The Hauraki Rail Trail runs between the settlements of Thames – Paeroa – Waikino – Waihi. We will take you to the most spectacular section, the Karangahake Gorge!
The day trip we planned to cycle was about 26 km long. We started in Waikino at the cute historic railway station where we parked our vehicle. There are still the original rail tracks that you start on for the first 200 meteres. Then turn left and drive thru a short tunnel before entering a bridge. Pretty neat start so far. Not long after, we pass the historic Victoria Battery Site. There is a mining tramway and tours of the Victoria Battery’s ore kilns are offered. Lots of information panels show you how this place looked like about 100 years ago. It’s astonishing, how lifestyle has changed in such a relativ short time.
At the next stop you should take a quick retour, the Owharoa Falls are only 2 minutes walk from the road. We would advise you to bring a lock, that keeps your bike secure, while you wander off to explore the little detours we suggest. Some of the tracks are quite narrow and walkers may easily get annoyed when people bring bikes. It may get a little busy at times and at the best spots you may meet lots of walkers.
The next exciting part of the Hauraki Rail Trail is the 1 km long, original railway tunnel. Before you enter, take in the view of the narrow gorge ahead, where the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway starts. Bikes are discouraged along this narrow track that seams carved into the rocks along the gorge. Good that the tunnel looks similar adventurous! So let’s get back on the bike and into the tunnel…. if you brought a torch, please use it! The railway tunnel is sparsely lit, just enough not to get scared in the dark.
After rain it can be wet and cold, especially in summer you will feel a difference in temperature. Enjoy the ride and watch out for walkers, that frequent the tunnel too. When you see the light on the end of the tunnel, the next wooden bridge awaits you. From here the track continues straight towards Paeroa. However, you could detour to discover more of the spectacular Karangahake Gorge and the Historic Walkway, or you could detour on your way back.
This awesome part of the track should not be missed as this is the most scenic section of the gorge and just a little bit off the Hauraki Rail Trail. To get there, go left after you left the tunnel and bridge (the easiest is to follow the sign to Talisman Cafe). Pass the ruins of another battery and follow the Historic Walkway until you reach the ruins of the Crown Mines. You can lock your bike at the car park across the main bridge. There are also toilet and picnic facilities. Its best to find the map on this side of the river and check out where you are going, as the signs on the track can be confusing.
After passing the second wooden bridge, you are ready to start the 1-1,5 hour Windows Walk. Walk up the hill to the tramway, a little detour to the left takes you to a lookout point and some interesting kilns. Return back to the ruins, but don’t go down. Keep following, soon you will reach a tunnel and yes, you are on the right track! Hope you brought a torch or use your mobile phone, to explore the tunnels the miners created about 100+ years ago.
You will pass a “window” that offers an amazing view down into the gorge and you can see where this amazing walk will take you. Follow the tunnels until they end and you reach a “door”. From here you decent on wooden steps down to a bridge over the river. You follow the “stone-carved” walkway along the river, it was used to transport the gold out of the gorge. You will finish the loop and arrive close to the start of the track. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!