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The Big Tree Walk, Peel Forest

The Big Tree Walk, Peel Forest

As a kid growing up in Timaru, I have vague memories of visiting Peel Forest. It’s a big tract of forest in the otherwise farming intensive plains of South Canterbury. You’ll see plenty of trees, some waterfalls and there’s even some mountains to climb (Little Mount Peel, Big Mount Peel). I ventured back there for the first time in around 25 years recently, and due to rain and a lack of time we opted for the short and sweet Big Tree Walk.

The Big Tree Walk

There are numerous tracks weaving their way through Peel Forest. Some lead to waterfalls, but apart from those there isn’t much else to see other than trees. Lots of trees. We figured if we were only going to see trees we may as well see the biggest one, and that’s what the Big Tree Walk has to offer.

The Big Tree Walk only takes 15-20 minutes return and is suitable for most levels of fitness. There are a couple of quite big trees along the way, and you’ll probably hear lots of birdsong in the surrounding trees. It’s a relaxing place, and there’s a massive tree just around the corner.

The Big Tree

And then you’ll come face to face with the giant of the forest. It is indeed massive, and at around 1000 years old it’s easy to see why. It’s a lowland totara and is apparently three metres across. You can hang out with the tree for a while and then take a shortcut back to the car park or return the way you came. This is a very easy walk and is ideal for kids. 

READ MORE: 9 of the Best Things to Do in Timaru

The Details

The Big Tree Walk starts at the Te Wanahu Flat car park in Peel Forest. It’s a 20-minute drive from Geraldine and a 50-minute drive from Timaru. The other walks are nearby as well – we had planned to walk to a couple of the waterfalls but the weather was terrible and it was getting late. I’ll be writing more about Peel Forest in the near future, so stay tuned for that!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.