Gumdiggers Park: A New Zealand Wonder Worth Visiting

Gumdiggers Park is an authentic piece of New Zealand history. It takes about an hour to explore and is a worthwhile stop if heading to the top of the North Island. It is home to the oldest non-fossilized wood found on earth.

I’ll be honest, when we first saw Gumdiggers Park on the map, we worried it would be an overpriced tourist trap. But what we found was exactly the opposite. Built up just enough to make it safe for visitors, Gumdiggers Park is fascinating, even to our teens. Walking along lush green forest paths, we found labels explaining just about everything. We saw young and mature kauri trees, an ancient buried forest, an old gum diggers village and rare geckos.

What are gum diggers?

Explained better in the photos below, gum diggers are the people who dig in the ancient forest for the tree gum, or resinous sap. From the late 1800s to 1920 gum digging was a key income source in this part of New Zealand. The fossilised sap, or kauri gum, hardens over thousands of years into beautiful (when polished) New Zealand amber. The gum is also used for making high quality varnishes.

Ancient kauri log estimated to be 100k-150K old at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

It is ok to touch this ancient kauri log estimated to be 100k-150K years old.

How did ancient kauri logs end up at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

The signage throughout the park is excellent. This one explains why the log in the photo above is flat.

A young kauri tree on the eco trail at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

A young kauri tree on the eco trail. We also saw an enclosure with rare geckos along this trail.

A hut in Gummdigges Village, Awanui New Zealand

A hut in Gumdiggers Village. It is exactly recreated with traditional building materials.

Gummdigges Village, Awanui New Zealand

Examples of gum digging equipment can be found in the Gum Store (again, it is okay to carefully touch things here).

Gum washing machine in Gummdigges Village, Awanui New Zealand

Gum washing machine used from 1930 – 1950. There was also a hurdy gurdy used prior to 1930.

Huge ancient kauri stump estimated to be 100k-150K old at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

In the foreground of this giant hole is the stump from a tree the size of Tane Mahuta (New Zealand’s current largest tree). It is also estimated to be between 100-150k years old.

A deep walk in hole at Gumdiggers Park in New Zealand

Our teens give a bit of perspective to the depth of this walk in gum digger hole.

Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

Most of the gum digger holes we walked by were big and obvious, but some were a bit harder to spot. The rope guides are a reminder, but keep an eye on small children.

A large piece of New Zealand amber at Gumdiggers Park in Northland

This large piece of New Zealand amber is on display in the gift shop area. I rubbed it for youth, and it seems to be working.

In the Gumdiggers Village there is a short (15 minute) loop video of gum digging history. Apparently the original gum diggers wore leather boots, but soon changed to rubber boots to keep their feet dry. The name gumboots has stuck in New Zealand. In other parts of the world they are called things like Wellington Boots, Wellies, mud boots, and rain boots.

What Really Makes Gumdiggers Park Special

~ A quote from John, the owner/caretaker

“All around we see devastation in the name of progress, so it is a no brainer for us to keep the habitat here as a sanctuary for the last remaining indigenous plants and animals that live here. Out of just this valley of 4000 acres, this is the last 70 acres left. And also the ancient forests that lay buried here, are truly unique and help scientists worldwide with there study into climate change, and  the history of this once huge industry that helped to found Auckland and northland.”

Practical Information: 

  • Walk through Gumdiggers Park with respect, remembering that everything you see is authentic, over 100 years old, and irreplaceable.
  • Keep a close eye on children. Many of the guide ropes are just on the other side of gum digger holes. Falling in the holes would be dangerous to both the child and the land.
  • Gumdiggers Park is open everyday from 9am – 5pm. Cost of entry at time of publication of this article is adults: $12.50, children 8-16 $6, family $30, and children under 8 are free.
  • Allocate about an hour for a visit, although if you are in a hurry and skip the video, you could see it all in about 30 minutes. It is worth the time and cost.
  • Located at 171 Heath Road in Awanui, Gumdiggers Park is quite easy to find on the way up to Cape Reinga. From Kaitaia, travel north on SH1 for about 20km. Turn right at the second time the loop road Paparora Road intersects, followed by a left turn onto Heath Road.
  • It is possible to do some sandsurfing and visit the white sands of Rarawa Beach, Cape Reinga, Ninety-Mile Beach and Gumdiggers Park in one day. They are all part of our favorite 4-5 day itinerary around the top of the North Island.***

Have you heard of Gumdiggers Park before today? Will you stop there on your next trip up to the top of the North Island?

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media, and Pintrest:

Ancient kauri log estimated to be 100k-150K old at Gumdiggers Park in Northland New Zealand

This post is also linked to BeThere2Day for Wordless Wednesday on Tuesday, Our World Tuesdays, Wednesdays Around the World at Photographing New Zealand, and Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer.

Disclaimer: I was provided entrance to take photos, however the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

Ninety-Mile Beach at Sunset - Northland, New Zealand
Enjoy These Far North Restaurants in New Zealand

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Rhonda – interesting to read about the gum-diggers .. I’d never heard of them before … fascinating to read that the forests used to cover most of North Island. Wonderful trees and history .. I’d definitely visit at some stage … cheers Hilary

  2. says

    Interesting to know about gum-diggers,never heard before.Now,I searched in Google and read few more articles too.Beautiful photos of the place..

  3. says

    This looks so interesting! I have never even heard of gumdiggers or gumdigging. One of these days I need to get over to New Zealand and explore!!

  4. says

    I’ve never heard of this before today. How cool. I would have loved to visit this park. So rich in history and I love history. Great shots too.

    Have a fabulous day Rhonda. 🙂

  5. says

    I enjoyed this story so much. Your information and photos are interesting, and if I were there I’d certainly go see this fascinating place. It’s remarkable what our old earth does with things, such as the sap from these trees, making them into gorgeous pieces of amber. Excellent, and thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Thanks Nancy, and I agree, nature is truly incredible. Before moving to New Zealand, my only understanding of amber came from the Jurassic Park (the movie). I probably shouldn’t admit that 🙂

  6. says

    Wow! Thank you for sharing! What great photos and I really enjoyed learning about gum diggers. I had never heard of this before finding your blog!

  7. says

    How beautiful, Rhonda! I guess it must be nice and warm in New Zealand now, not that I have to complain about California. I really love parks like this, I wish we had some closer to where I live. That stump hole seems huge! I guess that tree must have been larger than a sequoia. Very beautiful pictures, like always.

    • says

      We lived in the San Francisco area for 15 years before coming to New Zealand. The weather is quite similar, although it rains more often here – and opposite seasons. As for the trees, you have me curious so I looked it up, and am still confused. If the sequoia are the Sierra redwoods, then they are bigger, otherwise it looks like it is Kauri. But this is only comparing the largest of each tree:

      Largest diameter
      Sierra Redwood 32 feet—unusual, 40 feet
      Kauri Pine 24 feet
      Coast Redwood 18 feet—unusual, 22 feet
      Mexican Cypress 20 feet—unusual, 40 feet
      Bald Cypress 15 feet
      Japanese Cedar 12 feet
      *source

  8. SuzC says

    My great grandfather was a gum digger in the far north of NZ. This was fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be sure to visit here myself one day when I go to NZ.

    • says

      Wow, that is so cool. Owner/caretaker John is really approachable so be sure to tell him about your great grandfather. I’ll bet you have some great stories to share together.

  9. says

    What a fun tour, it was fascinating learning about the tree and the special sap and amber that can develop from this, love the tropical vibe of this forest.

  10. says

    150,000 year old trees?! Holy cow! It’s amazing, and I love the part where it says “Warning” but you’re allowed to rub the amber for youth. Oh, if it were only that easy… Awesome pics! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing this interesting bit of history from our neighbouring country to the south. I never knew about gum diggers. Now I wonder if such an occupation also existed in Australia’s past; I’ll have to do some digging myself (on Google).

  12. Frankii says

    My partner comes from Paparore, just around the corner (literally) from the Gum diggers Park. Over the years on our visits back there we have watched the park develop saw the signs go up and the buses and tourists arrive. It’s been great seeing this development in the Far North take off. Congratulations on a job well done. One day we may even pop in and have a look around.

    • says

      How cool. What a wonderful place to grow up. The scenes all around there are magnificent, and the gum digger information is really interesting. You really should check it out next time you are there.

  13. says

    Gum diggers Interesting!!! I’ve never heard about it. I’m glad that i stumbled upon your web blog and got to Know an Interesting thing to Know.This place looks amazing and worth visiting.

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