With its steep, bush clad slopes and crystal blue sparkling water, Lake Ōkataina is scenically magnificent. It’s a great place to boat, fish or picnic with photo opportunities galore and gorgeous sandy beaches to enjoy.
The name Ōkataina means ‘the lake of laughter’, a shortened form of the original name Te Moana-i-kataina-a-Te Rangitakaroro, which means ‘the ocean where Te Rangitakaroro laughed’. The story behind the laughter involves chief Te Rangitakaroro and his warriors, who were resting when one member of his group referred to the lake as an ocean, which was seen as a great joke by the rest of the group. Their laughter echoed around the lake and now remains enshrined in its name.
Lake Ōkataina was an important link in pre-European travel routes, when canoes were carried from Lake Tarawera to Ōkataina. The lake (and surrounding scenic reserve) is remote and beautiful, with native bush down to the water's edge boasting rimu, totara, rata and kahikatea.
An action plan to improve the lake’s water quality was adopted in April 2013 and has three main actions including land use change, pest control options for the catchment and the investigation of native bush and its impact on water quality.
At midday on Friday 10 November 2023, the temporary CAN that closed Lake Ōkataina on 1 October was lifted and replaced by a new CAN applying to all 14 Te Arawa lakes with special requirements for Lake Ōkataina.
Under the special requirements of the new CAN, all boats must be cleaned at a designated wash station in Rotorua before entering Lake Ōkataina. This is in addition to the clam-specific Check Clean Dry requirements for all boats that have been in the Waikato River.
Access to Lake Ōkataina will be controlled. The lake will be open Friday to Sunday 6:30am-7:00pm.