I’ve explored quite a bit of New Zealand (both North and South islands) but there are still wonderful places off the beaten path. It’s amazing that there are so many hikes for different levels and locations in this country, and new hikes appear every year.
Whirinaki Forest is a truly special mystical place. It’s one of the world’s last prehistoric rainforests. It is an ancient wild forest from the age of dinosaurs, full of silence and life. This great forest is very moist, dense, and abundant green with tree branches covered with moss and sparkling raindrops adorning the magic tree outfits.
The air in the Whirinaki Forest is fresh and vibrating. The huge ancient trees grow along the way: kahikatea, matai, totara, and rimu. (Learn more about native plants and trees of New Zealand). Some of these trees are actually as old as 1000 years! The numerous birds of the Whirinaki Forest (including kiwi and kaka) hide deep in the verdant lush bush.
One of the main attractions is the Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon in Whirinaki Park. It is located along the Whirinaki Waterfall Loop Track that can be done separately in about 3 hours. But the half of this loop is also a part of 3 bigger multi-day tramps:
There are so many hiking opportunities in the untouched Whirinaki forest. It’s just an hour’s drive from Rotorua but it feels really distant from everything. The silence and emptiness are prevailing. The only sounds would be bird songs, leaves rustling, and trees cracking. To get the most out of this incredible place, it is better to do a 2-3 days hike staying in huts or campsites along the way.
The detailed DOC map below shows all the hikes in the area with the 4 multi-day tramps marked in pink, green, orange, and blue color accordingly.
The driving trip from Auckland to Whirinaki Park would take at least 4 hours without stops.
The road goes through Rotorua. From there take SH5 to SH38 until the Murapura town and make a right turn to Minginui Road. Follow this road until the end (it is mostly unpaved) and you will see the information signs and the trails’ start.
You can get to certain hikes from the Okahu Road end. It is the next right turn after Minginui Road. For example, Moerangi Track (multi-day) connects there.
To start with shorter trails, there are quite a few:
One of the most popular day hikes is Whirinaki Waterfall Loop Track which includes Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon (just 10 mins after the start).
Distance: 11 km
Time to complete: about 3 hours
The path goes in the beautiful forest the whole time. 10 minutes after the start of the hike, right after crossing the bridge, there’s the famous Whirinaki Canyon! The roaring Whirinaki waterfall is halfway through the loop. The way back is on the other side of the creek.
Distance: 3.2 km
Time to complete: about an hour
It is a very short and easy hike through the native bush leading to a gorgeous waterfall. The return is via the same track.
Distance: 6 km
Time to complete: about 1.5 hours
This little lagoon situated in the middle of a wild bush is home to native birds. In the summertime, the lagoon may dry out if there is no rain for several days. That’s why the best time to enjoy it is spring or early winter. The walk is fairly flat and goes into the forest, there are a few tiny ups and downs. The return is via the same track.
Distance: 2 km
Time to complete: less than an hour
This loop track is part of the popular Whirinaki Nightlife Walk that gives you a chance to hear and see some kiwis and glow worms abundant in the park. The hike starts near the Sanctuary basic campsite (3 tent sites) and goes through some really wild forest with giant trees and enormous vegetation.