Ruakuri Walking Track

By | North Island, Walks

Ruakuri Walking Track

Ruakuri Scenic Reserve

The Ruakuri Walking Track in the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, near Waitomo in the Waikato,  is full of amazing limestone features including a massive natural tunnel, high bluffs, a sculptured gorge, fossils, caves and speleothems (features like stalactites/stalagmites).

At night glowworms can be seen beside the track.  But if you visit after dark you must take care on the track (which has a number of steps and rocky outcrops), so make sure you take a torch. Do not touch the glowworms as they die when disturbed.

Ruakuri means ‘Den of Dogs’. It was named by a chief from Kawhia, Taane Tinorau. On his way inland he and his party stopped nearby and one of his hunters was attacked by wild dogs defending their den.

The track splits just a few metres from the carpark. Keep heading straight ahead to do the track in a clockwise direction. At first you follow Waitomo Stream before climbing through tawa forest. Look for the high limestone bluffs to the left of the track. The track then skirts around the edge of a gorge with amazing sculptured rock forms, impressive water chutes and curtains of overhanging vegetation. At the end of this section you can see the downstream entrance to a large tunnel. The stream below can be a peaceful trickle or a more substantial rapid depending on how recent and heavy the last rains were.

At this point the track makes a sharp turn and you sneak through a short limestone passage and travel over the top of the natural tunnel to a track junction. From here  you can turn hard right and return to the car park on the other side of the river or carry on to do the upper loop. If you do the upper loop the track splits again after a few metres.

Heading anticlockwise there is an option of taking a very short side track into the middle of the tunnel with spectacular side-lit views of the river running through the cave system. There are steps down to the viewing point and no lighting so tred carefully.

Back out on the upper circuit there is another short tunnel to go through (just a few metres long with plenty of head-space) and a descent down to the stream. Look for koura and eels in the water if it is clear (the water can be cloudy after rain).

Following the stream you eventually end up at the upstream end of the tunnel. It can be quite disorientating as the stream makes a sharp hidden turn within the tunnel. Climb back up one more set of steps to complete the loop.

On the return track to the carpark there is one more tunnel and a steep descent before a flat finish out to the carpark.

Track information

Time:                45 minutes return

Grade:              Easy (with some short, steep sections)

How to get there

From Waitomo Village head west past the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to a roundabout.  Turn left onto Tumutumu Road and drive for about 3.5 kilometres to the signposted entrance to Ruakuri Scenic Reserve.  The carpark is the meeting  place for visitors to Aranui Cave and the end point for one of the Black Water Rafting trips, as well as being a popular picnic area and the start of the Ruakuri Walk – so it can be a busy place.

Extracted and adapted for Walking New Zealand from: Great Tracks and Trails – Waikato, King Country, Taupō, by Sonia Frimmel




Whangarei Falls – A walk not to be missed

By | North Island, Walks

A popular walk in Whangarei, just a few minutes drive from the CBD, is the Whangarei Falls walk.

The walk loops around the waterfall, down one side, crossing a footbridge at the bottom and back up the other side. It has well maintained tracks and is suitable for all ages although both sides of this circular track do zig zag down steep slopes to the lower bridge.

An easy walking path leads to the upper waterfall’s lookout. It takes only two minutes to reach this lookout, and the walk is suitable for people of all abilities. Take the track to the left to the waterfall’s base, cross the river via a concrete bridge and follow the track.

One minute after crossing the river you’ll see one more upper lookout – don’t miss it. It will take five minutes to reach the waterfall’s base from this lookout and then five  minutes to come back to the carpark using the same track, or return via the 30-minutes’ loop track. This track has the stairs and not suitable for wheelchairs/strollers

The picturesque waterfall is 26.3m high and falls over basalt cliffs. The two viewing platforms above the waterfall give spectacular views of the falls and a birds eye view of the forest below.
Don’t be disappointed! Whangarei Falls is a type of waterfalls which may have little or no water at all during a dry summer. Hence, if the summer is dry with no rain for a few weeks, please don’t expect to see a powerful waterfall. There is a lovely picnic area and public toilets by the carpark.

The walk accesses the AH Reed Kauri Park, with 500 year old kauri trees, and is the uppermost section of the complete Hatea River walk.
Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of native New Zealand bush. Trees include nikau, totara, manuka, to kouka (cabbage tree) and ponga (tree fern) and birds that you may see and hear include kukupa (native wood pigeon), tui and riroriro (grey warbler).


Traditionally this area was a good eeling spot for the local Maori and around the turn of the century it was a popular picnic spot (and still is today) for Whangarei residents.
The base of the falls may once have been tapu (sacred) as the pools below the falls were once used for washing the wounded and dead, and was known to Maori as an area of healing.
In the late 1920’s, Mr Archibald Clapham brought the property, reputedly to prevent the falls being developed as a commercial watermill. In 1946 a local businessmen’s association raised the purchase price by public subscription and the property was vested as a public domain in 1958.

Fact file

Whangarei Falls is roughly a 10-minutes’ drive away from Whangarei city center, or 2.5-hours’ from Auckland. The road surface is always sealed.
Make your own way to Whangarei, then follow the signs ‘Whangarei Falls’ until you reach a car park at Boundary Road. The area is very well maintained and has toilets as well as a beautiful picnic area with a few tables.