Gumdiggers Park is an authentic piece of New Zealand history. Home to the oldest non-fossilized wood found on earth, the buried ancient Kauri trees are something to see. Developed only 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.
It only takes about an hour to explore this ancient Kauri kingdom. We recommend it for everyone driving up the Aupouri Peninsula to the top of the North Island.
What are gum diggers?
As explained better in the photos below, gum diggers are the people who dig in the ancient Kauri forest for the tree gum or resinous sap. From the late 1800s to 1920 gum digging was a principal 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. A more practical use of the gum is in high-quality varnishes.
Gum Diggers Village
In 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. You may know them as Wellingtons, mud boots, or rain boots in other parts of the world.
Keep a close eye on children. Many of the guide ropes are just on the other side of gum digger holes. Falling into the holes would be dangerous to both the child and the land.
Rubbing amber: is it like a fountain of youth?
What Makes Gumdiggers Park special
“All around we see the 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 their study into climate change, and the history of this once huge industry that helped to found Auckland and Northland.”
Practical information on visiting Gumdiggers Park
Remember to walk through Gumdiggers Park with respect. Everything you see is authentic, old, and irreplaceable.
- Gumdiggers Park is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm.
- 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, this 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.
- 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.
- This part of our favourite 4-5 day self-drive itinerary around the top of the North Island.
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Have you been to Gumdiggers Park?
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Disclaimer: We were granted entrance to Gummdigger Park to take photos for this article. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.