Walk Amongst the Giants: New Zealand’s tallest trees
On the global stage, New Zealand has a comparatively short history. But when it comes to tall trees, we sure punch amongst the best.
Words by: Nicole Mudgway
Photos by: Getty Images
Dotted throughout the country, New Zealand’s lush landscape is graced with many forests, plenty of which are native, and almost all of which form canopies to ecosystems of flourishing flora and fauna.
Often the appeal is in the forest itself, and sometimes, the destination is a particularly tall tree, but each of the locations on the list below will no doubt leave you marvelling at the wonder of nature.
Te Mata Peak Redwoods
Te Mata Peak, or Havelock North’s sleeping giant, is home to a 223-acre redwood forest that forms part of a network of trails frequented by local runners, walkers, mountain bikers and, of course, their furry friends. The redwood forest is made up of California redwoods, many of which are over 40 metres tall. With a lifespan of 2500 to 3500, these tall boys are still considered juveniles, considering they were only planted in 1927 - practically yesterday, in tree years! There are two lower car parks (known as Tauroa Road car park and Main Gates car park) that are handy to the Redwoods.
Tane Mahuta and the Waipoua Forest
North of Dargaville
One of New Zealand’s most memorable forests, Waipoua Forest is home to 75% of the country's kauri trees. A windy, tree-lined road weaves through ferns and greenery to various car parks along the route. The forest houses two of the most significant trees in the area. Te Matua Ngahere, the ‘Father of the Forest’, is one of the country’s oldest: at the ripe old age of 2000 (plus) years. Just up the road is Tane Mahuta, one of New Zealand’s largest trees with a girth of almost 16 metres. Aged somewhere between 1200-2000 years, Tane Mahuta hasn’t finished growing yet!
Hanmer Forest Park
Nestled in the hills behind Hanmer Springs village is the lush Hanmer Forest Park, the perfect precursor to an afternoon spent lazing in the village’s hot pools. Nowadays, the greenscape spans over 5150 hectares, made up of a patchwork of native and exotic trees, with a number of trails crisscrossing throughout. Accessible by both bike and foot, there are trails of all differing lengths, including up the well-known Conical Hill. Kids will love the Forest Amble, a pleasant 30-minute return walk, home to many creative art pieces along the way.
AH Reed Memorial Park
Featuring a forest of 500-year-old native kauri trees, a boardwalk, a swingbridge and a somewhat impressive waterfall, AH Reed Memorial Park makes for a pretty great excursion from Whangarei. Like all kauri forests, expect a shoe cleaning station at the entrance and exits to the park: a preventative measure against the extremely contagious (and deadly) kauri dieback disease.
Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest
Rotorua’s redwoods are an absolute playground for mountain bikers, walkers and even horseback riders. There are a huge number of trails available, offering different lengths and intensities. The Redwood Memorial Grove is a 2km loop trail starting at the carpark that journeys through native bush and underneath towering California Coastal Redwoods. The Redwoods Treewalk provides a thrilling 700 m-long canopy walk, crossing 28 bridges and casting a whole new perspective on the forest. After dark, lanterns light up the trail providing a somewhat magical experience.
Recognised as the National Arboretum of New Zealand, Eastwoodhill is an idyllic, 131-hectare greenspace containing a massive assortment of exotic and native trees, shrubs and climber plantings. There is a range of walks on offer, catering to all levels of fitness and ability, from flat tree-lined paths to a steep climb up Mt Arateitei, which rewards hard work with expansive views over the arboretum and surrounding countryside. Our favourite time to visit is in autumn when the landscape is alight with colour. Check the website for entry fees and opening hours.
Tane Moana tree
Start near Ngunguru and hike to Tane Moana, New Zealand’s largest coastal tree with a girth of approximately 11 metres. It’s either a 3.9km return trail over farmland and gradual hills or a hike right through to Matapouri (about 10km, with a moderate level of fitness required). One of the more popular walks in the area, it can get rather muddy following heavy rain, but the natural scenery makes it an adventure well worth having.
A stone’s throw from Wellington city is Otari-Wilton’s Bush, New Zealand’s only botanic garden dedicated to native plants and the city’s only remaining original broadleaf-podocarp forest. Take one of the many paths through the plant collections, grouped by the ecosystems found in different New Zealand regions, although the fun doesn’t stop there: keep your eyes peeled for native birds, eels, skinks, weta and even glow worms.
Orokonui is a 307-hectare biodiversity sanctuary near Dunedin. Home to many threatened species and habitats, it has a long-term goal to ensure these species thrive. It also has the country’s tallest tree: an Australian mountain ash which clocks in at somewhere over 80 metres. The tree is situated in the lower, northern end of the ecosanctuary, about an hour’s walk from the visitor centre.
Trounson Kauri Park
Heading up into Northland, Trounson Kauri Park is a 568-hectare reserve home to many a kauri tree and also a number of resident North Island brown kiwi. The dense grove also hides several other threatened species, including the kūkupa (New Zealand pigeon), pekapeka (bats) and kauri snails. View the kauri trees by opting for the easy half-hour loop walk through these magnificent giants.
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