Lake Ohia, Northland
Lake Ohia is an other-worldly place of charred stumps and gumland scrub that casts a strange sort of magic over you.
The area was once an ancient kauri forest, then a lake that was subsequently drained in the 1900s for gum digging, exposing a maze of 30,000-year-old kauri stumps. It is now an important habitat for rare ferns, mosses and orchids.
Lake Ohia is an ephemeral lake that usually dries out in summer and is wet in winter.
A short detour off the main road will take you to this former lake bed, which offers snapshots of the past, showing visible effects of gum-digging and featuring ancient remains of a once thriving kauri forest.
Stumps of kauri trees uncovered by the
draining of Lake Ohia
Gumlands consist of shrub-covered, flat to rolling land mainly found in northern New Zealand, which have deposits of kauri gum.
Most remaining gumlands are centred in Kaitaia or Kaikohe. There are a number of layers of kauri logs lying buried in many parts of Northland. Preserved in swamps, these logs can reveal the fate of previous generations of kauri forests, tens of thousands of years ago.
In the late part of the last century, gum diggers made their presence felt in the Far North. Armies of fortune seekers settled just south of the area and hunted for a bounty of kauri gum. The fossilised resin from the kauri tree had become highly desirable as the backbone of varnish manufacturing.
Lake Ohia was drained for gum-digging. On the former lake bed you can now see exposed remains of the fossilised kauri forest that was drowned about 30,000 years ago, before the lake was formed.
Plants and animals
Water is present for approximately two months of the year. Classified as a gum-field wetland, this former lake now provides important habitat for rare ferns, mosses and orchids.
Signage at Lake Ohia
The surrounding swamps and shrub land contain the threatened freshwater black mud fish and are home to many bird species.
Lake Ohia is located on the Karikari Peninsula, a 40-minute drive, 21.5 km northeast of Kaitaia.
From Kaitaia, head north to Awanui, onto State Highway 10 and then onto Inland Road to the Gumhole Reserve parking area, 21.5 km from Kaitaia.
Plan and prepare
Other places to visit
- Kaimaumau Swamp - a complex and extensive infertile freshwater wetland between Houhoura and Rangaunu Harbours. Good views from the road.
- Lake Ngatu - a gem of a dune lake in the Sweetwater lakes system, popular for recreation and with a 4 km walking track. Read about the Lake Ngatu Track
Help stop kauri dieback
Kauri dieback disease is killing our native kauri. It spreads by soil movement, but you can help prevent it.
- Stay on the track and off kauri roots.
- Clean your gear before and after visiting kauri forests.
Visit the kauri dieback website for more information on how you can help.
Magical places - 40 wetlands to visit in New Zealand brochure