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Walking and Tramping Heritage Sites in New Zealand

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

New Zealand is a country with a wide variety of walks and travel sites available to tourists. The varied terrain, Maori cultural presence, coastal areas, peaks and hills, animals and birds, all make these walks unique in their way. There are sites, for example, where one is introduced to local Maori defensive structures while walking along the path. These sites include Opapaka Pā Walk, Tauwhare Pā short walk, and others.

Opapaka Pā Walk

This walk is one of the cultural sites. It is located near Waitomo Caves, New Zealand. One of the virtues of this site is the historic building called pā. Pā is a small defensive structure used by Ngati Hia in the late eighteenth century.

The people of Ngati Hia, the māori people, would live somewhere to the south of the site. In times of trouble, they would flee to this building to find a safe place against invasive tribes. The steep slopes and custom-made ditches served as a natural defense in the interior living area. In the Maori language, the area is called pā.

The pā was occupied by Ngāti Hia in the 1700s. Ngāti Hia built trenches and wooden palisades surrounding the inside of pā. This was to protect themselves against a raiding party led by Tanetinorau.

Self-digged kumara pits provided nourishment in winter. The pits were located on the lower slopes and had timber and earth roofs. They were outside the main defenses, only lightly fortified. On-site, you will be able to see other Maori fortifications.

There are fantastic views over the mountain ranges of Rangitoto, and more distant Ruapehu. You can also find a panel on the highest part of the ridge, the pā site, outlining its history.

Tauwhare Pā short walk

This short walk takes you through Tauwhare pā (blockade). This is a mix of traditional pā fortifications: trenches and palisades. The place provides panoramic views over Ohiwa Harbour, East Coast, and Moutohora island. There is also a Ruakumara - Kumara pit. Hikurangi maunga (mountain) can be seen with snow on it at times.

The name Tauwhare translates as "the village suspended in space". This impression comes from the view from the southern end of the pā where there is an open forest and coast.

Tauwhare has a complex of three pā, which most were inhabited by related family groups - whānau. It is one of the national heritage sites. More about it can be found in the booklet here.

Wheelchair Accessible White Pine Bush Track

The walkway has been built into the heart of White Pine Scenic Reserve. The easy loop track is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. It is also wheelchair accessible.

White Pine Reserve features the last stands of lowland kahikatea (white pine) forest. Most of the forest was cleared for farming between 1880 and 1920. The reserve has huge kahikatea, below them are the Tawa and Pukatea. These are trees that provide the remaining tree cover.

Here you will also find Nikau palms, hanging vines, shrubs, and ferns. These trees provide habitat for native birds such as tui, native pigeons, fantails, and bellbirds. The Reserve is regarded as the natural heritage of New Zealand.

Dual use Tuhoto Ariki Trail

The uniqueness of this walk is shown by the dual use of mountain biking and tramping. The trail goes through a native bush that is suitable for both riders and hikers.

A small hike, built by the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club, Tuhoto Ariki starts at the highest point in the Whakarewarewa Forest, Tawa, at 765m.

Not otherwise seen anywhere else, the trail provides the surroundings of the native forest. This forest is part of the Whakarewarewa State Forest Park. Tuhoto Ariki has long downhill segments. Bike riders might enjoy riding through them.

Pureora Village Timber Trail

The trail features a wealth of nature and history within a short distance of Pureora Village. There are three short walks to it:

Totara Walk

- If you are quiet you may see or hear sounds of native birds such as tui, fantail, kākāriki, tomtits, or robins.

Forest Tower

- A 12 m high tower is a good spot for observing native birds such as kererū, kākāriki, and kākā.

Vintage Steam Hauler and Tractor

- A short loop track leads you along a steam hauler and winch. These were used until the late 1940s to haul logs from the forest for milling and a historic tractor - reminders of past activity in the area.

In the 1930s-40s, this two-ton Caterpillar tractor was used to recover split tōtara posts and battens from the bush.

J.M. Barker (Hāpūpū) National Historic Reserve Walk

Let's go from New Zealand a bit further to the ocean. We now bring our focus to the Chatham Islands, part of New Zealand, about 800 kilometers east of the South Island. The archipelago consists of about ten islands. The largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

There is also a little bushwalk called "J.M. Barker (Hāpūpū) National Historic Reserve Walk''. You will see traditional māori art such as Moriori rakau momori (tree carvings). You will walk past kopi groves that were planted by Moriori. The walk starts with a bush walk where Rakau momori were carved on the trunks of many kopi trees. The walk then continues through the kopi grove and heads out over the dunes to the beach along Hanson Bay.

Department of Conservation defined four rules to preserve this significant place:

  • Stay on the tracks which are marked – don’t go off the tracks

  • Do not touch the trees – this will cause damage to the bark

  • Stand 2 meters away from the trees to avoid standing on the tree roots.

  • Respect the site as a significant place.

These rules serve to keep the place intact from damage and degradation over time.

Kahurangi national park

A kahurangi national park is a known place on the North-west of South Island. It is the second-largest among other national parks in the heritage list of New Zealand. It is a popular park for tramping. It features great walks. It is suitable for large groups of people that usually go there for multi-day hikes.


Now that you have seen a variety of walking and tramping places in New Zealand, I assume you are convinced they are rich in history and culture. They have beautiful native plants, trees, and birds. This article only talked about a few such places. But you are free to explore more of them through the Walking Track Lookup service which is hosted on the website here.

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Hello, I am a Blog Writer

In my blog I love to write about New Zealand Nature. My focus is to provide value to website visitors by offering New Zealand Nature-related information and articles. By reading my blog you will learn a lot about New Zealand nature, how to preserve it and how to get the most out of your travel and nature-related endeavors!

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Nikolai Kolbenev

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Passionate about all things nature, I am giving you facts and showing you tips on nature preservation in New Zealand.


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