Rotorua in the central North Island of New Zealand is infamous for its geothermal activity, with the lingering notes of sulphur in the air and its Maori heritage. What maybe isn’t as well known is the Whakarewarewa Forest. Also known as the Rotorua Redwoods, the forest is found alongside the south side of Lake Rotorua.
An interesting experiment
During the early 20th century, foresters in the area were intrigued as to what northern hemisphere trees would take in this part of the world. New Zealand trees tend to grow quite slowly, taking 200-300 years to maturity. As more Europeans settled in the country, demand for wood increased. This wood would be used to build new homes and businesses nearby. The foresters proposed an experiment with the planting of over 170 species of trees. As the trees grew a nearby sawmill opened in 1939 followed by a quarry in 1960 to meet the supply chain. The quarry quickly shut six years later as it was considered too noisy for the nearby residents.
Becoming a Forest Park
Only a handful of these trees remain today, including the redwoods. The Whakarewarewa forest was made a Forest Park in 1987. This decision was due to the significance to the community in both historical and cultural reasons. What now remains is over 5600 hectares of forest to explore, by walking, mountain biking and even horse riding. The redwoods now make up 6 hectares of the overall forest with these mighty giants reaching skywards. The most massive redwood in Rotorua stands at 72 metres tall and 169 centimetre in diameter (which is enormous!). There are also vast numbers of ferns including the iconic ponga or silver fern.
The highlight of the park is the tree walk, with 28 suspension bridges elevated into the Californian Redwoods. Hanging around 27 redwoods up to 20 metres in the area. To be even more special is that it is open in the evening and it illuminated by 30 different lanterns representing the native wildlife. The tree walks in the part of the forest that has an entry fee to maintain the bridges and takes about 30 minutes.
There are numerous bike tracks from beginner to advanced to explore, and there are quite a few places in Rotorua where you can hire mountain bikes.
A haven for ecotourism and for everyone to enjoy while ensuring Manaakitanga (hospitality and trust) and Kaitiakitanga (guardianship of the forest). With so many adventures to have in Rotorua, why not enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the woods.