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July 2015 Issue
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Northland’s hidden gem

Mangere Stream flows through the Pukenui Forest at a leisurely pace. Photo: Michelle Martin
The most popular access point is via Amalin Drive off Three Mile Bush Rd. The dam on Whau Valley Rd and Barge Park in Maunu are other popular starting places

Taraire Ridge and Pukenui Loop tracks, Pukenui Forest, Northland 


Bordering Whangarei on its western flanks is the 1700ha Pukenui Forest, where there is a variety of walking tracks ranging from 30 minutes to five hours in duration. While there are some ups and downs, the gradient is generally modest and I regularly head there either with a friend or as part of our local tramping club.

Pukenui is a beautiful but under-utilised broadleaf forest, with perfect picnic spots by meandering streams. A trust group is controlling pests to low levels with further plans to protect and restore the ecosystem. It’s a cool place to be on a roasting Northland day, but is accessible year-round. It’s not uncommon to think you have the whole forest to yourself – surprising when suburbia is just a ridge or two away.

A couple of my favourite loop options begin at the Three Mile Bush Road entry point where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in rural England crossing paddocks bordered by attractive stone walls to reach a stile at the start of the forest.  

Armed with wet weather gear and some giant slabs of carrot cake, my friend and I set out along Taraire Track. The Taraire route dips up and down along a ridge line with taraire, rimu and kauri towering above, until it reaches the main ridge intersection where you can opt to head south to the Whau Valley Dam, city, or to Barge Park. Wanting to reconnect with our transport, we carried on around the Taraire Track until we linked up with the more popular Pukenui Loop Walk by the picturesque and barely bubbling Mangere Stream. The two tracks form a figure of eight and it’s possible to bail out to the car park at this point, or carry on around the second (Pukenui) loop, which is what we chose to do.

The stream is the perfect place to stop for a snack, but never achieves enough depth to be enticing for a dip. The forest is incredibly lush with every shade of the green spectrum on display. Not wanting to rush off, I hauled out my tripod and camera trying in vain to capture the ambiance and serenity in the form of a digital take-home memento. I could have idled away a few hours there, but the carrot cake was long gone.

Setting off again, a kamikaze fantail swooped around and flashed its tail, obsessively following us along the track. The trail followed Mangere Stream for some time before a short but steep climb led onto the ridge tops again. A marked detour off the track leads to a huge kauri. Visitors are advised to stand back and stay off the tree roots to help prevent kauri dieback. Making sure your boots are clean and preferably disinfected is good practise when visiting Northland’s forests.

Carrying on, it’s an easy amble back out to the car park. In no time you could be enjoying a coffee in a city cafe, or heading to one of the many local beaches for an evening swim.

Michelle Martin