Kayaks on the shore at Lake Okataina

Image: Laura Beasley | Creative Commons


The name Okataina means the lake of laughter, a shorted form of Te Moana-i-Kaitaina-a-Te Rangitakaroro, which means The ocean where Te Rangitakarora laughed.

Place overview


  • Toilets
  • Information panels


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Walking and tramping

Find things to do and places to stay Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Lake Okataina supports the native common smelt, common bully, banded kokopu and koaro. These species are normally migratory and therefore require access to the sea to complete their life cycle. However, in the Rotorua Lakes the populatiuons have become landlocked with no access to the sea. 

Introduced species to Lake Okataina include trout and morihana. The common smelt was introduced into the lake in the early 19th century. There are also koura and freshwater mussels in the lake.

In Lake Okataina, vegetation around the lake is intact and the water clarity is excellent, however the native fish suffer from predation and competition by the introduced fish.

History and culture

Ngati Tarawhai are the principle iwi of Okataina with their main pa on Te Koutu Pennisula. The area is steeped with fascinating cultural history.

Fluctuating lake levels were the main reasons for Ngati Tarawhai moving away from the area before 1900. In 1921 Ngati Tarawhai gifted the shores of Lake Okataina to the crown to be set aside as a reserve. As a condition of this endowment, the reserve is now administered by the Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve Board which comprises of members of Ngati Tarawhai. It is managed by DOC.

Getting there

Leave Rotorua via SH30. Take Lake Okataina Rd (on your right) roughly 30 minutes after leaving Rotorua CBD.

Know before you go

Dogs, horses, vehicles (including bicycles and motorbikes), fires, removal of plants or
animals, camping and hunting without a permit are not permitted in the reserve.

Stop the spread of Rotorua pest fish brochure.
Stop the spread of Rotorua pest fish brochure

Stop the spread and keep Rotorua lakes free of pest fish

Report any sightings of koi carp (3-70 cm) or catfish (3-40 cm). Other fish of particular concern are rudd and gambusia.

You can help by photographing any specimens caught and forwarding to your local DOC office and by following Check Clean Dry protocols.

Invasive species are a problem because they reduce water quality and can compete with native species and trout.

For further information, or to report suspicious fish, contact your local DOC office or phone 0800 DOC HOT.


Rotorua Office
Phone:   +64 7 349 7400
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   rotorua@doc.govt.nz
Address:   99 Sala Street
Rotorua 3010
Postal Address:   PO Box 1146
Rotorua 3040
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