Aotearora New Zealand is home to a prehistoric rainforest. Ancient forest giants tower up to 200 metres. The podocarp forest (cone bearing polluters) hosts rimu, totara, kahikatea, matai and miro trees with some estimated to be over 1000 years old. The timeless forest is just over an hour’s drive from the bustling port of Tauranga yet it slumbers without the hordes of tourists you would expect. There are a number of walks from short easy walks to challenging multi-day tramps. Walkers will enjoy quiet peaceful lagoons and the spectacular moss-covered rock walls of the Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon. For visitors who enjoy the outdoors check out Bay of Plenty 10 short walks and enjoy what the Bay of Plenty has to offer.
Whirinaki Te Pua-A-Tane heritage sites
Seven pa (village) sites can be found in the hills, and the terracing created for agriculture is evident. The regional park was formed in 2003 to help protect the site’s cultural heritage (which may date back as far as 1650AD or even earlier) and there are over 2,000 archaeological features found here.
Whirinaki Forest Park marks the edge of the commercial exotic Kaingaroa pine plantations to the west and Te Urewera National Park to the east. It stretches over 55,000 ha from near Murupara in the north to the Napier-Taupo highway in the south.
Whirinaki Te Pua-A-Tane highlights
- New Zealand’s only native mammals, the long and short-tailed bat, live in the native forest and bush. The bats are rarely sighted.
- Arohaki Lagoon. Magnificent swamp kahikatea rooted in the water tower over the landscape.
- Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon is a spectacular rock-bound cascade of water over moss covered rocks
Department of Conservative advisory
The Department of Conservation Rangers encourage slow driving, requesting that you watch for wildlife and wandering horses and as you “cross the border into another world.” The Whirinaki is home to rare and endangered birdlife. When visiting, watch and listen for North Island brown kiwi, red and yellow-crowned kākāriki, North Island kākā, whio (blue duck is pinup model for the $10 currency) and the endangered kārearea (New Zealand falcon).
Moss covered rock walls of Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon.
KEY SHORT WALKS IN WHIRINAKI FOREST PARK
H-Tree Track is wheelchair accessible and includes a kids treasure map as described by plaque at the beginning of the walk. The H Tree Track in Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park is an easy loop track through a grand podocarp forest. The forest is home to a number of native birds, including kaka.
THIS IS SUITABLE FOR KIDS
- Length: 2.2 km loop
- Duration: 1 hours
- Grade: Easy short walk
Whirinaki Waterfall loop track
DOC describes the walk as, ‘you’ll follow the Whirinaki River as it flows through podocarp forest. This easy loop track follows the Whirinaki River through superb podocarp forest with many excellent vantage points of the river. The waterfall can be heard from some distance. Take your lunch to enjoy along the way – there are picnic tables and a toilet at the waterfall.
This track visits some of the park’s special features and shows off the magnificent ‘dinosaur forest’, dominated by towering examples of kahikatea, tōtara, matai, rimu, miro and much tawa.
Ensure you stop off along the track when you can see the river as this is the best river in the Bay of Plenty to view blue duck/whio from.’
- Length: 11km loop
- Duration: 3 – 4 hours
- Grade: Easy walking and well maintained track.
A very popular 4-5 day tramp is the Whirinaki Circuit.
WHIRINAKI FOREST ACCOMMODATION
For guided tours and overnight stays, Whirinaki forest holidays are situated right in the heart of the Whirinaki forest park, which makes easy access to the national park. The accommodation is located only 15 minutes from the main access point to the majority of the popular walking tracks. The forest park provides a shuttle service to tracks or transport in your vehicle. With free car care while you are away. Whirinaki Forest Holidays will provide a lift to the start of mountain bike trails and tramping tracks in Moerangi and Whirinaki. Visitors can arrange a pick up from Whakatāne and Rotorua in Whirinaki Forest Holidays 12-seater van and purpose-built trailer.
Join a 12km guided cultural walking experience capturing the key highlights of the forest from a packed picnic, forest to fork, introduction to traditional herbs, waterfalls and mossy canyons. A moderate degree of fitness is required for the tour.
As described by the tour operator, a full day eco-cultural walking tour providing entertainment, education, enlightenment and enrichment, expertly guided and tutored by those with an intimate knowledge of the forest.
Whirinaki Forest is located between Rotorua and Taupo. The most popular entrance to the park is past Minginui village and up River Road to the River Road car park, the starting point for many walks.
<– Car park map
BEST TIME TO GO TO WHIRINAKI
Early summer (November) – March (late summer). Check the weather forecast before departing and inform people of your proposed return time.
Travel pack information
- Walks and tracks in Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park PDF
- Whirinaki Forest Footsteps guided tour brochure PDF
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE