New Zealand’s Redwoods Treewalk in Rotorua – over 550m of connected bridges and platforms – takes you up to 20m into the branches of the world’s tallest trees. Being able to stroll from trunk to trunk of this magnificent forest is remarkable, but there are more surprises waiting along the way.
Travel is all about finding a new perspective on the world – a different way of looking at things. Watching life from 20 metres above the ground immersed in the canopy of a giant redwood forest certainly gives you that.
This forest, the first of its kind in New Zealand, was planted around 120 years ago. Because of the climate and soil quality of Rotorua, these redwoods have grown far faster than their American relatives in the ancient woodlands of the West Coast USA.
Standing at almost 116 metres, the redwood called Hyperion in Humbolt County, California is the tallest tree in the world. It’s taken around 600 years for this tree to reach such a height.
Meanwhile, in Rotorua’s redwood forest, the tallest tree here is already 75 metres tall and catching up with Hyperion fast.
Check out our short video of the Redwoods Treewalk to see it for yourself:
The Redwoods Treewalk has only been open to the public since 2015 but feels like it’s been part of the forest and Rotorua for much longer.
Our experience begins with the short drive from Rotorua town to the forest carpark, right on the edge of the Treewalk. Above our car, the 553 metres of wooden walkways thread through the trees up to 20 metres in the air.
Before we collect our tickets, we walk a short way into the forest, craning our necks to see that slender trucks of these giants reaching for the clouds.
At the ticket office, our passes come with a couple of rules: no running or jumping on the walk and no touching the trees. Acid from our hands can stain and damage these mighty redwoods.
Impressively, the Treewalk has been designed to be access-friendly, though specially built prams have to be used. You can’t carry children or babies anywhere on the walk.
The Treewalk begins with a helix ramp that spirals up to 6 metres and the first of the bridges that stretch between the redwoods. This helix is wheelchair accessible but the rest of the Treewalk is not.
Our first steps out onto the walkways are unsteady – the bridges move and wobble, though they feel safe. It takes a moment to get used to the motion and sensation of walking high above the ground.
It’s difficult to see how the 23 bridges or the platforms that surround each of the 22 trees stay up at first. There are no bolts or screws going into the trees and apart from the initial spiral entrance, the walkways don’t touch the forest floor either.
Specially designed slings wrap around the trunks that can be adjusted as each tree grows. These slings don’t harm the trees but are strong enough to hold the walkways in position. It’s an ingenious solution.
Go even higher on the Treewalk
In 2018, the higher platform and 100 metres of walkways opened. Here you can climb up to 20 metres above the ground. It’s here that the forest’s tallest tree stands at 75m.
There are also glass panels in the floor of this platform where you can peer down at the ground far below.
Being this high and so close to such giants has the unique effect of making you feel tiny and towering at the same time.
See the Redwoods Nightlights
During the day, the forest is beautiful. From the platforms high in the trees, looking out across the wooded landscape is peaceful and relaxing. But at night, things happen in the redwood forest that makes being here after dark a mysterious and wonderful thing.
At dusk, hiding amongst the branches of the redwoods, 30 giant lanterns light up giving the forest and eerie yet beautiful glow.
The lanterns are works of art in themselves, designed by artist and architect David Trubridge and are up to 2.5m tall. Some are like UFOs, others are more lantern-like, but all have an ethereal glow to the forest.
Down on the forest floor, over 40 coloured lights glow to illuminate the woodland still further.
See the forest at its best
It’s hard to say which time of day is best to see the forest and go on the Redwoods Treewalk. During the day, you get a wonderful perspective of the trees, their majesty and height.
Looking down on the forest floor gives you a clear idea of how high you are and the cleverness of the walkways.
However, when night falls and the lights shine out from the trees, the forest takes on a magical consciousness and brings a completely new dimension to the experience.
There’s combo pass you can buy that gives you the chance to enter the park twice in a three-day period at a discount. This means you can see the forest in both its daylight and night time state.
The Redwoods Treewalk is so typical of New Zealand; an experience that incorporates ingenuity, nature and activity with a unique perspective on something so beautiful.
This experience is a must if you’re in the Rotorua area.