Lake Waikare & Whangamarino Wetland
Saturday 26th February
I packed all my stuff into the car, drove down to the cafe I'd discovered
the day before, and had bacon and eggs and coffee while reading the New
Zealand Herald. Then I was off and heading northwards, with the usual
morning fog blanketing the Waikato.
I'd spotted a "National Wetlands Centre" sign at Rangiri on my way down.
There was a "Lake Waikare Wildlife Refuge" marked on the road atlas,
to the southeast of Rangiri. And at the Hamilton DOC office I'd picked
up a pamphlet on the Whangamarino Wetland, to the northeast. So I'd
decided to spend a few hours exploring the area, to see what I could find.
At Rangiri I discovered that the Wetlands Centre no longer existed.
But I looked around a display of artifacts from the 1863 battle.
I discovered that there's now a Lake Waikare Scenic Drive, so I followed
that down the east side of Lake Waikare, returning the same way. My 2004
road atlas marks it as gravel, but this stretch of road is now sealed.
It's a nice looking lake, but despite the new "scenic drive" designation
there was no public access anywhere that I could see -- and not many
convenient places to stop.
Continuing north along the scenic drive, Whangamarino Wetland had a
similar deficiency. There's one spot marked on the DOC pamphlet as a
"bird viewing site", which is lush and green and even has some hides
visible. But access didn't look that easy - there was a barbed wire fence
and some wading involved - and I didn't have time to go exploring anyway.
So I gave up my wetland explorations and drove across the Island Block
Road back to the main highway. With one stop in a roadside service
centre I was soon in Auckland.
There's not much there yet. But if the "National Wetland Interpretation
Centre" is built in Rangiri, if a few enterprising farmers set up access
points and hides and maybe a kiosk (there's at least one farmstay
already), if a "Whangamarino Wading Bird Centre" like the Shorebird
one at Miranda is set up... There are definitely possibilities here,
though it's never going to be a major tourist attraction.
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