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Circling Lake Rotopounamu

This loop walk is a joy for birdwatchers and tree-lovers.

Tucked away in Tongariro National Park is a bush walk that loops around a hidden gem. Rotopounamu is a secluded crater lake nestled into the side of Mount Pīhanga and enveloped by lush native bush.

The lake gets its name from two Māori words; ‘Roto’ means lake, and ‘pounamu’ meaning greenstone.

The entrance to the Rotopounamu track is located on the side of State Highway 47, 11 kilometres south-west of Tūrangi, making it a great place to stop and stretch your legs on a journey through central North Island. The walk is also a great backup activity if weather on Mount Ruapehu is unfavourable.

Parking is located on the opposite side of the highway to the bushwalk entrance, so take care crossing.

The track begins with a gentle wind uphill through native forest. Refer to the many plaques to identify a wide variety of native species such as rimu, ponga, kānuka and mataī. Be sure to look up and appreciate the dense tree canopy and majestic tree trunks.

Bird-lovers will enjoy spotting North Island robins, falcons and kererū, which are becoming more common thanks to the intensive pest-control efforts of Project Tongariro volunteers and the Department of Conservation. With no other background noise, birdsong can be fully appreciated.

After around 15 minutes, you will arrive at the junction where a map shows the circuit around the lake.

Walkers are advised to trek the gently undulating track in an anticlockwise direction.

Meandering along, you’ll catch glimpses of Rotopounamu’s glistening water through the foliage before branching off to the left and arriving at Five Minute Beach. Take in Rotopounamu’s serenity and views of forest-covered Mount Pīhanga across the lake.

From here, rejoin the track and continue to Long Beach on the eastern side of the lake. The largest beach, this is a picturesque spot to enjoy a picnic and an invigorating swim in the crisp, clear water. You may even have this tranquil spot to yourself.

When you are done basking in the lake’s beauty, walk to the opposite end of the beach where a sign directs you back into the comforting shade of the forest.

Further along, Ten Minute Beach offers a final opportunity to feel the sand between your toes before the track returns you to the junction. It then descends back to the road.

This family-friendly walk takes around two hours to complete, however it’s advisable to allow extra time to pause and appreciate nature at its best. For those not wanting to do the full loop, a return walk to either Five Minute Beach or Ten Minute Beach will give you a taste of Rotopounamu’s beauty.

Walk time: 2 hours. Distance 5km
Trail notes: Easy walking track

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