Te Urewera: a living treasure in the North Island

Step into a living treasure: a remote and unspoiled forest, the spiritual home of a proud Maori tribe.

The largest area of native forest in New Zealand’s North Island lies between the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay regions. Totalling 213,000 hectares, Te Urewera contains some of New Zealand’s most beautiful natural scenery, from thick native bush and misty mountains to lakes, rivers and waterfalls.

Inside Te Urewera you’ll find native plants and wildlife and interesting geological formations – but on top of all this, don’t be surprised if you also feel the deep spiritual pull of this land.

The Māori people of Ngai Tuhoe, an iwi (tribe) in the Bay of Plenty, have a strong connection to the Ureweras. Traditionally living within this remote region, the Tuhoe people were known as the 'children of the mist' and later spread out towards Whakatane, Ruatahuna and Te Whaiti. 

From 1954-2014 Te Urewera was one of New Zealand’s national parks. Since then it’s been returned to the ownership of the Tuhoe people, but the area is still open to the public and maintained by the Department of Conservation.

The forest is home to more than 650 species of native plants and trees, including tall rimu and rata, matai and totara as well as ferns and nikau palms. The rich makeup of the forest provides a habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including large populations of some of New Zealand's most endangered birds, including kiwi, kokako and kaka can be found throughout the park.

With a range of short hikes, full-day treks and multi-day adventures on offer, you can spend as much time in Te Urewera as you wish.

Lake Waikaremoana is the heart of Te Urewera and many of the walking tracks and activities in the park are focused around its shores. The Lake Waikaremoana Trek is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, a 3-4 day adventure that skirts almost half the lake’s circumference while taking in lush green forest, wetlands, misty valleys and scenic bluffs. Boating and fly fishing on Lake Waikaremoana are popular activities in Te Urewera.

A little to the north, Lake Waikareiti is smaller than Waikaremoana but the views from the walking trails around it are just as spectacular. It’s notable for being the highest lake on the North Island, and for a very special experience. Hire a boat and travel to one of the islands within the lake, which in turn has its own lake. That’s right, at Lake Waikareiti you can swim in a lake, on an island, in a lake, on an island!

Famous waterfalls in Te Urewera include Aniwaniwa Falls, the Korokoro falls, the cascading Mokau and the Hopuruahine, but as well as these main attractions, there are plenty more to be discovered around the park.

Te Urewera’s unspoiled beauty is a magical sight to see. While there are many entry points, every part of the forest will leave visitors feeling overwhelmed by its beauty.

Visitors can also book special guided tours that provide a unique walking experience into the tranquil indigenous rainforest.

DOC has a great list of Te Urewera walking trail and activity suggestions.

InterCity has daily buses to the nearest towns to Te Urewera: Whakatane to the north and Wairoa to the east. Fares start from just $1 plus booking fee and you can buy bus tickets online at www.intercity.co.nz.

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