Explore this rainforest gorge which has tunnels hollowed out by gold miners a rushing river, and calm pools that provide an excellent spot for swimming in the summer.
Karangahake Gorge is known for its forest walk. Hike through remnants of gold mining pumps, glow worm inhabited tunnels, and old railways in this gorge carved out by the power of the Ohinemuri River. The walk from the park’s entry over a suspension bridge to its end at Waikino Station is roughly 4.5 miles (seven kilometers). Informational signposts along the way fill you in on the history of the area. There are shorter loop walks and parts of the track near to Waikino Station are accessible by car.
Don’t miss the Rail Tunnel loop walk. Carved into the rock, the half-mile (1 kilometre) tunnel features windows once used to dump waste, but now giving walkers a spectacular view out over the gorge. Explore the underground pump house where you’ll see remnants of mining machinery. If you search carefully, you’ll see glow worms on the roof. Pack a torch for this section of the walk.
Halfway from Karangahake to Waikino deeper in the New Zealand rainforest is the Owharoa Falls area. Falls Retreat offers accommodation and bistro dining in a forest setting. Further on at the Victoria Battery Mine Railway and Museum, you’ll get an idea of just how big this gold mining operation was. In the early 1900s it was producing over half of New Zealand’s gold. Take a tour of the tunnels, see where the quartz was burned and crushed, or jump on a tram to explore the area. The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway is also open to cyclists.
There is a cluster of accommodation, a winery and restaurant at Karangahake, just off State Highway 2, near where the tracks begin. Train enthusiasts can take a little extra time to ride the heritage railway on vintage trains from Waikino Station to Waihi.
Get to Karangahake Gorge by rental car or tour. Once there, explore the region by bike, car or on foot.