Why The Redwoods, Rotorua is better than California's Muir Woods
Entering Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, the closest coastal redwood forest to San Francisco, is akin to a religious experience for many.
Surrounded by centuries-old specimens of the tallest living things on Earth, there's no denying you're in the presence of a higher power. And several hundred other souls foolishly seeking solace in nature at one of the busiest attractions in the Bay Area.
To experience the redwoods in an environment that endows them with the reverence they deserve, head to Rotorua. Specifically, the Redwood Grove at Whakarewarewa Forest: home to the most distinguished Kiwi branch of the native American gentle giants.
Being New Zealand, the adrenaline epicentre of the world, this isn't just some run-of-the-mill stroll through the woods. As lovely as Muir Woods' popular Bohemian Trail is, it's also a little, well, pedestrian. A wide boardwalk running for just a mile, it's hardly a journey of epic proportions.
At Whakarewarewa, by contrast, you can dial up the adrenaline as much as you wish.
For an uplifting experience with a low-key buzz, take the Treewalk: a network of bridges suspended between a series of 115-year-old redwoods, up to 12 metres above ground. Climbing through the canopies, you'll get a bird's eye view of what lies within as well as beneath the trees' dense green foliage. Keep your eyes peeled for the forest's largest redwood, which is some 72 metres tall and 169 centimetres wide.
Head there after dark, when designer David Trubridge's suspended lanterns and hidden spotlights highlight details that often go unobserved, and you'll feel like you've landed in an enchanted forest.
If, God forbid, you tire of the redwoods, there's the wider 5600-hectare forest to explore, with vast networks of trails for trampers, trail runners, mountain bikers and horse riders.
Mountain bikers are in for a particular treat with around 130km of trails through native forest and out to Rotokakahi/Green and Tikitapu/Blue lakes. Trails range from beginner and family-friendly to expert and extreme, some of the latter with large drop-offs and and jumps.
Trampers won't be disappointed though, with signposted tracks starting from the Redwood Grove and taking you past spectacular vistas of Rotorua City, steaming geysers and the surrounding countryside.
If, after all that action, you're craving a refreshing dip, you won't have to brave the perennially freezing waters of the Northern Californian coast like those poor visitors to Muir Woods.
In summer, cool off in one of the 13 sparkling lakes or three major rivers in the area and, in winter, warm up in one of the forest-encircled natural hot springs or boutique spas.
There's plenty more action to be had if you want to crank the adrenaline up another notch too. Dare devils could try white water rafting on the grade five Kaituna River, home to the world's highest commercially raftable waterfall, or white water sledging, a professional sport in Europe quickly gaining popularity here too.
And then there are the many other delights of Rotovegas to explore. Really, California can't compare.