Peel Forest

Visit Peel Forest, South Canterbury, NZ

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  • Peel Forest is an area of remnant native forest, beside the upper Rangitata River and on the slopes of Mount Peel (4,300 feet). Forestry and sawmilling was an important industry in the area from 1865 until 1908. Old saw pits and bullock tracks remain as evidence of this period.

    About 500 hectares of forest remained uncut at the time forestry operations ended. This forest is diverse and especially rich in ferns, flowering shrubs and native bird life. The predominant trees are kahikatea (white pine), matai (black pine), and totara.

    The forest is administered by the Department of Conservation. Hiking tracks are graded in four levels from easy walks through to challenging, unmarked tracks, termed “routes”. Some tracks are suitable for travelling by horse or mountain bike. Certain areas of forest at high altitude, e are set aside for hunting game such as deer, wapiti and Himalayan thar.

    Accommodation at Peel Forest (NZ)

    Camping is popular in this wilderness area. The Department of Conservation maintain a basic camping area. Another, more commercial campsite is located at Clark Flat, by the Rangitata River.  For multi-day hikes, there are also trampers’ huts.

    Several lodges at Peel Forest offer standard or luxury accommodation, withself-contained accommodation or serviced rooms. There are also farm-stay establishments.

    A number of holiday cottages are available for rent, including eco-style houses, featuring solar heating, straw bale construction etc.

    An outdoor pursuits centre and a lodge that sleeps up to 40 cater for large groups.

    Transport around Peel Forest

    Peel forest is accessed from the Inland Scenic Highway (SH 76). The journey from Geraldine, to the south, takes about 20 minutes. From Methven, to the north-east, the travel time is about 50 minutes.

    There is no public transport to Peel Forest. Geraldine is the nearest stop for inter-city coaches. Shuttle transport from Geraldine to the forest is provided by some accommodation and tour operators.

    The 21 km journey from Geraldine can easily be made by mountain bike.

    Tourist Activities at Peel Forest

    Activities at Peel Forest fall broadly into two categories: river-based and forest-based.

    The Rangitata River is New Zealand’s best salmon fishing river, and is also home to brown trout and rainbow trout. Fishing safaris are available, which may make use of jet-boat or horse to reach the best locations.

    Guided tours are available that include one or more of white-water rafting, kayaking and horse trekking along the river. Following the river upstream to its narrow reaches in the hills, one finds the location of “Rivendell” from the Lord of the Rings movies.

    In the forest one can see native birds such as wood pigeon, bellbird, fantail, grey warbler, kakariki (the native parakeet), the rare kaka and (at altitude) the kea, New Zealand’s remarkable alpine parrot. The forest is also notable for its great variety of ferns (68 species).

    Walking tracks in the area range from easy, short walks, through gentle or challenging hikes, to unformed tracks marked only as “routes”.  The Department of Conservation produced maps and booklets to guide visitors along the many trails, some of which are suitable for mountain biking or horse trekking.

    Certain areas of the forest are set aside for hunting – in season. Deer and wapiti are commonly shot. The Himalayan thar is found at altitude on steep, rocky slopes, and is a very challenging target game species. Helicopter-based hunting is often preferred for the high altitude regions, allowing easy access and recovery.

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    Peel Forest