Karangahake Gorge is a beautiful place to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. Located south of Coromandel Peninsula, Karangahake Gorge region offers some of the best historical trails, former gold mining sites, gorgeous waterfalls and scenic nature walks.
Make a stop in Karangahake Gorge when you’re travelling in the region, go there on a day trip from Auckland or spend the whole day in this beautiful region rich in nature and gold mining history. There are many walks, biking tracks and simply places to relax and enjoy the scenery.
How to get to Karangahake Gorge
As anywhere in New Zealand, the easiest option to get to Karangahake region is to go there by car. It’s located on State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Waihi.
Karangahake Gorge will make a perfect day trip from Auckland (2 hr drive), Hamilton (1 hr drive) or Tauranga (1 hr drive) as it’s located within a short driving distance from these cities.
We visited Karangahake many times. Leaving Auckland in the morning, spending a day walking and exploring Karangahake Gorge and driving back home in the evening. A nice day out for the whole family!
Drive to the Karangahake Reserve car park and picnic area. There are few walking tracks starting from there. I must say the place is quite popular (especially on weekends and public holidays) and it’s not always easy to find a parking spot there. If there is no parking left at the Karangahake Reserve car park, then try Karangahake Hall. From the State Highway 2 turn to Crown Hill Rd bridge. There is an additional parking area near Karangahake Hall and it’s only a 10 minute walk to the beginning of the tracks from there.
Karangahake Gold Mining History
Starting from the 1880s Karangahake Gorge area was known for its gold mining. There were several tunnels mined through the area. And several stamping batteries were used with the convenience of Waitawheta and Ohinemuri rivers used to water power the batteries. At some point between the 1880s and 1950s Karangahake area produced 60% of the total gold from New Zealand.
There are some remains left at the Talisman, Crown, Woodstock and Victoria batteries historical sites. Victoria battery was the largest and most advanced gold mining battery back in the days, and it now has a museum on its site. Victoria Battery is a part of Karangahake Historic Walkway that follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi.
Karangahake Scenic Nature walks
Karangahake Gorge conveniently combines its gold mining history with scenic nature that makes it a perfect site for some of the best walks and tracks. Below are some of the Karangahake scenic nature walks.
Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
Start at Karangahake Reserve car park or Karangahake Hall and follow Ohinemuri stream on the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway.
The full track takes you from the Karangahake Hall along the scenic nature trail. Passing some steel bridges, following an old railway line through the scenic gorge and going near beautiful Owharoa Falls. Then passing through the Victoria Battery remains and up to the Waikino train station.
The track is about 7 km long (approx 4 hr return).
Karangahake Rail Tunnel Loop Walk
If you prefer a shorter walk take the Rail Tunnel Loop track. It also starts at either Karangahake Reserve car park or Karangahake Hall and follows the Ohinemuni river. You will pass the remaining of the Crown Battery and go to the Western Portal Bridge over the river. There is a 1100 m former rail tunnel (with lights) through the mountain that leads you back to the Karangahake Hall.
The loop track is about 2.5km long (approx 1.5 hr walk).
Karangahake Gorge Windows Walk
One of the most popular (and easiest) walks in the Karangahake Gorge area is Windows Walk. On this track you will walk along the Waitawheta River through some old gold mining tunnels with ‘windows’ carved through the rocks. Through these windows you will be able to enjoy the views down to the gorge and river beneath.
Along the track you will find signage with information about this historical site. You will walk on some old train tracks and even see an old minecart – a favourite among children that like to get into it and imagine themselves to be a golden nugget :).
Make sure to take a torch on this track (or use built-in torch in your phone) as mining tunnels are very dark in places.
The Windows Walk is a round 2.5 km long track (approx 1.5 hr walk).
Karangahake Mountain Walk
You can walk to the summit of Karangahake mountain to enjoy the sweeping views from the top. It takes about 2 hrs 30 mins to reach the top and another 1.5-2 hrs to return.
We ourselves didn’t do this walk as it’s not recommended for smaller kids (due to the track becoming steep towards the top).
More places to visit in Karangahake Gorge
Even if you are just passing by and don’t have much time for long walks there are few places in Karangahake Gorge you can visit easily and quickly.
One of our favourite places in the Karangahake region is beautiful Owharoa Falls.
If you’re walking the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway you will reach Owharoa Falls during the walk. Alternatively, you can simply drive to the parking lot near the waterfalls and from there it’s only a 5 minute walk to the Owharoa Falls.
Owharoa Falls offers beautiful photo spots, a nice place to relax and if you are visiting in summer – a natural swimming pool at the foot of the waterfall. Volume of the water of Owharoa Falls highly depends on the amount of recent rain falls. We visited this place several times and saw this waterfall as a full-flowing one covering all the staircase-like rocks underneath. While at other times it was only a few thin streams of water after a long dry period.
Goldfields Heritage Railway
If you are not into much walking you can take a train on the Goldfields Heritage Railway. There is an operational train running between the Waikino Station (near the Victoria Battery) and the historic gold mining town of Waihi.
Check Goldfields Heritage Railway website for the timetable, there are some days when they don’t have a return train.
Even if you are not riding a train you can visit a cafe inside the Waikino Station for some food and a break while exploring Karangahake region.
Victoria Battery Tramway & Museum
Just a short walk from the Waikino Station you will find the historic Victoria Battery. Besides the remains of the battery (which is open to the public every day), there is also a small museum, guided tours through the underground tunnel and ore kilns and tramway rides at the site of Victoria Battery. You can have a ride on the small open carriage tram that takes you on a short ride around the battery.
Buy tickets to the museum, underground tours or tram rides on the spot at Victoria Battery. These attractions are only open on weekends and during public holidays.
Karangahake Gorge is a great place and we recommend you to visit it at least once. Variety of easy to medium difficulty walking tracks and gold mining remains make it an ideal to explore with the whole family. I am sure children and adults alike will enjoy their trip to Karangahake Gorge region.