Here's the first of our features on Walking the Waikato. Take a look at the recently upgraded Lake Ngaroto walk. It's 5.73 km, dog friendly (on leads) and it's graded as "easy." It will take approximately 1-1.5 hours to complete at a fair pace. Of course it will be quicker if you jog!
This is a fantastic place for a family walk of a few kilometres.If you're a small business person or professional or a student, you' might enjoy the chance to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the wetland flora. The lake is one of the largest peat lakes of the Waikato and is populated by many birds. In January 2015 The Waipa District Council began work on a water quality and track upgrade. This has included a weir replacement and extensive redevelopment of walk track. While there are some very minor sections that are still unfinished, the bulk of the track work has been done and it's worth getting your running shoes on for a bit of a jaunt out there.
Because it's a peat area the soil is quite porous and waterlogged and over the years the track had degraded somewhat with stodgy patches and a fair bit of slosh. In parts it was almost impossible to traverse.
But all that's changed!
Most of the walk is now properly surfaced. There's floating walk sections through reeds and graded gravel stretches as well as clearly defined pathways and distance markers. (They're especially fun to jog along!) You can stroll slowly and spy a myriad of native species in the wetland grasses and cabbage trees or you can attack the track at a much faster pace. Whatever your choice, the lake area is a popular destination for birdwatchers/ornithologists, walkers, rowers and sailors and families, so if you want to take a packed lunch or just a bottle of water, or even your binoculars and bird book you'll enjoy every minute of this pretty wetland adventure.
Lake Ngaroto is only stone's throw from Ohaupo - nineteen km south of Hamilton and about 8 km north of Te Awamutu. You can reach it easily from Hamilton and the drive takes just over 30 minutes through the beautiful rolling greenery of The Waikato. Take the following route:
- From Cobham Drive, take State Highway 1
- Continue onto State HIghway 3 (signs for Waitomo Caves and New Plymouth/Route 3)
- At Roundabout 600 metres on, take 1st exit onto Ohaupo Rd/State Highway 3
- Just past Ohaupo, turn right onto Ngaroto Road. Travel along for 2.8km
- Turn right onto Paterangi Rd and travel for 1.9km
- Turn right onto Bank Road and travel 2.2km and you will reach the Lake.
There's plenty of available car parking as well as bbq and toilet facilities.There's also a boat ramp and wharf if you're interested in kayaking and sailing. There's also rowing.The Te Awamutu Sailing Club has its base here, and you can often see small hobie cats criss-crossing the lake during the sailing months. The kids might also enjoy a spot of fishing off the long wharf for fun. An extensive grass verge for picnics lines the lake bank just near the carpark, making it a perfect spot for a snack or rest.
Why not combine the walk with a family lunch on the grass? Do the circuit and arrive back at the carpark ready for refreshments and a picnic lunch on the verge.
A number of protected, self-introduced and introduced bird species congregate in and around the water source. These include the Australasian harrier and banded rail, the spotless crake, the pied stilt and the morpork. In all about 36 species can be seen from any number of the bird-watching points along the walking track.
The current regeneration project has had a favourable impact on bird numbers and these are expected to rise as water quality improves.
Photograph: Elliot Leighton
The Cathedral Tunnel
We travelled along the track in an anti-clockwise direction. This suited us best and although there's no preference or right way, I suggest you choose the direction that best suits the day's prevailing weather conditions and available sunlight.
A few minutes into the walk, past the first of the wetland floating tracks, we hit upon the thick stand of ti-trees at the eastern edge of the lake. We dubbed this area the "Cathedral Tunnel." The dark umber of the ti-tree branches bowed into a peak and formed a picturesque tunnel that twittered and echoed with some astonishing birdlife. It is a magnificent sight, and all just a short drive from home and the office.
A Great Place for Exercise
The track is evenly graded and the surface is level since the upgrade, making it very suitable for more vigorous exercise. The days we've been there we've walked at a fast pace, but there are many who use the track as a picturesque jogging circuit. The track's length and division into a series of fairly distinct sections that are lined by well established reed systems, cabbage trees and NZ tea-trees, means it's also an engaging place to run. The variation, including a couple of very minor sections traversing grass farmland, makes it far more engaging and fun to jog on than the gym running-machine! (Although I'm still a big fan of machines, particularly in the winter months and the wetter weather!) At this stage it is not wheelchair friendly, but hopefully when the final areas are finished, those with disabilities will be able to complete the full circuit.
The Lake Ngaroto walk gets a 5 star seal of approval!
It's one of the most enjoyable walking workouts you can have in The Waikato district. We've even ducked down there after work from the office when the weather's permitted it.
Make a day of it and pack a picnic lunch, a ball and a camera. You won't be disappointed.