Our marine kayaker takes his paddles a few miles inland and explores the freshwater of McLaren Falls.

PHOTO NATHAN PETTIGREW

McLaren Falls is real­ly all about fam­i­ly. Just 15 min­utes out of cen­tral Tau­ran­ga, this small and under­stat­ed piece of par­adise offers some­thing for every­one. There is an array of bird life here, from swans and var­i­ous kinds of ducks and geese, to pukeko, tui and, some­thing that caught my con­ser­va­tion­ist eye, a pair of kaka with their unmis­tak­ably shrill call com­ing from one of the many tow­er­ing trees above. While the more com­mon ducks and geese will offer great enter­tain­ment for the kids, espe­cial­ly those with a piece of bread in hand, for me, the­se kaka were the high­light.

If you’d like some­thing slight­ly more active, then bring your bikes and kayaks. That way, you could eas­i­ly spend a good chunk of your fam­i­ly time around the rel­a­tive­ly calm and shel­tered lake before stop­ping for lunch and util­is­ing one of the many bar­be­ques scat­tered around the park. The­se bar­be­ques are all free to use and, along with the many toi­let blocks dot­ted around the area, make it an ide­al camp­ing spot for locals who don’t want to ven­ture too far with lit­tle ones. A small fee goes back into the upkeep of the grounds and facil­i­ties and is well worth it.

As a kayak­er, McLaren Falls is per­fect for begin­ners. As I write this, there are kids out on the water in train­ing for an upcom­ing mul­ti­sport event for the AIMS games. It’s so cool that this is avail­able for our awe­some Kiwi kids! There are also some dare-dev­il white water raft­ing or kayak­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties fur­ther down­stream, when the tor­rent of water is released from the hydro pow­er sta­tion.

Pad­dling in the Tau­ran­ga Har­bour this week, I was for­tu­nate enough to pad­dle with a pod of bot­tlenose dol­phins, pen­guins and a New Zealand fur seal. Here at the Falls, I saw a good num­ber of trout. They had also clear­ly caught the eye of a fish­er­man on the side of the banks try­ing to land his din­ner with great con­cen­tra­tion.

The scenery in the park is utter­ly mag­nif­i­cent, And there are lots of day and night walks. Night? Yes! McLaren Falls offers some of the best glow worm view­ing around. Walk­ing the glow worm track is free, or you can go by kayak to anoth­er part of the park with a local tour group (fees apply). The track is stun­ning by day, too, and there is a pho­to­graph­ic treat at the turn­ing point of the walk, so be sure to take your cam­era.

There real­ly is some­thing here for every­one, so pack a lunch, grab your bikes and kayaks, may­be a book, binoc­u­lars, and bread for the birds, and get up here. Treat the fam­i­ly to a fun day out. It real­ly is one of Tauranga’s lit­tle gems.

Right, I’m off to hit some salt water. See you for more epic­ness soon!