From the heart of an ancient forest that’s gone, the Kauri Museum at Matakohe celebrates one of the world’s greatest trees and honours our relationship with it. We share stories of courage and determination, tragedy and triumph, boundless hope and unfathomable loss; kauri making a nation.
This award-winning museum is a well-established and popular destination for travellers, scientists, researchers and people seeking wonder, awe and delight for several hours or a day (or two). As the largest built visitor attraction north of Auckland, the museum has 4500sq m of exhibition halls, galleries and rooms – the great indoors about a treasure of the great outdoors.
Since 1962, the Kauri Museum has been gathering and sharing an internationally significant collection including:
• Humble tools made important in times of mud, grit, smoke and fire
• Handcrafted objects of rare and exquisite beauty
• Dazzling collections of precious kauri gum, the hardened resin of kauri trees
Recently added is a Forest Walkway of a type never seen before. Rather than being a common bush walk, the museum has created a forest walkway without plants. In a bold leap of imagination, the story of the kauri starts at the very beginning, with the Māori creation legend from the beginning of time. The Goddess of earth Papatuanuku and God of the sky Ranginui were storming and wrangling together in darkness. To end this, their child Tane Mahuta, God of the forest, came between them and, in the form of a kauri tree, used his legs to separate the earth and the sky. Light and life filled the world. This journey from darkness to light at the beginning of time, with the crucial role the kauri played in that, is the experience visitors now have at the museum. It must be seen to be believed.
For deep history buffs there is a charming nod to the old imperial volume measurement of kauri super feet. These light-box trees have an iron-forged aspect, which gives a steampunk feel to the Forest Walkway, a contemporary take on the industrial era and another link with other parts of the collection.
To better ignite imaginations, the Forest Walkway is filled with the sound of birdsong. For keen listeners, there is the distinctive flap of a tui on the wing moving from tree to tree through this walkway which acts as a herald to draw visitors onwards on the journey from darkness to light. By the end of the Forest Walkway, once light has come to the world, there is a full dawn chorus of native birdsong filling the space.
An enchanted space, the Forest Walkway at the Kauri Museum has echoes of the forest that’s gone and is yet to come. It’s like walking through a Once-and-Future Forest. Rain or shine, a visit to the Kauri Museum adds fresh meaning to a timeless story that captures hearts, ignites imaginations about the past and the present, and encourages hope for tomorrow.