Ōwharoa Falls, Karangahake Gorge, near Waihī. © NCHANT

Karangahake Gorge: walk or ride a stunning trail


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Not to be confused with Auckland’s famous Karangahape Road, a slip of the ‘k’ and the ‘p’ the difference between this thrilling outdoor experience and something which showcases an entirely different kind of natural wildlife. ’Nuff said. Back to the gorge.

The Karangahake Gorge is one of the most beautiful walks you can possibly imagine. The gorge itself is one of those classic Kiwi drives that, being on a major state highway, you’ll likely have ‘done’ a few times.

If you’re like most of us, you would’ve thought, as the sunlight dappled the river, or you spotted an old bit of that disused railway and had your imagination piqued, ‘I must get out of the car and do that someday.’ Well, get out of the car! ‘Someday’ is here!

The ‘official’ walk is along 7km of bush-laden bliss, which wends around, variously following the sinuous Ōhinemuri River and the old railway track that used to ruin between Paeroa and Waihī. There’s some crazy stuff along the way, for this was Goldmine Central a hundred-plus years ago.

The relics of the Crown Battery lend an eerie context to the natural setting, while the 1100m long Karangahake Tunnel is a venture into the darkness you just can’t miss. (OK, so it’s actually really well lit, but you know, it could be creepy, right?) Emerge into the (natural) light to one of the truss bridges, this one the imaginatively entitled Eastern Portal Bridge. Revamped nearly a decade ago, the bridge is actually quite a sight, and at 34m a decent traverse which takes you back over the silver sparkle of the river.

With the sheer, bush-clad rock walls of the gorge, the rising and falling river, and then the relics of gold mines and mining equipment to add flavour, this is one of the country’s greatest walks. Make sure you stop the car this time. 

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