Friday, 12 April 2013


That’s the 309 Road, a road that strikes fear in the most ardent Coromandel traveller. The 309 is the “shortcut” route between Whitianga & Coromandel township, all gravel & all winding, straight up & over the range.

The signs say it all. But in fact again, after the roads we’ve been on lately this one was a doodle. We’d even take the fifth-wheeler over it if we had to. Not that we have any intention of doing that but still if we ever had to, we’d be up for it.

I wanted to visit the Waiau Kauri Grove & Falls which looked like it wasn’t that far down the road but in fact as it turned out was only 8kms from the other end, just down the road from the Mussel Kitchen, where we had lunch a couple of weeks ago!

It was lovely to see so much Rata flowering right through all the native bush and especially on the trees near the roadside.  Rata, along with the pohutukawa,  belong to the myrtle tree family. It is under considerable threat caused by browsing possums; an imported pest destroying a native parasite. Rata are epiphytes, they start life in the canopy of the trees and send their roots down to the ground where the roots slowly thicken & enclose the host tree, killing it and taking over the dead structure. A rata tree can be huge, growing up to 25 metres high, with a 2.5 metre wide trunk.

It was only a short walk through lovely native bush to the kauri, a magnificent grove of about 12 huge trees that have been there for well over 600 years, young by kauri standards. A kauri somewhere else in NZ was aged at over 4000 years old when it died. It is unclear how these kauri survived the intensive logging (plundering) that happened over the Coromandel from 1880 to 1930 but these were located on mining land & it’s thought the company may have restricted the loggers. 

The trees remained undisturbed until WWII when the government  wanted the timber to aid the war effort. The locals were unimpressed and formed what is thought to be the first Coromandel conservation action group. Much to their amazement their plea was heard by Wellington & a reserve  was  established  around the kauri trees. The biggest kauri in the grove measures  1.9 metres through & 6 metres around it’s trunk & it’s 16 metres to the first branch. The biggest Kauri ever measured, Kairaru, had a 20 metre girth and was twice as high as the tallest kauri in this grove. That is humungous!

Next stop were the Waiau Falls which were just down the road, a lovely place for these tourists to have their lunch. Unusual falls too in the way the water fell & hit a centre rock then spilled either side. I bet when the river is in full flow the effect wouldn’t have been quite the same.

After the falls it was time to head back over to the other side and it was then that we met these trucks on the road, four of them in total. Not so bad as we had warning that they were coming, they were dumping more gravel on the road. Back & forward all day long, a huge quarry was at the beginning of the road. Very handy for the 309.

We stopped at a couple of lovely reserves beside the river on the way home, this one was called the 309 Waterhole. How would you like to cross this every time you needed to drive to town. There were a couple of houses up the drive, David was trying to decide if he would cross it or not, in the end he decided he wasn’t going to be a hero even though he got me to cross it to check out the depth! J


  1. Great set Shellie - and enjoyed the commentary too! Really must get up there sometime in the next year or two :-)

    1. Hi Rose, glad you enjoyed it, thanks for stopping by.


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