Tag Archives: forest

Hokianga Harbour and the Kauri Forests

For most of our time in New Zealand we’ve tended to spend every third or fourth night on commercial campsites and in between we’ve ‘freedom camped’ on sites provided either by the Department of Conservation (DOC) or by the local town or regional authorities.  These vary in providing absolutely no facilities, other than the space in which to park your van or pitch your tent, to well organised campgrounds with toilets and some even provide showers, kitchens, power etc.  Even the commercial sites are inexpensive by European standards, with most charging around $20/adult whilst the DOC and other sites charge around $10, or in some cases are free.  It’s a good system and means that there’s no real need for campers to stop where they’re unwanted or to pull over on the roadside for the night.  One word of advice; if you are going to use the DOC sites be sure to get there in good time as even out of peak season the better ones tend to fill up by gin time.

Sunday night we were on a well-provided DOC site on the edge of the Trounson Kauri forest sitting just to the side of Highway 12 which runs down the west coast of Northland.  Much of Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula were once covered in mixed forests dominated by the mighty kauri, the world’s second largest tree, but by the early 20th century nearly all had been felled, either for their magnificent wood or to make way for agriculture.


The only two remaining extensive pockets are the Waipoura and Trounson forests which are well worth a visit just to marvel at these enormous trees, the largest of which can live for 2,000 years and reach 50m in height and 20m in girth.  It’s an interesting fact (not a lot of people know this) that it’s now illegal to fell a kauri except in particular circumstances which include culling a diseased or dying tree, or when constructing a ceremonial war canoe – imagine explaining that one to the Cotswold District Tree Protection Officer!


Hokianga Harbour is one of those places that needs to be seen in the sunshine.  Fortunately the clouds parted and the sun broke through just as we arrived, so the view from the café as we tucked into our daily latte and muffin was to die for (we’re easily pleased these days).




Te Anau

The drive from Kingston across to Te Anau wasn’t especially exciting.  As we set off there was a thick band of low cloud lying in most of the valley bottoms and we only really popped out into bright sunshine on a few occasions during the 150 mile journey.  You know that you’re getting into the back of beyond when communities of just one or two buildings start to feature on national maps, but the few small towns we passed through looked pleasant enough.  As we swept through the metropolis of Athol (maybe 20 homes?) we were tempted to hang around for the advertised ‘Fun Day’, but as the highlight of the event promised to be a display of vintage tractors we decided to give it a miss.

Te Anau sits on the edge of the Fiordland National Park and it’s not difficult to work out why they called it Fiordland as there’s nothing much other than lakes, mountains and forests for mile after mile after mile.  This afternoon we walked about 16km of the 70km long Kepler Track which runs through the Kepler Mountains on the western side of Lake Te Anau,  lovely paths through lush forests of tall trees and tree ferns…. but as usual with our wildlife spotting luck, no Kiwi birds.


Tomorrow we’ve booked a place on a trip up Doubtful Sound which along with the more widely known Milford Sound is a popular destination for those tourists who (like us) want to feel that they’re getting a little bit off the beaten track.  The package includes a trip through one of New Zealand’s largest hydro-electric plants which was apparently built specifically to produce power to smelt Australian bauxite.  Fancy that – shipping ore all the way from Queensland to the shores of New Zealand (and then presumably back again as aluminium) to take advantage of cheap electricity …….  not quite my idea of ecologically sound practice, but what do I know?