Waipoua Kauri Forest – Land Of Giants [With Photos]

Waipoua Kauri Forest or Waipoua Forest is located in Northland, the northernmost region of New Zealand, not far from Dargaville. Here you can find the largest and oldest giant kauri trees (Agathis australis) in the whole country.

Waipoua Kauri Forest – Facts

New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) is a species of the Agathis genus, which used to be a widespread group of plants in the Jurassic period.
With the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century, extensive logging started and by the end of the 19th century most of the kauri forests disappeared. Waipoua Kauri Forest is one of the patches that remained after the careless tree cutting, which had produced timber for ship and house building.
Now the area is protected by the Department of Conservation and even new trees are being planted, and community groups also help with species recovery.

Facts about Waipoua Kauri Forest:

  • Waipoua Forest became a sanctuary in 1952 with an area of 91 sq km (35 sq mi).
  • The world’s biggest known kauri tree lives here: Tane Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest” or “God of the Forest”. It is often quoted as 51.2 m (168 ft) high with a girth of 13.8 m (45.2 ft). However, according to the measurements taken in 2002 by Robert Van Pelt from the USA, these figures are different – height: 45.2 m (148 ft), girth: 15.4 m (50.5 ft).
  • The age of Tane Mahuta is estimated to be around 1500-2500 years.
  • The second largest kauri tree is also found in Waipoua Kauri Forest, it is called Te Matua Ngahere, “Father of the Forest”, with an estimated age of more than 2000 years, some say it can even be 3000 years old!
  • Kauri trees are evergreen conifers having grayish bark.
  • Waipoua Kauri Forest provides habitat to many endangered plant and animal species such as the brown kiwi or the North Island kokako, which are both endemic forest birds.

Facts about New Zealand kauri:

  • Latin name: Agathis australis
  • Size: 30-50 m (100-160 ft) tall, 1-4 m (3-13 ft) in diameter, sometimes even more
  • Among the most ancient trees in the world, originating from the Jurassic period (190-135 million years ago)
  • Can be found only in the north of the North Island (Northland and Coromandel Peninsula)
  • The largest kauri trees reached over 20 m (65 ft) of girth, but were either logged or destroyed by fire; e.g. in the Tutamoe forest, not far from Waipoua Forest, Kairaru was measured to be 20.1 m in circumference with 30.5 m to the lowest limb
  • Agathis australis hardiness: cold hardiness limit: -6.6°C (20 °F) and -1.1°C (34 °F)


Te Matua Ngahere, Waipoua Kauri Forest, New Zealand
Te Matua Ngahere, “Father of the Forest”, could be the oldest rainforest tree in the world.

Waipoua Kauri Forest – Inspiration

During my first visit to Waipoua Forest it was dark and cloudy and raining. So I had no chance of shooting a single image, at least one that would look OK. But we were not disappointed at all since these huge trees were even more “mystical” under such conditions.
I still remember how I could not believe that what I first saw of Te Matua Ngahere, was not a gray wall, but a tree trunk, as it was wrapped loosely in a thin fog behind the curtain of the rain.
When I got closer, I looked at it in awe, it was the largest living creature I had ever seen in my life. Of course I promised to myself I would return later on a sunny day to be able to take some nice photos of these magnificent trees.
I kept my promise and two weeks later, with some friends, we drove again to the home of the giant kauri from Kerikeri where we stayed at the time. Now it was sunny and warm and we easily could walk around and enjoy the massive presence of these trees.
I used a zoom lens for the image below in which Tane Mahuta, with a diameter of 4.9 m (16 ft) can be seen, highlighting the size contrast between humans and the giant tree.

Waipoua Kauri Forest, Tane Mahuta
Tane Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest”, Waipoua Kauri Forest
It may look like the people are close to the tree trunk, but in fact it is well behind them, at about a distance of 10-15 metres (30-50 ft). They would be smaller if they stood right by the trunk.
It is very easy to access these giant kauri trees so even elderly people with limited health conditions can walk the short distance on flat terrain from the car park.
According to the DOC website, prams and wheelchairs can be used on the walks as well. It is very nice that you can find yourself in the wilderness only a few minutes after you leave your car.
Text and photographs © Daniel Kerek
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