The Kauri Coast
From Omapere SH12 will take you through 17km of Waipoua Forest. Even if you're very short of time, you'll still have chance to take a look at the Tane Mahuta or god of the forest. It's the most acclaimed tree in the forest and takes 2 minutes to get to from the main road. The tree is 1,200 years old, 52m tall and has a circumference of 13m. The trees' fame finds its roots in Maori mythology. The myth tells how the life was enabled to grow by the Tane Mahuta who created the Sky Father from the Earth Mother.
The Kauri Coast once teemed with beautiful kauri trees and the song of the kokako. It provided an excellent source of gum and timber which was quickly realised by the colonials. A rush of felling in the 19th century led to the utter destruction of these centuries old forests and most of the trees and the co-existing wildlife disappeared. From a mere financial perspective it gave one of the largest boosts to the country's economy. Today, sanctuaries and reserves are doing their utmost to preserve the Kauri. The Waipoua Kauri Forest Sanctuary retains the largest areas of untouched kauri forest in NZ (75%). Some of trees here clock in at an impressive 2,000 years old over an area of 9,000 hectares. The size of these creations is incredible and they are the second largest tree in the world (Californian redwoods are the largest).
The forest is riddled with a number of walking tracks open to you. The track to the famous Tane Mahuta continues on to a 3hr walk which concludes at the bottom of the hill at the Forest Information Centre. Another famous walk is that to the Te Matua Ngahere or the Father of the Forest which is thought to be the widest Kauri. Nearby is the Phantom Tree, the 2nd largest, and the Four Sisters, a quarto of trees standing harmoniously close together.
There are other reserves nearby. The Trounson Kauri Park lies 17km southeast of of Waipoua. DOC has created a safe haven here employing rigorous pest control so as to let nature work its own wonders in the form of bush and wildlife regeneration. You can take a night tour through the park and get a look at nocturnal animals like glowworms, kiwi, weka. The Mc Gregor Memorial Reserve borders The Waipoua Kauri Forest to the southeast. This is another preservation area for the kiwi and kauri snail amid st a regenerating podocarp and kauri forest.
Back on SH2 and heading toward Auckland via Dargaville, take the turn off (11km west of SH12) to Kai-Iwi Lakes or 'Tribe Food' lakes. The lakes are a trio of freshwater, clear blue lakes are perfect swimming holes. Bordered by white sands and pine trees, its a popular spot for trout fishing, boating and kayaking. Taharoa is the largest with a width of nearly 1/2 a km, Waikere and Kaiiwi are approximately 100km in length. The lakes are also connected to the Waipoua Coastal Track. You can take a 3 day coastal walk to Omapere from here. There's also a 3hr return walk to the coast which heads to the Maunganui Bluff.
Next stop en route to Dargaville is Baylys Beach. As you watch the surf pound its way inland you'll appreciate why many ships were wrecked here. Baylys Beach lies along the greater Ripiro Beach which stretches for 100km. The spot is ideal for horse riding, 4WD, land yachting, fishing and surfing. You can also get to Ripiro Beach from Glinks Gully, a seaside resort and Mahuta Gorge.
Dargaville dubious claim to fame is being the kumara or sweet potato capital of New Zealand. While important to the region as the main town in the Kauri Coast Dargaville has little to offer the traveller except as a good base to prepare for tramping the Maunganui Bluff and 'Waipoua Coastal tracks. Dargaville however was important during the kauri gum boom. If you're interested in this aspect of local history stop of further along SH12 at Matakohe. At the Matakohe Kauri Museum, displays and photographs detail the complications and ingenuity which entailed the felling of the Kauri and extraction of gum. You'll get an insight into the lives of these pioneers, how they turned age old forests into farmland and how it all was in the day of a life of a woman in the bush. If you're after quality souvenir and don't mind spending a penny, there are some beautiful if pricey, hand crafted kauri artefact's to be bought at the museum shop.