A place for everyone: Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest

On a recent road trip to Rotorua, my tour group requested a visit to the magnificent Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest. What a hidden gem for nature lovers, walkers, mountain bikers, and horse riders. This is an outdoor activities place, a place to explore, a place to learn about nature and a place for all the family.

On arrival at the forest car park, confirmation was received that New Zealand is a rugby-loving country and there’s is not a place in New Zealand where a rugby ball is not present, with Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest being no exemption. Greeting us were school boys throwing a rugby ball between a group of half-a-dozen of them circled in the car park as they waited for the rest of their party to find their way out of the forest.

And just a few metres away a family is setting up table and chairs for a scrumptious picnic feast. All the delights of a well-prepared picnic; chicken, bread, salad, and wine glasses appearing on the table, all for that pleasurable family brunch.

Falling in love with this place is not hard to do.  Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest is a place that I have not visited too often. I knew it was there, but of the many times in Rotorua, it had been, what I call off a faulty GPS, the forest is now permanently on the GPS, as a favourite and will often be visited in the future.

My tour group love to walk and needed to walk off their breakfast, so this was the place of most interest close by; so, the entourage requested we drive to the Redwoods Visitor Centre and I-Site carpark. Six different walks start here, all which have different classifications, like:

  • Short walks of half-an-hour to an hour on the Redwood Memorial Grove track (2kms) or Waitawa Walk (3.4kms)
  • Extended walking trails that vary in time to complete of up-to-a-day
  • Tramping tracks
  • Dual purpose tracks; where walkers and mountain bikers are in the same area

There is also a fascinating 553-metre treetop walk. A walk where you can look up to the sky, to the strong Californian Coastal Redwoods towering above, or down to the flora and fauna that covers the ground beneath as you traverse the 23 suspension bridges connected to the 22 Redwood trees.

The forest has a refreshing airiness about it, you know people are about, because the car park is full, and muffled voice sounds in the distance, but there is also a great loneliness within the forest due to its expanse. The smell of the air is fresh and clean, with a hint of undergrowth decay from the ground.

The mighty Redwoods provide a canopy to shelter and shade the variety of ferns, shrubs, flowers, and fungi. Nature’s greens and browns everywhere, the browns of the dominant Redwood tree trucks and the dead vegetation that’s scattered on the ground, the greens of the ferns and plants all intermingled with each other, all fighting for space on the ground floor. Ferns being the most dominant groundcover, they are everywhere. New Zealand has over 200 different types of ferns, with the Kiokio or Palm-Leaf fern being the most common ground fern within the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest. A place to visit, a place to enjoy, a place for everyone.

April 2017

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