Waipoua Forest was declared a sanctuary in 1952, preserving a number of the best specimens of kauri forest in New Zealand. It has two of the largest living kauri trees, Tane Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere. The forest is maintained by a community-based volunteer organization, the Waipoua Forest Trust.
Kauri forest has a vast amount of other plant types: large trees such as taraire, kohekohe, towai and northern rata are common. Beneath the branches, tall dense stands of kauri grass and gahnia grow. Native mairehau, neinei, hangehange, ferns and kiekie plants also flourish.
Several species of threatened wildlife live in the forest, including the endangered North Island kokako, which unfortunately is vulnerable due to competition with rats and possums and predation. The New Zealand pigeon (or kukupa) is common. The Fantail, the endemic Tui, pied tits, grey warblers, kingfishers and shining cuckoos are common birds. Visitors may also spot the large and very distinctive kauri snail, a carnivorous creature which feeds mainly on slugs, earthworms and soft-bodied insects.
The historic Forest Lookout near the south side of the forest gives views over the entire forest, driving home the sheer size. A series and variety of good walking tracks offer straightforward access to the best attractions of the forest: the massive trees Tane Mahuta, Te Matua Ngahere and Yakas. There is a campsite in the forest and picnic area.
The best way to approach the forest is the drive on State Highway 12. It progresses through huge stands of towering kauri, rimu and northern rata, and gives extensive views in several places.