Located in the bountiful Western Bay of Plenty and gateway to the Coromandel, Waihi Beach is just 2 hours drive from Auckland, 1.5 hours from Hamilton and 50 minutes from Tauranga. The name Waihi Rising Water is said to be named after a stream which flows into the beach.
Just a short drive from the Hauraki Rail Trail, this pretty coastal town lies just 10 kilometres to the east of Waihi, at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. The beach offers 9 kilometres of glorious sand, and at its northern end the 145 hectares Orokawa Scenic Reserve there are several short walking tracks along the coast and to Orokawa Bay.
The main beach is backed by the residential area of the township of Waihi Beach, however Orokawa Bay is surrounded by native bush including pohutukawa, puriri, and nikau palms. At the southern end of the beach is the small settlement of Bowentown and the northern side of the northern Katikati entrance to Tauranga Harbour.
With its boutique stores, cafes and restaurants, Waihi Beach is the ideal place to explore and unwind after your ride. We caught up with locals Peter and Karen West to hear about why they’re excited to run their business so close to the Trail, why riders should extend their adventure to the town, and where their next cycling holiday will be.
Photo: Karen, Peter and Ruby the Dog
Q Who are you?
Peter and Karen West (and Ruby the Dog) Owner operators and creators of the Waihi Beach Paradise Resort.
Q What inspired you to become an Official Partner of the Hauraki Rail Trail?
Being a part and supporting something bigger than ourselves has always been in our DNA. We ride the trail often, and see first hand the value the Hauraki Rail Trail adds not only economically to the area, but also to the health and wellbeing of individuals, and we see the memories made with friends and families. So, becoming an Official Partner aligns with who we are, and helps support the greater vision that others have had to set this wonderful trail up.
Q Which Sections have you ridden, and do you have a favourite?
We have ridden all of the Hauraki Rail Trail including the new Matamata – Te Aroha section, and have enjoyed each for their different aspects. We cycle the Waihi to Paeroa section monthly as it is right on our doorstep. We love the changing landscape; the sound of the Ohinemuri River and the history. We love watching others enjoying the trail too, especially the family groups who ride one way then return on the Goldfields Railway Vintage Train, with lots of waving to passing cyclists and cars.
Q What memory or experience on the Trail will stay with you most?
Riding with friends again and again in all weathers always leaves us challenged, energised, and ready to handle the on-going busyness of everyday life. The Waterfall in the old quarry works just off the track 1km east of the Rail Tunnel is stunning, and the remains of the Stamper Battery leave you in awe of the 2000 men who once worked between the Karangahake Gorge and the Martha Hill mine. The many food options on any part of the trail shared with friends over coffee or wine add to a wonderful day out.
Q What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?
Where can you find a ride with so much diversity in scenery within less than two hours from the majority of New Zealand’s population. We have wonderful food and wine and accommodation to suit everyone’s budget. Whether it’s the smiling face of the shuttle service driver or the person at the local information centre, everyone is here to enjoy the rich community we are so lucky to live in and have the privilege to share with others.
Q Why should visitors to the Trail consider staying with you in Waihi Beach?
We set up Waihi Beach Paradise Resort to challenge ourselves. To enjoy our journey and to help others in whatever way we can to feel better after their stay with us. Our biggest feedback has been ‘we should have booked longer’, because people didn’t know there was so much to do locally, whether the walks, cycleways, boutique village shops or iconic eateries. We have it all for a relaxing stay, and a recharge to do the next part of the Hauraki Rail Trail. With a heated swimming pool, two spa pools, and two tastefully decorated fully self-contained units across the road and 80m from the 9km beach we are a great base to end a busy day cycling. Peter also does body work to help relieve any aches and pains during the cycling journey. www.beachbodyworkz.com
Photo: Waihi Beach Paradise Resort
Q Where are you hoping to adventure next?
We have cycled a lot of New Zealand already and have plans next year to cycle around Queenstown, Arrowtown, Roxborough, and Dunstan to experience more of what our wonderful country has to offer. There is still no place like home and the special people we have within the local community.
If you would like to adventure on Peter and Karen’s favourite section of the Rail Trail, we’ve put together some highlights to kickstart your ride.
The most popular section of the Rail Trail follows the Ohinemuri River through the dramatic Karangahake Gorge - a deep canyon cut through the Kaimai Ranges. Home to a spectacular regenerating forest and wildlife paradise, it is an absolute must for any nature enthusiast.
The staircase Owharoa Falls are nestled in the heart of the Gorge, and make an ideal picnic spot while riding the Trail. If it’s warm enough cool off with a swim in the crystal-clear fresh water. A second lesser known falls can be found upstream for those willing to climb and get their feet wet.
The Falls Retreat is a stunning haven, and an ideal stop when cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail. The venue offers award winning dining and boutique accomodation options. The renowned wood fired oven serves gourmet pizzas and the Bistro is a must for gastro lovers. Riders are advised to book in advance or check ahead for seasonal opening times.
The Goldfields Historic Railway operates a daily timetable between Waihi and Waikino. Riders can take their bike on the vintage train for the 30 minute journey to Waikino Station, where there’s plenty of space for parking. Re-fuel at the Waikino Station Cafe, known for delicious and affordable home-style food.
Photo: Karangahake Gorge Tunnel
The Windows Walk starts in the Karangahake Gorge carpark area and is about an hour round trip. Along the track visitors can observe relics of the many processes that took place in extracting gold. From the tunnels where rock was extracted, to the roasting pits where the rock was broken down, and remnants of the huge stamper battery processing plant.
Also to be found are the fascinating sites of Victoria Battery and the Victoria Battery Train and Museum. Here you’ll find many remains from what was once a vast industrial area. The cycle back towards Waihi follows a picturesque river. The trail is mostly flat, with some gentle undulation through farmland before finishing back in historic Waihi township.
Waihi is a picturesque heritage town and New Zealand's 'Heart of Gold', with a gold mining history spanning three centuries and a local open-pit mine that is still fully operational. Visit the Gold Discovery Centre for an interactive experience, then wander across the street to view Martha Mine up close, and take the tour to experience a modern working gold mine in action.
The Martha Mine Pit Rim Walk is an easy but spectacular walk which begins at the Cornish Pumphouse. It rises gently to the edge of the open pit for the overwhelming view down into the vast chasm. The wide gravel path continues West on an easy gradient around to the highest point on the North wall where the view is breathtaking. Interpretative signs offer interesting facts about Martha Mine as you complete the 4km loop back to the Pumphouse.
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