera, Australian coots and little black shags.
Most craft are permitted on Lake Waikaremoana, although jet skis, house boats and float planes are not permitted. Carry approved safety equipment and a local chart of the lake. Observe water safety regulations.
Row boats can be hired on Lake Waikareiti when the Te Urewera Visitor Centre is open.
Be aware that conditions on the lake can change rapidly.
Brown and rainbow trout are found in Lakes Waikaremoana and Waikareiti. Fishing licenses can be bought from Fish & Game New Zealand and from the Waikaremoana Holiday Park store.
Te Urewera lies between the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay in the North Island. The nearest towns are Whakatane and Tāneatua to the north, Murupara and Ruatahuna to the west, and Wairoa to the east.
Waikaremoana can be approached from two directions on SH38 which runs from Waiotapu in the north to Wairoa on the East Coast. SH38 passes Te Karetu where Te Urewera Visitor Centre (Te Kura Whenua) and the Waikaremoana Holiday Park are located.
The highway is a gravel surface for about 90 km between Murupara (north of Te Karetu and Tuai (south of Te Karetu). This may be difficult for lower vehicles and 4WD/SUV is recommended.
Parking space is available at:
- Waikaremoana Holiday Park
- Near the lake side – up to 10 days free parking
- Onepoto at the Great Walk trail-end car park, and near the boat ramp
- Hopuruahine Landing at the Great Walk trail-end car park, 2 km off the main road
- Āniwaniwa near the old visitor centre site – from here you can follow the Black Beech track to the Te Urewera Visitor Centre, approximately 20 mins walk.
To access the northern part of Te Urewera via the Waimana Valley, take the Bell Road turnoff from SH2. The road travels about 30 km up the valley to the Matahi Valley Road end. Caution is advised as most of this road is unsealed, narrow and windy.
All parking is at the owners' risk. Do not leave valuables in your cars.
Extreme weather changes are a feature of the area, including snow in summer. Te Urewera is a rainforest and so tracks can be muddy.
Make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared. Your safety is your responsibility. Know the five essential steps of the Land Safety Code.
Call in at the Te Urewera Visitor Centre at Te Kura Whenua for the latest information on weather and track conditions. Check opening hours.
How to be a good manuhiri
Te Urewera is a taonga and everyone has a responsibility to care for her. All manuhiri (visitors) to Te Urewera are asked to respect Tikanga of the Lake and help us all to guardians of this place.
To the Tūhoe people, Te Urewera is not just their homeland, but also the mother of their first ancestors.
The Care for Nature (Manaakitanga Te Urewera) principles help visitors experience Te Urewera and the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk in a way that accords with her needs, and helps us all to build our connection to nature.
That means embracing experiences in nature that are beautiful and child-friendly, and caring for our wildlife and environment.
- Camping is only in approved camping areas and huts. This includes the lakeshore.
- There are no rubbish facilities, so pack-in/pack-out – take anything you bring in to Te Urewera out again, avoid single use plastic and don’t litter.
- All native wildlife in Te Urewera is protected. Native plants and animals must not be disturbed, destroyed or removed. The bush is a taonga, a treasure for all.
- To protect ground-dwelling birds, no dogs or other domestic animals are permitted on the track.
- Fire is a major threat. Fires can be used for cooking or warmth, unless there is a temporary fire ban, however, a portable stove is a better option.
- If you are hunting - use firearms carefully. Always identify your target. Unload your firearm and remove the bolt before entering huts, and store ammunition and bolts separately from the firearm.
- Hunting is by permit only.
If you have questions about how best to respect Te Urewera, call in to Te Urewera Visitor Centre at Te Kura Whenua and speak to one of the team.
“She (Te Urewera) offers an attractive and compelling invitation to those Tūhoe and manuhiri who wish to have a relationship with her. She provides for manuhiri that are open to her, to embrace and contribute to her living system, which Te Kawa articulates and empowers.“- Te Kawa O Te Urewera
Te Urewera is the homeland of the Tūhoe people. It is the first natural feature to be recognised in New Zealand law as a living person, meaning it owns itself and exists for its own sake.
Of course, the land and its natural resources cannot act or speak as a person. Instead, Te Urewera is spoken for and governed by a board of humans, some appointed by the Crown, some by the trustees of Tūhoe – Te Uru Taumatua, Ngai Tūhoe's operational entity. Te Urewera Board is obliged to plan and care for Te Urewera while giving expression to Tūhoe concepts.
Tūhoe people are natural hosts and they want to welcome manuhiri (visitors) here. Their hope is that you will leave with so much more than you arrived with. Whether that’s a feeling of wellbeing, connectedness or appreciation for this whenua, this is an experience like no other in Aotearoa.
Tūhoe, with support from DOC, is aiming to provide a new kind of visitor experience. One that is rich with culture, appreciation of Papatūānuku and care for nature and people.
As Tūhoe work to re-establish te mana motuhake they are learning and identifying the best ways to work that is not simply adopting an approach that already exists. As Tūhoe work to re-establish te mana motuhake they are learning and identifying the best ways to work that is not simply adopting an approach that already exists. This includes taking a new approach to visitor facilities within Te Urewera.
Their challenge is to get the balance right for nature, people and the manuhiri experience. This takes time and is often balanced with many other priorities.