Over the Christmas break, we set out on a tiki tour and headed North of Auckland. Our plan was to put the kayak in the water for the first time in 2017 and paddle around the Kai Iwi lakes. But plans changed – between the crowds and the wind at Kai Iwi, we instead consulted CamperMate which led us to the Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park. Our kayak trip turned into a hiking trip as we explored the amazing Kauri forests of New Zealand.
We started off the next morning by hiking the Trounson Kauri Park, just north of our campground. The park is said to have the best collection of kauri trees in NZ and the park is home to the North Island brown kiwi and other threatened species. It’s a really well-paved trail with a boardwalk running through a lot of it so that you don’t step on the kauri roots and kill them. The trail information says it takes about 40 minutes to walk the trail but you’ll spend more than that if you’re like us and spend half the time staring up and the HUGE kauri trees in amazement – so incredibly strong and majestic. There’s a wash station when you enter and exit the trail to allow you to clean your shoes to prevent spreading diseases that threaten the kauri.
The Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park is one of the best managed campsites I’ve stayed in. Nice facilities, kitchen and wash areas, good sized camp areas, and it is situated in the bend of a river with a swimming hole on one side set up with a rope swing. You can rent inner tubes, jump in the river on one side of the campground and get out on the other side and do it all over again. There’s also a nice little rock stepping path across the river to what looked like a trail on the other side. And at night, you can walk just a few hundred feed from some of the campsites and under a bridge by the river the glow worms light up the night!
The holiday park offered a night walk through the kauri forest but we decided to forgo the $25 charge and set out on our own after dark with flashlights (torches) and glow sticks. We returned to the Trounson Kauri Park trail and discovered that was where the tour group went anyway! We walked the trail for a bit with the lights on and then switched them off and walked really slowly and just listened to the night sounds of the forest – to the kiwi calls in the distance and the rain falling on the trees. There was a rustling sound in the bush so I switched on my light and we were giddy to find that the sound was a little brown kiwi foraging through the bush. It seemed not to care about the light and let us watch for a while before heading further from the walkway and going about its business. My partner was so excited. He’s lived in New Zealand most of his life and that was the first time he had seen a kiwi in the wild. The Brown Kiwi is the only native kiwi that can be found in the North Island.
We continued down the trail, trying hard to repeat the experience – we heard a few more kiwi calls through the woods but didn’t see another one. We did see hundreds of thousands of glow worms though. The first time we saw them was through the woods – shining so bright we thought it was people with flashlights on the trail. Under every over-hang, tree root, nook and cranny and every time you turned a corner there they were. It was surreal!*
The next day we heading back up to Tane Mahuta to pay him another visit and hiked another trail to the Four Sisters and Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest). The Four Sisters is a quick 20 minute return walk from the parking lot (carpark) and Te Matua Ngahere is about 40 minutes return. Te Matua Ngahere is the oldest kauri tree in New Zealand and is estimated to be over 2,000 years old! He is just a little bit smaller than Tane Mahuta but much older. If you had to do just one then I would pick the Trounson park walk since it has soooooooo many kauris but we were really glad we had time to do both.