One thing we’d heard tons about in our short time living in New Zealand was the beauty and size of the kauri trees, a type of tree native to Oceania. Having grown up in Northern California around some of the biggest trees in the world, I was interested in seeing how these measured up. In our journeys so far, we had seen kauri trees, however we hadn’t seen any large ones. We decided to fix that and head north to meet the largest kauri trees in the world, including the lord of the forest himself, Tane Mahuta.
A three hour drive north of Auckland will bring you to the Waipoua Forest, a place where I saw as many possums as I’d seen in my entire life all in a 10 mile stretch, and home to wild kiwi birds. We stayed at Trounson Kauri Park Campground which is adjacent to a “mainland island” and forest full of kauri and wild kiwi birds. Kiwis are nocturnal, and the park has a mostly boardwalk pathway leading in a 45 minute loop where the elusive birds are often spotted. We turned our headlamps onto their dull red glow mode as the birds get scared off by bright lights, and headed out into the dark forest.
It ended up being very hard to find the boardwalk from the campsite for us, mainly because the red glow of our headlamps was so dim that we could only see a foot or so in front of us. After some stumbling through the woods we found where we should be going and started the walk. We could hear the screeching of kiwi males, some nearby, and the shaking of bushes and trees as creatures scurried off when we approached. Parts of the walk were eerily quiet, while some were filled with loud shrieks of birds coming from meters away. About a half hour into the walk Sissy pointed out a patch of glow worms on a bush, which was our first time seeing them outside of a cave. While we had some close calls, we unfortunately didn’t luck out and see any kiwis on this visit, which means the search will continue!
The following morning we drove 30 minutes north to visit the largest kauri tree, and fourth largest tree by volume in the world, Tane Mahuta. Pulling up at the sign for Tane reveals one of the hundreds of kauri shoe scrubbing stations that are found throughout the north island. Kauri trees have been dying from a disease that is transferred through movement of dirt, usually on shoes and boots, so before and after approaching any kauri you’ll need to scrub your shoes. The walk from the parking area to Tane was a 3 minute boarded walk, revealing the lord of the forest at the end.
Tane is standing there all by his lonesome, no information board we could find or additional walkway to see him from other angles, but incredibly impressive nonetheless. He stands at 51 meters tall and 13.7 meters around, making him a third of the size of the largest tree, General Sherman, and half of the second largest which is a California Redwood, but just as impressive in his own way. We were all alone with Tane, no one else felt like visiting on a wet winter day that early in the morning. After spending some time with his majesty we headed down the road to see more of Waipoua Forest and the next largest kauri trees.
Waipoua Forest and Te Matua Ngahere
A 1km drive south brings you to a sign that says, “Kauri Walks” which is home to Te Matua Ngahere, the second largest kauri tree, among other massive trees. We hopped out of the van and saw the most massive boot cleaning station we had ever laid eyes upon, which was the gateway to the path beyond.
After thoroughly cleaning our boots for the third time in 12 hours we headed down the path into the beautiful kauri forest. Our first stop was the four sisters, which is a group of four huge kauri trees growing in a tight square, surrounded by other massive trees.
Down the path from there we ventured on toward Te Matua Ngahere, over boarded walkways and through the woods, passive giant kauri on the way. Before reaching the end of the path we could see Te Matua Ngahere looming, massive and squat, in the distance. Te Matua Ngahere, the father of the forest, is 30 meters tall and 16.4 around, making him the second largest kauri still standing.
On our walk back toward the parking lot we almost skipped visiting Yakas, signed out as the 7th largest kauri, and an additional half hour walk after our 45 minute or so walk thus far. Luckily we decided to go, and were rewarded with a beautiful walk past more huge kauri, along the cathedral – a grove of huge trees – and to the massive Yakas, where we could get so close we could touch it.
The huge kauri was the only one that visitors are meant to touch, which made it a special experience. It required the longest walk at over an hour round trip from the parking lot, but was definitely worth the effort.
The entire trip up to the Waipoua Forest was amazing. The lack of other visitors may have made it a bit more special and we can only imagine how busy it must get during the summer. The forest is worth a visit regardless of the weather and is one of our favorite trips in the northlands so far. When in the northlands make sure to check out the east coast as well, with amazing diving at Poor Knights Islands and tons of sights to see at Paihia.