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Karangahake Gorge, North Island

What to See and Do in the Karangahake Gorge near Waihi, North Island

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Karangahake Gorge

Karangahake Gorge, North Island

Image Courtesy of Malene Holm

The Karangahake Gorge is one of the best things to see on the drive from Auckland to Tauranga. It's a great place to stop to explore and relax. It is even a viable day trip from Auckland, Tauranga or the Coromandel. Aside from the great scenery it is also of interest for the remains of a gold mining town that once flourished there.

Karangahake Gorge Location and Getting There

The Gorge lies between the towns of Paeroa and Waihi at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in the upper North Island. it is 130 kilometers (81 miles) south east of Auckland and 75 kilometers (47 miles) north west of Tauranga. Driving time from Auckland is one and a half hours.

To get there from Auckland, travel south from the city and turn left onto State Highway 2 at the southern end of the Bombay Hills (follow the signs to Tauranga).

For a route map on Google Maps click here.

Karangahake Gorge Geography and Features

The Gorge was created several million years ago by volcanic activity and separates two ranges of mountains, Coromandel Ranges and the Kaimai Ranges. Flowing through the gorge is the Ohinemuri River.

The result is steeply rising hills on either side of a rock strewn river. The hills were once covered in dense forest and is now mainly native bush. Although the main highway passes through the gorge there are several places to park and the whole area is riddled with walking tracks.

Karangahake Gorge History

Although inhabited by the Maori people, European settlement of the area really began when gold was discovered in 1875. A rush soon followed and at its height in the early 1900s there was a town in the gorge with more than 2000 residents. The fortunes of the mining industry here were rather erratic, although at one point it was one of the largest mines in New Zealand. Mining finally ceased in the 1950s. A lot of evidence from the mining days remains, such as building ruins, walkways, rail tracks and tunnels. A significant number of the mining tracks and tunnels are open to the public, making it a fascinating place for walking and exploring.

Karangahake Gorge Cafes and Restaurants

There are only three places to find food and a coffee in the gorge:

Talisman Cafe
At the Auckland end of the gorge, it is across the road from the carpark near the river. Open for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Although close to the road it has a restful atmosphere and a lovely garden.

Ohinemuri Estate Winery Restaurant
This is at the end of the street opposite the carpark (near the Talisman Cafe) and has a rather more formal menu. If you're looking for something more special to eat this is one of the better restaurants in this region of the North Island. It is open for lunch only (not evenings).

Waikino Station Cafe
This is located at the Waihi end of the gorge on the site of what was once the mining town of Waikino. All that remains is the railway, which still operates scenic trips along the line to Waihi, and this cafe, which is in the railway building. It's a cosy place to stop for a coffee and a meal or snack. Open 10am - 4pm daily.

Karangahake Gorge Walking and Hiking Trails

The walking trails through the gorge are some of the best in the region. Many of them follow old mining trails and include tunnels (take a torch) and river and stream walks. Although there are hikes that can take several days from here, the three most popular are from 20 minutes to one and a half hours long.

The best place to start on these tracks is from the carpark at the northern (Auckland) entrance to the gorge. They are all well signposted. There are some steep sections in parts (especially near the old mining remains) but there are also many flat parts, especially along the river banks.

Other Things to See and Do in the Karangahake Gorge

Ohinemuri Estate Winery
It's an unlikely place to find a winery, as the gorge is too wet and steep to grow grapes. However that wasn't enough to stop German immigrant Horst Hillerich from building a winery here. All of the grapes used come from other places (mainly Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough) to create an interesting selection of wines, which are available for tasting and purchase.

Read More About: Ohinemuri Estate Winery

Swimming
There are some great swimming spots along the river. One of the best is at the Auckland end of the carpark on the right when entering the gorge from Auckland. There's also a grassy river bank here to picnic and relax.

Mountain Biking
Many of the walking trails are also suitable for mountain biking. The best is the Historic Walkway track, although it is shared with walkers and care should be taken.

Read More About: Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway

Facilities

The best facilities are at the main carpark in the gorge, which is located on the right near the Auckland end of the road. Here there are toilets and a barbeque area. Also be aware that due to the terrain and the steep hills on either side there is no mobile telephone reception within the gorge.

For more about the Karangahake Gorge also see:

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