Voted as one of the 101 Must Do's for Kiwis. Many Kiwi’s will have driven through the breathtaking Karangahake Gorge but few will have ventured into the walkways, old tunnels, discovered the rich history hidden in the gorge or cycled the Hauraki Rail Trail. Not only is this one of the most stunning stretches of river in the country it is home to one of the busiest and most lucrative goldstrikes in the country.
The Windows Walkway would have to rate as one of the most stunning in the area with windows blasted through the gold mining tunnels providing stunning views into the Waitewheta river.
The Karangahake Gorge is a major highlight for the Hauraki Rail Trail, which can be accessed from Thames, Paeroa, Waihi, or Te Aroha. The trail offers a range of short riding options or for those wishing to make a weekend of it the entire trail can be done over a three days.
The Karangahake Gorge Historical walkway follows part of the old railway line that ran between Paeroa and Taneatua. The line was closed in 1979, allowing the public access to historical sites associated with gold mining from the 1870s through to the 1950s.
The mining heritage sites are concentrated at both ends of the walkway. At the western end they are centred round the confluence of the Waitawheta River at Karangahake, whereas the eastern approach is dominated by the site of the Waihi Gold Mining Company’s massive battery complex (1896-1952) at Waikino.
In the 1890s three large batteries were built at Karangahake to service the Woodstock, Talisman and Crown mines.
The Woodstock Gold Mining Company (GMC) was formed in 1885. It met with little success because of the difficult, refractory nature of the ore despite its high grade. It wasn’t until the introduction of the ‘cyanide’ process in 1894 (developed by the nearby Crown Gold Mining Co in 1889) which greatly improved returns, that the mine developed.
In 1895 the company erected a 40 stamp battery and cyanide plant, as did the Crown (1893), and Talisman Companies (1901).
The remains of four major gold mining sites emphasise the importance of this industry to our early (European) New Zealand economy.
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.
As an alternative way of getting to the Karangahake Gorge, Goldfields Heritage Railway operate a daily service between the Waihi Railway Station and Waikino Station Café.