Inspiring ideas for New Zealand vacation planning - The Orongorongo Trail

Since New Zealand re-opened their borders to US visitors, starting May 2022, interest in the destination has returned to pre-Covid numbers. In this series of blogs, we look beyond the iconic favorite destinations, to lesser known places that are often the highlight of a New Zealand vacation. Today, The Orongorongo Trail.

There are hundreds of walking trails in New Zealand. Our blogs feature some of the best of them, some well known, others not so much.

The Ōrongorongo River and Trail (official name - The Ōrongorongo Track) in the North Island was introduced to us by our Wellington friend Graeme Thompson when we visited the capital city last year. "It's a trail that Wellington folk like to keep to themselves" he said, "So don't go putting it all over the front page of that website of yours". 

We assured him that any story we wrote about Ōrongorongo would be limited to our Blog page and he was satisfied.

So next day we set off for the town of Wainuiomata, a 40 minute drive and from Wellington, and from there, a further 10-minutes to the start of the trail. We speculated that the biggest challenge for overseas visitors on this part of their day, might be how to pronounce the word  'Wainuiomata'!

The trail is a part of the southern Rimutaka Forest Park, a magnificent 60,000 acre wilderness area of mostly native forests. The region is characterised by steep, bush-clad hills and narrow fern-filled valleys cut by abundant freshwater streams and the beautiful Orongorongo River. 

It's an excellent track, well maintained throughout and quite an easy walk. We took it slowly and completed the return trip in 4-hours.

We were blown away by the forest scenery, especially the many fern trees growing on the banks of the streams we passed.


Ferns Ōrongorongo River Track.


Flowering on a massive native Rata Tree on the Ōrongorongo Trail.


The Ōrongorongo River


Suitable for all age groups of medium fitness.


The turnaround point of the Ōrongorongo Trail.


New Zealand North Island native forest at its best.

There's just one more thing we should mention - check the weather before you head off, and as always, when traveling off the grid in New Zealand, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

To explain the need to check the weather, take a look at the width of the river and the topography of the terrain on the map below, with steep hills on both sides of the river. 

What this means is that when it rains heavily here, the flooding of the river is almost explosive, taking everything in its path as it rushes to the sea. Fortunately there's always warnings when this might occur and it only happens a few times a year. 


Talk to one of the team here at New Zealand Vacations if you would like a one-day visit to the Ōrongorongo River included in your New Zealand itinerary. 

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Apr 28, 2020