Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Along the Kauri Coast

We’re in kauri country. We’ve traveled New Zealand’s kauri country since we turned southwest near Mangamuka Bridge and dropped into the Hokianga. Kauri, a conifer and one of the world’s largest trees, grows in this warm northern part of New Zealand. At one time, kauri spread from Northland to the Coromandel Peninsula south of Auckland. Today, the majority of kauri are in the Hokianga region.

Hokiangaa Harbour
Photo By: Bryan Goddard

Called Hokianga-nui-a Kupe– the returning place of Kupe, Maori legend says Kupe discovered Hokianga Harbour. The two headlands are Taniwha who came with Kupe. The eleven rivers that feed into Hokianga Harbour are paths made by their children. When Kupe first came to New Zealand, trees covered 80% of the land. Early Maori chewed kauri gum and mixed soot from burnt gum with oil to make moko– facial tattoos. They valued kauri for its size. At times, teams of chanting Maori pulled ropes tied to logs from the forest. The first Europeans used kauri timber for shipbuilding. Kauri’s strong straight growth made it ideal for masts. By 1900, most kauri forests had been cut down. Kauri logging ended in state forests around 1985.

Kauri Bark
Photo By: paulmcelhone

We joined Hwy 12 just after we left the ferry at Rawene. Then, we took a short drive out Signal Station Road to enjoy a view of Hokianga Harbour from South Cape. We’ll follow Hwy 12 down the Kauri Coast, visit Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, and his four sisters, then sooner or later end up in Auckland. Most tours skip this fairly remote area. The best way to explore these four protected kauri forests is by vehicle or boat. You’ll find campgrounds in Waipoua Forest and also Trounson Kauri Park– both a short distance south of Opononi. If a night in the bush isn’t your cuppa, you can stay in Opononi or Omapere and take a day trip to visit Tane Mahuta.

If you hang around with an Aussie, they’ll tell you the bush is the outback. In New Zealand, the bush is a forest– a thick forest layered with trees, shrubs, vines and ferns. You don’t want to and probably can’t get far off the path. Even though there’s no poisonous creepy crawly things in New Zealand, you might run into a weta– a large scary-looking cricket who thinks you’re large and scary-looking, or a friendly fantail. About the size of a chubby sparrow with an apricot breast and white ear patch. He’ll tag along and zip past your nose, then sit on a branch and spread open his tail for you to admire. Don’t count on a weta or fantail to lead you through the bush. Stay on the path.

Photo By: nzkiwi

You’ll find Tane Mahuta towering above a canopy of smaller trees and vines in Waipoua Forest.
Maori say Tane is the son of Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuka, the earth mother. The living forest creatures are Tane’s children. A visit to this ancient Lord of the Forest is calming as a church sanctuary. You’ll want to stay and let the worries of the world seep away. There are several tracks and walks throughout the forest.

Te Matua Track is posted from Hwy 12. Once in the carpark, you’ll find signs for Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest. A 20-minute walk from the carpark, Te Matua, the second largest living kauri in New Zealand, is believed to be over 2000 years old. All kauri have sensitive surface roots. You’ll find viewing platforms and wooden walks around kauri. From this same carpark, you can visit the Four Sisters with their evenly spaced slender trunks joined together at the base.

Photo By: Steve Atwood

Spend an evening in the forest with the night critters. You’ll find DOC camps near the Tasman Sea or inland at Trounson Kauri Park. Trounson campsite is serviced and booked at any DOC Visitor Centre. DOC has three types of campsites. Standard and basic can’t be booked. There’s a Top 10 Holiday Park nearby. If you’re traveling by car and not camping, book a room at the Holiday Park. We’ve talked about these parks before and their discount cards. Wherever you stay, you can book a guided night walk with the Top 10 Holiday Park. They’ll take you on a night walk through the kauri where you might see weta, glow-worms, Moreporks– tiny New Zealand owls that sing through the forest once the sun goes down– or a kiwi.

Tane Mahuta
Photo By: Greenstone Girl

Spend any amount of time in a kauri forest and you’ll understand:

The Last Kauri
“Artist Rei Hamon was once manager of the Thames Sawmilling Company and had the job of supervising the felling of a large kauri above Tapu in 1961. He recalls, “When that tree fell, it had been standing there for maybe a thousand years...I went back later to where it had been standing, and there were birds fluttering around there, kaka and kereru, that had nested in that tree for generations. That was the finish. I handed in my resignation. I vowed never to fell another healthy tree.”

Quote from:
Joanna Orwin, Kauri: Witness to a Nation’s History. Auckland: New Holland, 2004, p.174

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand


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Anonymous said...

Did you Maori use these big kauri trees for war canoes?
Very interesting BTW.
Julie Anna

Lyn said...

I have no idea. You'd have to ask a Maori. I thought they made them from totara trees-- big trees too, sort of like a yew.

Mimi Graves said...

DOC camps have minimal facilities but they are situated in awesome locations and the price is always right.
(Loved NZ)

Anonymous said...

I have never campervanned before in New Zealand. I'm getting more and more exxcited. I have rented a car and used hostels but this will be a lot more flexible.
(You can camp or campervan at hostels on the cheap)


Kauri Hugger
I wish I could hug a Kauri
Maybe a little one?

Anonymous said...

I did so island in a small car and tent and used DOC campsites. The one disadvantage was locking everything in my car.

amy brewster said...

We decided rental car and holiday parks for 3 weeks. We'll be in both islands in Feb. Do you have suggestions on best prices on rental cars? I know they are pricey but don't want to spend time buying one. We want to max our time having a look see.

Lyn said...

Spend time online for the best rental price. Check with a booking company like or directly with the car company. Not all car companies let you take their vehicles on the ferry. Make sure when you book they know where your drop off point is when you ask for a rate quote. Check the Interislander (
They have a list of cars they'll let on the ferry. Most of the major car rental agencies won't let you take your car on the ferry-- you drop it off on one side and pick up a new one on the other. Only problem is packing your luggage and junk around on the ferry. Upside is you don't pay extra for getting the car across.

Linda George said...

Rent a car with a big trunk. You want everything out of sight when you lock it. New Zealand people are friendly and honest but there will always be a nitwit somewhere in any country with stick fingers. We had no problems, but were told to be careful. When we visited the thermals near Taupo volunteers watched over the carpark.

Earl's Daughter said...

Wonderful post!

I tagged you on my blog today Carolyn:

Philip said...

Hostels offer accommodation in dormitories, or shared rooms. Dorms can be bigger or smaller, can be for males/females only or mixed.

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Hostels said...

Hostles are populated by young and young-at-heart backpackers and a few (usually older) budget businessmen.

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