Rotorua 3: A walk among giants
I’ve long wanted to see giant redwoods on their native Californian turf. There’s something about hugely old and enormous trees I find a bit fascinating. But it turns out I can get a taste of this much closer to home.
On the outskirts of Rotorua, a short drive from our holiday accommodation at Lake Okareka, is a section of Whakarewarewa Forest called The Redwoods. This was a must-see on our short stay in the area.
There are a few trails on offer though we did just the basic circuit – the Redwood Memorial Grove Track – and it wasn’t long before we were treading on an earthy carpet with the forest canopy way above our heads filtering out much of the daylight.
The trees here aren’t big by redwood standards, but they are by typical NZ pine forest standards. Redwoods can live for 2,000 years and the grove in Rotorua is a mere 113 years old, the largest tree being about 72m tall and 1.7m across. In the US, a redwood named Hyperion is the world’s tallest known living tree at 115m and another named Lost Monarch has a staggering diameter of 7.9m.
But why are redwoods (and other non-natives) here, so far away from home? NZ in the late 1800s saw European settlers clearing vast amounts of forested land. Deciding some of this needed to be replaced, the Government bought land blocks from Maori landowners. NZ native trees were not seen to be the pragmatic planting solution though on account of their very slow growth rate. Faster growing species from other countries were investigated, which led to Californian Coast Redwoods being planted in 1901.
Initially grown with harvesting in mind, the redwood grove was later dedicated to the memory of Forest Service members who died in the World Wars. Commercial operations began to cease and in 1970 a walking track through the forest was opened to the public. Progressively, over many years and through many changes of ownership and management, access and facilities were developed.
Now it’s a fabulous recreation and conservation area.
Except for the odd squeal ringing out from a family group somewhere behind us, it was tranquil. Being among these towering trees, with thriving native vegetation beneath them, was one of the best, most beautiful walking experiences I’ve had.
Our walk came to an end and it was time to continue with our other plans for the day. The Rotorua Redwoods were fantastic though one day I do still look forward to meeting their big American ancestors.
Fascinating to learn why NZ has redwoods! And equally fascinating to see your images. I love the play of light and shadows! It looks so peaceful.
Thanks Cindi, hopefully they’ll be around for several hundred more years – plenty of time for me to go back and do some more trails 🙂
Oh how beautiful! I’m a sucker for trees too and I love nothing more than walking in woods and forests. I bet it smelt wonderful too with all the greenery and vegetation around you and pure air. I hope your dream of visiting the American Redwoods comes true 😀
It was magnifique! I think you’re right about the smell – at the very least it must have filtered out the sulphur smells the area is known for. Pleasant on the senses all round.
That looks like a gorgeous walk. The native vegetation growing through underneath is interesting – often pine forests look very bare at ground level. And beautiful photos as always!
Thanks very much – it was a great weekend all round, but that walk was what I enjoyed most.
Oh wow! They are huge. And beautiful. I love them. It looks very tranquil in there. Is Rotorua the only place where they planted the redwoods in NZ?
Hi Ali – good question, I did a quick bit of checking and looks like there might be a few commercial blocks in other places as well.
Fantastic. This is great post and so awesome photos. I love those red redwoods!!! I have seen them in my life only in Muir Woods near to San Francisco.
Hi Matti, thanks very much. You’ve seen them on their home turf, something I would love to do!