24 January 2020 – The Rotorua Redwoods and Treetop walk

It was our first full day in Rotorua and we had a plan to do some hikes and the treetop walk in the Rotorua Redwoods. Astrid and Soren made sure they were up bright and early to play but Zinnia wasn’t keen on a sleep in anyway.

After breakfast in our Airbnb house we were hoping to make it out early for our walks, before another hot Summer’s day. But nope, it was like herding cats, and after 9.30am before we left for the 10 minute drive to The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest.

We found a park in the shade (of which it turned out there was plenty) and consulted the maps to choose our adventure for the day. There were plenty of marked trails through the forest, of varying lengths and difficulties. Some walks were quite short and flat, others were many hours and involved a fair bit of elevation. The trails were all colour coded and signposted. We’d decided on the ‘Quarry lookout track’ walk at 4.8km at approximately 1.5 hours as it had a good mix of distance and sites we wanted to cover.

Immediately into the cool forest and the trees were towering above us. Astrid and Soren were impressed at the sheer size of them. It was almost impossible to see the tops.

The trunks were so huge we couldn’t get our arms around most of them and even with my wide angle lens it was hard to get us and the tops of the trees in 1 shot!

The trail meandered through the enormous Californian Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) which were planted in 1901. These towering trees stand at approximately 67 metres tall and are under-planted with European Larch.

This first part of the forest had most of the trails running through it and there was a fair bit of visitor traffic. The trails were well marked by colour-coded signposts and easy to follow. The quarry walk was coded green and shared the first section with a few of the short and easy walks, making this the most popular section of our hike for the day. We still didn’t have to worry too much about other visitors as there was plenty of room on the trails.

We were enjoying the beautiful forest and lovely cool, a pleasant change from our hot walks of previous days.

Soon our trail took us from the redwoods onto a boardwalk into a stand of Douglas fir and then an area with plenty of ferns, some small and some large. For the first time the kids discovered the famous New Zealand Silver fern and the giant Mamaku ferns.

There was a thermal pond which had the most magnificent blue-green water. A very strange but pretty sight!

As the trail continued we encountered more stairs and plenty of species of walnut and various species of eucalypts. Astrid and Soren were enjoying running in the cool forest, with the occasional stop for a lolly. Zinnia was keeping me warm while napping in the ergo, but it was still a more pleasant experience than the bright sunshine of previous days.

The lookout point above the old rhyolite quarry give a great view over the Redwood Grove, out to Lake Rotorua and the main city centre.

After the quarry lookout there were a few more stairs and then we hit a clearing where you could see how enormous some of these trees are. Look for the tiny red dots of Astrid and Soren standing near the trees, in the pictures below.

After napping for around 45 minutes while we walked, Zinnia awoke but was happy to look at the trees and demand endless snacks as she was being carted around.

We came across some of the towers and bridges for the altitude treewalk (which is a harnessed treewalk). Unfortunately the kids were still too little for that one, so were going to have to make do with the more family friendly treewalk later that morning. They thought it looked like fun though and were determined to grow before our next visit to New Zealand so they may be able to give it a go!

Despite the cool forest, we were still pretty sweaty by the time we made it back to the visitor centre, but the whole walk took us a bit over 1 hour 15, less than the predicted 1.5 hours even at kids pace. We covered 5.4km and it was definite scenic!

Back at the visitor centre and we bought our tickets for the treewalk and confirmed they had an infant trolley available for Zinnia. No carriers are allowed for safety reasons and kids need to walk independently (without being picked up) if not in the trolley. Given Zinnia had been walking barely a month that wasn’t really an option.

The kids had been excited about the treewalk all morning. The adults were less excited but it seemed like it would be something they’d love, and we might get some good views, so we bought our tickets and off we went.

The treewalk was pretty busy and had maximum numbers of people on each bridge, so you had to wait your turn. The infant trolley was a car seat mounted on a wooden platform, so while not the most sophisticated device it did mean Zinnia could come along. She wasn’t overly impressed at the idea of being strapped in to start with, but quickly worked out that she could stick her arms out and touch the sides which was hilarious for her and not so fun for us!

Astrid and Soren were off and racing (or at least walking carefully over the bridges). They were enjoying the rather bouncy bridges between the platform although I was less of a fan!

The infant trolley only just fitted on each walkway and required a bit of lifting up and down by 2 adults at each end, which made for slow going at times but plenty of time to admire the view in the treetops.

Each platform between the bridges had interesting information about the forest, trees and treewalk construction so we had plenty to read while waiting for the people ahead of us to move along. Astrid and Soren were happy to count the number of people on each bridge and inform other tourists (loudly) when they had exceeded the signposted number.

The treewalk is also open at night, and there were lanterns scattered about. It would make for an interesting experience if sunset wasn’t too late for small children at that time of year in New Zealand!

There were definitely great views as we wandered through the treetops, and a different perspective being up high and seeing the variety in foliage.

Even up high the treetops seemed to extend forever! The kids loved the treewalk although I think I preferred wandering through the forest at ground level for a less touristy experience. It certainly was something different though, and again lovely and cool!

There was one section of the treewalk which was even higher and not accessible with the infant trolley, so the big kids and Anto did that while Zinnia and I looked on from a platform. Apparently the metal grille allowing you to see all the way down was even more fun!

Eventually we reached the end of the circuit and it was back down to ground level, having covered 1.5km in the treetops.

The giant redwood exhibit which was labelled with the trees growth at certain points in history was fascinating – those trees really are enormous and had been around a long time!

It was now almost 1pm and we headed back to the Airbnb via a supermarket for supplies. The kids had worked up an appetite so lunch was had, and we insisted on rest while Zinnia napped, before our afternoon activities. While our Airbnb was huge, it unfortunately was on the hot side so not a lot of rest was had but it was worth a try…..

The plans for the afternoon were a walk to Kuirau park which we kept spotting on our drives around Rotorua as steam was always pouring from it. A not uncommon sight in Rotorua but more unusual back home so we thought we’d check it out.

Kuirau park was a 1.5km stroll from our Airbnb and when we arrived we found plenty of geothermal activity. It is a public park not far from the city centre, and it also contains foot baths, hot springs and a lake.

There were also plenty of flowerrs to check out, but the most impressive bits were the thermal ponds and lakes, and boiling mud pits. Most were fenced but they clearly move around as fenced areas were under construction and had also been removed from some areas. There were plenty of warning signs about not straying from the paths or into fenced areas!

We wandered through various areas of the park before the kids spied some playground equipment and ditched the thermal activity for swings. Zinnia had developed a love for swings and wasn’t going to give them up easily…….

We did eventually drag them away, with the promise of souvenir shopping at the nearby shops. I don’t think Zinnia was very impressed at being made to leave the swings though!

After a few souvenirs were purchased it was back to the Airbnb. While our dinner was cooking we wandered down the street to check out Lake Rotorua which is at the end of the street we were staying on. Lake Rotorua is just under 80 square kilometres in area and the second largest lake in the North Island. Some lucky people have their own lake-front backyards!

Our first full day in Rotorua done and dusted the kids were bundled off to bed in the still very hot house while Anto and I planned our activities for the next day…..

Daily statistics……

The temperature range for Rotorua on Friday the 24th of January 2020 was a pleasant, but warm, 13 to 27 degrees Celsius. It was lovely in the shade of the redwoods forest but warm out in the afternoon sun.

Our total walking for the day was 11.9km, including our hike through the redwoods, and the treetops walk (Strava maps below). We also walked to Kuirau Park and Lake Rotorua in the afternoon, so a good days activity for little legs.

Up next….

More sightseeing in Rotorua with a hike around the Blue (and Green) lakes and geothermal activity and icecream in the afternoon.

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