Friday, July 11, 2008

Dome Forest Loop


When you travel the loop around Dome Forest in Northland, New Zealand, you’ll find forest hiking paths, working farms, and a marine sanctuary. At Warkworth, where we left off on our tour up SH1, take a scenic loop around Dome Forest. You’ll end up back on SH1 near Wellsford. You’re still not far from Auckland, so this makes a good day trip if you’re stuck in Auckland on business and want to see more of New Zealand than just city traffic.

In Dome Forest, you’ll find a hiking trail that leads to a viewing platform. It’s about a 20 minute, fairly easy hike to the viewing platform. Then, if you’d like to view Taranga Island of the Hens and Chickens, climb through the rocks to Dome Summit. The descent through a Kauri grove is easier. The trail crosses land sacred to local Maori, so keep on the trail.

A side road to Tawharanui Regional Park drops down to the right off this loop around Dome Forest not far from Sandspit—where the boat leaves for Kawau Island. The park road winds through farmland and ends in a gravel section. Once a private farm, the park, with its long sandy beach and grassy pohutakawa shaded areas, covers the end of the peninsula that pokes out into the Pacific Ocean just north of Kawau Island. There’s also a good walking trail that starts near a protected area of New Zealand dotterel birds, continues up the beach, then climbs across farmland to a forest. Points of interest along the trail are marked and trail guides are available for the longer trails. Tent camping sites are available, but book in advance in summer months.

Goat Island
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New Zealand’s marine reserve, Goat Island , spreads between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point. This is an excellent area to enjoy tide pools at low tide, snorkel, or dive. Although fishing is not allowed in the reserve, boats can launch in Leigh cove. There’s a five knot speed limit within 200 meters of shore or a dive flag and you’re reminded to anchor carefully so you don’t destroy the marine environment. Dive and snorkeling gear can be rented. If you’re not anxious to get wet, try a glass-bottom boat or you can explore the reserve with a PADI certified guide.

You might find your best chance to see a tuatara up close in the reptile park at Ti Point.

If you’d like to spend time on an isolated working farm, ride horseback along the beach and sanddunes, or pack into high country forest for a night or two, Pakiri Beach Horse Rides is just north of Goat Island marine reserve. The first road at Pakiri goes to the beach, the next road brings you to the 2000 acre family farm of Laly and Sharley Haddon. Beach cabins and river cabins are available as well as a beach house on the dunes that sleeps eight. Rides are from one hour along the beach to several days meandering through high country, farmlands and forests with views of the Hauraki Gulf. At night guests sleep along the trail in farm and beach houses– including the ancestral house of the Ngati Wai, while learning about Maori history and legends.

The loop around Dome Forest brings you back to SH1 just 19 km north at Wellsford. The road as far as Cape Rodney is in good shape. Beyond Pakiri, it’s windy, in poor condition, and no towing is allowed. If you’re not in the mood for a windy, dirty, road, just backtrack to Warkworth– or spend the night at Pakiri Beach Holiday Park and return the next day.

Lyn Harris

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