Have you walked amongst the Redwood giants in the Whakarewarewa Forest yet?
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At over 5,600 hectares, the Whakarewarewa Forest is a giant outdoor playground - from locals walking their dogs, multiple walking trails or a day out on the MTB trails. Located just an hour from Whakatane and 15 minutes from the Rotorua CBD, it’s the kind of place where you can see so much in a few hours or spend the whole day. It’s one of the best FREE attractions you can do in Rotorua.
It was mostly overcast when I spent the day exploring the forest, starting at The Redwoods i-Site at Long Mile Rd (via SH 30 / Forest Research Village Rd). I had planned and researched to walk a different track the night before, but when I arrived at the i-Site, it was actually closed due to the heavy rain we’d had for a couple days before. Instead, I chose the Pohaturoa Rd on the yellow track so always check out the trails board in front of the i-Site before you head off. There are also maps available for the MTB trails in the i-Site.
All trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest are colour coded, with plenty of short or longer walks options - all start and finish at the i-Site but there are plenty of entry points along the way.
Make sure to choose a trail that matches your ability - since I like to take photos , I normally
add an extra hour to recommended times on The Redwoods - Whakarewarewa Forest website.
It’s especially important to take water and snacks, as well as a sun hat and jacket on the longer walks because large parts of the trail are exposed.
I’m always a big fan of wooden boardwalks that take you through marshlands - I just think they look really pretty. Ahead of me were a couple of tourists posing for photos, so I stopped a while to admire the turquoise coloured geothermal stream below me. Once that pungent, sulphuric aroma filled my nose, I decided to move on.
You can walk the trail clockwise or counter clockwise (I chose the latter), which takes you away from The Redwoods until you loop back as you return to the i-Site. The first 30 minutes was mostly on a narrow dirt road, which proved popular with locals walking their dogs. This is also part of the MTB trails and a 4WD access, so make sure to keep an eye out for all users.
After an hour, I reached my first lookout point. There was a great view of the city and plenty of geothermal activity in the surrounding areas. Before reaching the lower lookout, there was a short uphill section, but nothing too strenuous. As you reach the ridge, the track becomes more exposed and I got to enjoy plenty of spring sunshine! There are three lookout spots within 15 minutes of each other, the first two looks towards the city (the first one was the best to be honest) and the highest one into the lush forest below.
It was nice to loop back into The Redwoods part-way through the trail, it was past midday and the sun was getting pretty hot. An MTB track ran parallel to the walking track, and it was cool to see families (especially with young children) enjoying a day out in the outdoors together. What I liked most about this adventure is that even though I knew there were plenty of people around me, it never felt crowded. The forest itself is huge, so whether you’re after a quiet walk or an adrenaline rush, there’s room for everyone.
The Redwoods isn’t a native forest, with a large mix of Californian Redwood, Radiata pine, Mexican pine, Japanese Larch and Douglas Fir. However there are native trees and ferns within the Whakarewarewa Forest itself.
If you have a bit of coin to spend, make sure to check out the Redwoods Treewalk by the i-Site (you literally can’t miss it!). You can walk it both during the day or at night - I did it at night and still rave about it two years later! Here’s an idea, why not walk through The Redwoods at sunset, then do the treewalk at night and let the lights bring out the magic of the century old Redwoods? Happy exploring!
Photographs by Ronna Grace Funtelar | Camera: SonyA6000
fivefootronna is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish adventurer, storyteller and curious optimist. A woman who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that is a combination of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during the day.