Time: 45 min
On the city fringe, Ratapihipihi Scenic Reserve is ideal for a picnic or family-friendly walk. In the reserve you will see an outstanding example of a lush, temperate rainforest with kohekohe, tawa, pukatea and nikau palms. Getting there: From New Plymouth, drive to the southern end of Tukapa Street, turn into Davies Street, and then onto Cowling Road. After 2km, turn right into the signposted drive to the reserve.
The name Ratapihipihi is derived from a traditional Maori hunting method. Hunters would attract kaka and other birds by sitting in a tree and making a “pihipihi” call by blowing through a leaf placed in the mouth. The birds attracted were then killed with a short club and eaten.
Toyota Kiwi Guardians Activity Programme
Ratapihipihi Scenic Reserve is part of the Toyota Kiwi Guardians activity programme. The programme encourages children to learn about nature, earn rewards and go on family adventures.
To the left of the lawn is a small wooden gate that leads you into the forest and here you’ll see the glossy leaves of the kohekohe which bring a tropical look to the forest.
This track is well graded though steep in places. Follow it to the valley floor where you will cross the stream and its tributaries a few times while always being graced with stunning images of coastal forest. A small scenic waterfall presents a lovely photo opportunity only a few metres beyond the first track exit back to your start point.
A steady stream of timber was taken from this area, first to build a schooner to take goods to Sydney and later to build bridges. A sharp eye may spot some of the old sawpit holes either side of the track.
As you make your way downstream Pukatea and Nikau palms fill this damper environment.
Look for the unusual shapes that some of the trees have grown into. The tawa in particular have elbows multi trunks and even a window. They’re the dominant canopy trees.
As you come around the edge of the forest at the track’s end you can see a wall of foliage that comes out to meet the light. In here you will see trees that were planted in earlier years, to represent trees from outside the region. These include kauri, beech and tanekaha.
With it’s nikau palms and dappled light, it’s like a walk in the tropics. It’s well worth a look.