New Zealand Road Trip: Karangahake Gorge
This post in part of our New Zealand North Island 9-Day Road Trip series.
Driving from Russell in the Bay of Islands to Rotorua is a long day: it’s 300 miles, includes Auckland traffic, and several twisty highways that are undergoing major construction work. We knew it was going to be somewhat stressful and worked in a few side trips to break up the monotony of asphalt, sheep, and paving trucks. One of our favorite stops was a hike in Karangahake Gorge, located off of State Highway 2 between Waihi and Paeroa (at the very southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula).
Before we talk about the gorge and the former mining activities, I should mention a great route planning tool: New Zealand Department of Conservation’s interactive parks map. Not only does it feature the famous ‘9 Great Walks’, but there are many less strenuous, but just as interesting sights and hikes. Just make sure to check all the boxes: historic sights, must see places, and easier experiences. Karangahake appropriately falls under ‘must see places’.
Karangahake is an old gold mining site set in one of the most stunning gorges that I’ve ever beheld. The short loop hike crosses three bridges and leads you through some of the old mining tunnels. It has appropriately been labeled one of the “14 Wonders of New Zealand”.
A bit of the old mining processing plant is still visible today.
You probably have noticed my obsession for the native jungle fauna. It is magnificent!
Those prehistoric looking leafy things are silver ferns, which adorn countless shops, clothing items, and flags around New Zealand. It also happens to be the symbol for the world-famous All Blacks rugby team, who were busy capping off an undefeated season while we were touring the country. My Dears, you haven’t seen rugby mania until you’ve visited New Zealand!
Back to the hike. A bit from the DOC website: This spectacular short walk takes you through the impressive Waitawheta River Gorge to the remains of the mining works at Karangahake. Visit the unique underground pumphouse and explore the mine tunnels including the windows used by the miners to expel low grade ore out of the mine and down to the river far below.
Preparing to head into the tunnels. A word of advice: bring a flashlight/headlamp. Or download the app on your phone that’ll keep the flash on. It gets dark!
I would have a hard time being a miner – talk about a tough job.
One of three suspension bridges.
And a few last pictures of the gorge on the way out.
Bring a picnic lunch and prepare to spend an hour in an incredible canyon. It’s worth the detour.
Getting There: Park by the Karangahake Hall, or in the Karangahake Domain Car Park on SH2 between Paeroa and Waihi, at the base of the Coromandel Range. Karangahake is about 130 km drive from Auckland, or 60 km from Hamilton.
Description:The Karangahake Gorge Historical Walkway follows the Ohinemuri River as it tumbles over rocks and boulders through the steep-sided Karangahake Gorge. Gold mining relics and the natural beauty of the landscape make this a very memorable walk. The walkway crosses three bridges and includes a two kilometre loop section that offers the chance to walk through an 1100 metre tunnel.
The Karangahake Gorge historic Walkway is seven kilometres long and takes about two hours one way. Allow 45 minutes for the loop section. The Crown Tramway Track and Windows Walk lead off the walkway.
All New Zealand Posts:
Part 1: New Zealand Travel Route: The North Island in 9 Days
Part 2: Auckland: the cosmopolitan heart of the North Island
Part 3: Waipoua Forest: giant trees and pretty views
Part 4: Bay of Islands: Swimming with Dolphins
Part 5: Karangahake Gorge: an abandoned gold mine in a stunningly beautiful valley
Part 6: Rotorua: The Yellowstone of New Zealand
Part 7: Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks
Part 8: Waitomo: Glow Worms Galore!
Part 9: Planning Your New Zealand Driving Tour