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Take time to embrace our Redwoods
25 November 2014

There are many beautiful parks throughout the world, some becoming icons of their region: they are parks that not only locals flock to, but places people from far and wide travel to see.

This is the difference between the good and the great, the merely beautiful and the truly iconic. People are prepared to travel hours to get there. And this is what makes The Redwood Whakarewarewa Forest a Bay of Plenty icon.

You see them travelling on the highways every Friday afternoon, loaded down with bikes heading to Rotorua, and every Sunday, the same people are heading back home after enjoying this forest.

It's no wonder too. The Redwoods have about 150km of evolving trails that have been developed since the 1990s.

My partner has mountainbiked on "unofficial" trails in the Andes Mountains and also ridden extensively in Canada and he says the Redwoods are "right up there" with the best.

It also helps that the volcanic soils are quick to drain, the topography is varied,
and the scenery - well, it's pretty darn hard to beat.

The trails cater for beginners right up to the expert and extreme rider, but like most parents, I'm interested in whether kids can have a go.

Not surprisingly, there are excellent wide, flat tracks for kids to build up their confidence before progressing on.

The best way to get to the mountainbiking trails is from the Waipa State Mill Rd, and if you don't have the gear, you can rent it at the entrance to the tracks.

The devil is in the detail, and what I love about the forest is that it's user friendly.

What I mean by this is "coffee addict friendly". Not only does the mountain bike entrance have a "pop-up" cafe: the walking tracks, at the Redwoods entrance also has one. It's all about the end user and Rotorua does this so well when it comes to catering to people's needs.

While we left the dad in our family to hit the bike trails, we went around to the Redwoods side of the forest to have a walk.

A buzzing carpark told me what I already knew - people will travel for miles to get something great. First things first - it's time to "spend a penny".

Usually I wait for times of utmost desperation to use public toilets, but I took one look at the Redwoods facilities and decided they were works of public art, rather than public toilets and making use of them was in fact, a contribution to art.

After this, it was obviously coffee time and a chance to pick up morning tea for the kids - bribery in other words.

We decided to do the Quarry Lookout Track. It was only an hour and a half long, but I was told there is a steep hill and sometimes kids need to know there's a prize at the end of a walk - especially if it's hard yakka.

Armed with coffee and cake, we set off in the shade of the tall timber.

Native to the north-west coast of America, Californian Redwoods were planted in New Zealand from the early 1900s.

They've grown well in Rotorua because of its fertile, well-drained soil and even rainfall. The tallest tree in the forest is 72m tall and 169cm round.

My kids love comparing the "biggest, the fattest, and the skinniest" and walking among the red-barked giants fired up a competition to find the fattest tree.

Every fat tree they deemed worthy of measurement had arms thrown around in order to measure how many kids it would take to get around the tree. It was a slow walk.

Eventually we left the shade of the giants and out into some sun, over a pretty thermal pond and into parts of the forest that had other exotic trees as well as native bush.

The hike up to the quarry wasn't too hard - we only had to stop once for a breather and the view from the top out to Lake Rotorua made it worthwhile.

Once we reached the quarry basin below, we had definitely earned morning tea and ate cakes under a shady tree.

If you want to spice things up, worksheets and discovery packs are at the visitors centre.

These have been developed to make the walks more interesting and educational for kids. All ages are catered for in the forest and there are also orienteering courses and junior explorer trails available.

Once again the devil is in the detail, and once again, the Redwoods and Rotorua in general, earn redemption. They just get things right.

I'm a big fan of Rotorua's recent marketing campaign.

It's charming and quirky but most of all, it's backed up with the goods. It's no wonder cars loaded down with bikes make a beeline for this park.

It's no surprise the walking tracks are popular with locals and tourists - this forest is a place for everyone to enjoy and has earned its place as a Bay of Plenty icon.

Bay of Plenty Times 

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