Tread lightly, breathe deeply, and gaze up at nature surrounded by the deep green of majestic native forests where getting to know an ancient giant is a quintessential New Zealand experience.
It seems only fitting to spend March 21 amongst the trees since this day encourages local, national and international efforts to celebrate and showcase activities involving forests and trees, such as tree-planting. Promoted by the United Nations, International Day of Forests was first celebrated in 2012. The theme for 2017 is Forests and Energy.
Otherwise known as the bush, New Zealand’s forests are extremely varied so where should you go for a forest experience?
Footprints Waipoua - Hokianga Northland
Of all New Zealand’s kauri forests, none is more famous than the Waipoua Forest. As the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world of huge trees and rare birds. No visit to Waipoua Forest would be complete without paying respects to Tane Mahuta. This jaw-dropping giant is the largest living tree in New Zealand. At an estimated 2000 years old, Tane is truly the ‘Lord of the Forest’. Not to be outdone and just close by, Te Matua Ngahere (the Father of the Forest) is older, not-quite-so-tall but thicker around the middle and easily found at the end of a 20-minute well-maintained walkway. Local Māori guides from Footprints Waipoua also offer walks through the forest at twilight – a truly magical experience providing both a cultural and environmental understanding of this unique ecosystem.
Whakarewarewa Forest (known as The Redwoods) - Rotorua
There are many types of trees found in the Rotorua Whakarewarewa Forest but the most impressive are the Californian Coast Redwoods. There are plenty of ways to experience the best the forest has to offer including walking tracks, mountain biking (renowned as the very best biking trails in the southern hemisphere), fitness trails and horse riding. The newest experience is the Redwoods Tree Walk. Opened in 2016, the Tree Walk is the place to see the forest from on high, at 12m above the ground. It’s a great daytime experience but something else by night when the lights go on. The Tree Walk has partnered with world-acclaimed design and sustainability champion David Trubridge to create an iconic nocturnal tourism experience: the Redwoods Nightlights.
Whirinaki Forest with Foris Eco Tours - Bay of Plenty
Whirinaki Forest, inland from Rotorua, was one of New Zealand’s most famous conservation battlegrounds but today it’s protected for everyone to enjoy. For one of New Zealand’s best day hikes, take a small group guided tour with Foris Eco-Tours into the beauty of one of the world's last prehistoric rainforests - a world-class example of a unique podocarp environment that’s barely changed since dinosaurs roamed under the canopy. Colossal trees stand 60 metres high – rimu, totara, kahikatea and matai which are found nowhere else in the world – and inhabited by high numbers of rare and endangered bird species.
The Goblin Forest - Taranaki
The southern slopes of Mount Taranaki are home to many walks, but the Kamahi Track through what is known as the Goblin Forest, is a firm favorite. Like a scene from a fantasy movie, the Goblin Forest is filled with kamahi trees, which perch on the trunks of other trees wrapping their own trunks and branches through and around the existing trees. This distinctive forest of gnarled and twisted forms is dripping with hanging mosses, liverworts and ferns, adding to the mystical, filmic scenes and a photographer’s must-do. The walk begins from the Dawson Falls access road on Mount Taranaki, near the country town of Stratford.
Ziptrek Ecotours - Queenstown
Ziptrek is a multi-award-winning adventure ecotourism business renowned for delivering awareness and appreciation of the natural environment along with a good dose of zip lining fun. The zip line tours incorporate from four to six zip lines through the forest canopy connecting aerial treetop platforms or tree houses that descend all the way down the mountain (Bob’s Peak) and back into downtown Queenstown. The company works closely with the local community and has donated over NZ$50K to charities and eco initiatives including sponsorship of a tuatara enclosure at the nearby Kiwi Birdlife Park and the Paper4Trees programme.
Catlins Scenic and Wildlife Tour - Southland
In the southern South Island, The Catlins coast has a variety of features which make it unique. Rugged, remote and endowed with large tracts of native rainforest fringed by high cliffs and golden beaches, with spectacular waterfalls such as the often-photographed tiered Purakaunui Falls, and the dramatic petrified forest which appears at low tide from the sand in Curio Bay – one of the world's largest and least disturbed examples of a Jurassic-age fossilised forest. Catlins Scenic & Wildlife Tours partner with Mohua Park Eco Accommodation offering four guided tours of the area's diverse natural treasures.