Sarah Ell takes her family on an educational trek to Warkworth Museum.

Caption: The Warkworth and District Museum sits next to the impressive Parry Kauri Park.

Although most of the big trees are gone, the Mahurangi was once kauri country. Telling the story of its cultural and kauri-milling heritage, the Warkworth and District Museum sits next to the Parry Kauri Park, an impressive stand of kauri and other native trees.

An easy, boardwalked trail runs through it - ideal for getting into the bush when it's a bit soggy.

It's easy to miss the museum turn-off: keep an eye out for the sign at the top of the small rise to the south of the town, just before you reach the first of the notorious sets of jam-creating traffic lights.


Commanding the museum car park is the McKinney kauri. It and the Simpson kauri - also in the Parry block - are the largest mature trees left on the east coast of Northland.

The McKinney kauri is nearly 40m tall and between 800 and 900 years old. Seeing its massive bole on the edge of the bush remnant block is a sobering reminder of how spectacular the great kauri forests must once have been - and why their golden timber was so prized.

Despite the forecast for improving weather, it is still drizzling, so we decide to check out the museum. Unfortunately it isn't much warmer inside the museum, but there is plenty to look at.

The museum houses one of those typically eclectic local collections: war medals, old china, bottles and buttons, musical instruments.

There are displays of kauri timber and gum and the tools the loggers used to extract these magnificent trees.

My son's eye is caught by the case of stuffed native birds, including an extinct huia. Along the corridor is a re-created hospital room with beds, old medical equipment and some wince-inducing obstetric instruments.

At the end is some of the equipment of pioneering photographer and local businessman Tudor Collins, who recorded the last great days of the kauri industry, as well as working as a stringer for the New Zealand Herald.

Upstairs is our favourite part: a series of re-created small shops and rooms from the early 1900s, including a carpenter's shop, forge, general store, a schoolroom with a large Empire-dominated map of the world, and what generations of Kiwi kids called the "murder house" - more winces are induced by the range of dental instruments.


The rain has stopped by this stage so, armed with a $2 bag of jelly jet planes from the museum shop, we venture out to the adjacent Parry Kauri Park.

A busload of backpackers has pulled up; the museum seems to be a toilet stop, and most head that way but several bleary-eyed young people make it as far as the other side of the carpark to admire the McKinney kauri.

All thoughts of taking the baby around in the pram are abandoned. Yes, the path is completely boardwalk, but it is also mostly steps, leading down into a gully, so we park the pram and carry on, carrying.

The path is well constructed and, although wet, not slippery, and our 4-year-old delights in leading the way to explore the "jungle", keeping an eye out for wolves and bears.

There are several loop tracks, descending to a pretty stream then rising up to a cantilevered wooden lookout overlooking the gully, with a bird-feeder attached to attract tui and other forest birds.

Here and there, small signs give parents the answers for when kids ask, "What's that tree, Mum?" By this stage, the sunshine has arrived, streaming through the canopy and making the damp bush sparkle.

After a quick scrub of shoes and pram wheels to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, it's off to Chocolate Brown cafe in the nearby township to complete the Sunday outing trilogy of culture, exercise and treat.

Need to know?

• Warkworth and District Museum, Tudor Collins Drive, Warkworth.
Turn right off State Highway 1 on to McKinney Rd, then right on to Wilson Rd.
Entry: adults $5, children $3 (12-16), under-12s free.
Ph: (09) 425 7093.
• Parry Kauri Park is adjacent to the museum carpark.
• Chocolate Brown cafe & chocolate shop, 6 Mill Lane, Warkworth.