Waihi and the surrounding area have some of the best bush and coastal walks and historic areas New Zealand has to offer. The Karangahake Gorge is in the 101 Must Do’s for Kiwis and offers a number of scenic walks at varying distances and abilities.
The Karangahake Gorge, between Waihi and Paeroa is packed with gold-mining history and many of the old relics of the gold mining days are accessible through a variety of walks. This area was once the busiest and most lucrative gold mining area in New Zealand. The Waikino Cafe located in the Gorge (7.5km from Waihi and 15km from Paeroa), hosts a Visitor Centre that has displays with information showing the attractions of the Karangahake Gorge area. Shorter and longer walks along the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta Rivers take visitors through beautiful countryside, historic gold mining sites and mine tunnels. Tip: As an alternative way of getting to the Karangahake Gorge, Goldfields Steam Train operates a daily service between the Waihi Railway Station and Waikino Station Café.
Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
This fascinating walk follows the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line, with the remainder of the track following the banks of the Ohinemuri River. Old mine buildings and machinery can be seen from a number of locations along the walkway.
Directions: Situated between Paeroa and Waihi, and is serviced by four carparks, located at the Waikino Visitor Centre, Waitawheta Road, Karangahake Reserve and Crown Hill Road.
Time: Two hours one-way (allow 45 minutes for the loop section). Distance is 7 kilometres incorporating a 2 km loop walk.
Karangahake Windows Walk
From the Karangahake Reserve car park begin by crossing both the suspension bridge over the Ohinemuri River, and then the Lower Waitawheta Gorge bridge. Go up the stairs and through the abandoned buildings and machinery of the Talisman battery.
Then follow the rail track along the gorge and into the old gold mining tunnels. The tunnel has four openings (windows) which look down on the spectacular river gorge far below. The track emerges from the cliff and descends a staircase before crossing the river on a suspension bridge and returning on the opposite side of the gorge along the Crown Tramway Track to the car park.
Latest developments by the Department of Conservation in the Karangahake Gorge have seen the upgrade of this track. Along the track visitors can observe relics of the many processes that took place in extracting gold – from the tunnels where rock was extracted, to the roasting pits where the rock was broken down, and finally remnants of the huge stamper battery processing plant. The Talisman battery, built in the 1890’s was huge in its day, with 50 stampers crushing rock around the clock. Further initiatives in the development of this walkway are the reconstruction of the tramlines that were used to transport rock to the battery and a number of interpretive boards will be mounted along the walk.
Tip: Ensure you stop at the Visitor Centre at the Waikino Café to look at the old black and white photos to get an idea of the size of the community that flourished in the Karangahake Gorge during the gold mining era.
Directions: Just off SH2 between Paeroa and Waihi. The walk starts in the Karangahake Gorge carpark area.
Time: About an hour round trip, though it’s easy to linger longer.
Time: 10 minutes return
Description: Owharoa Falls is a series of three waterfalls located in a couple of kilometres drive from popular Karangahake Gorge.
Address: 31 Waitawheta Road, Waihi
The walk (5 minutes one way) is a very easy one and suitable for people with all abilities. Only the first and third waterfalls are well accessible while the top of the second one may be seen from the road. There is a car park on Waitawheta Rd without any facilities on it and signs lead you from the carpark to the waterfall base