No visit to Rotorua is complete without exploring the Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest, located just five minutes from Rotorua town centre. As the name suggests, California Redwoods were first planted here in 1901 and a 6 hectare stand of the giant trees are protected, making up the Redwood Memorial Grove. This combination of Redwoods and native New Zealand bush make for a kaleidoscope of red and green foliage that are a sensory pleasure for all.
Explore the Redwood Memorial Grove
Redwood Memorial Grove Track: 2km, 30 minutes walking time.
Waitawa Track: 3.4km, 1 hr walking time.
Starting and finishing at the Visitors Centre on Longmile Road, you can explore the Redwood Grove and Waitawa Track that weave beneath our Treewalk suspension bridges at ground level. The Waitawa Track is a slightly longer extension of the Redwood Memorial Grove Track, wandering between breathtaking redwoods before expanding into an area of Douglas fir trees. Familiarize yourself with New Zealand’s native silver ferns and the giant Mamaku ferns. Many of the trees and plants here are identified and labelled along the way, and the tracks are pram-friendly if you’re visiting with children.
Spend half a day in the Whakarewarewa Forest
Pohaturoa Track: 7.5km, 2hrs walking time
Highlight: The views over Rotorua
The Pohaturoa Track has more diverse terrain and explores many different aspects of the forest, initially passing through The Redwoods Memorial Grove before stands of mature Radiata pine, Mexican pine, Douglas fir and Japanese larch trees. At the end of the Redwood Grove you will walk on a very short sealed section of road up Nursery Hill before getting back into the trees. The climax of this walk boasts panoramic views over Rotorua city, Whakarewarewa (Te Puia and the Pohutu Geyer) as well as the Whakarewarewa Village itself. Over the hill there is also a branch off to the left where you can look over the Waipa Sawmill and surrounding forest.
Tokorangi Pa Track: 11.5km, 3hrs 30mins walking time
Highlight: Ancient Maori pa site
The Tokorangi Pa Track also starts in the Redwoods Memorial Grove before a steady climb eastward up to 500m elevation above sea level. This track is suitable for those with a moderate level of fitness as it’s definitely one that makes you puff. Enjoy beautiful views of Mt Ngongotaha, Rotorua City, the lake, airport and surrounding countryside.
The track through varied terrain leads to an ancient Maori pa (fortified village) site, although there is nothing remaining of the village today. You will then continue towards the valley floor along ‘The Wash’. Watch for mountain bikes on the Water Reservoir and Lynmore Link sections as these are dual-use tracks.
Test your limits on the Whakarewarewa Circuit
Whakarewarewa Circuit: 34km, 1-day walking time.
This circuit is a serious undertaking for a day hike, and is suitable for advanced walkers with a strong fitness level. You’ll begin the day early from Rotorua, starting the circuit southeast of the city at the parking area off Lonemile Road.
From there, the 34 kilometre route opens before you, along a hearty combination of singletrack, forestry roads and native New Zealand bush. There are panoramic views of Rotorua from the Tokorangi Pa section and trail highlights include walking alongside Lake Tikitapu (the Blue Lake) and Rotokakahi (the Green Lake).
For more information and inspiration check out the Department of Conservation’s Walking and Hiking Guide