The picturesque heritage town of Waihi is New Zealand's 'Heart of Gold', with a gold mining history which spans three centuries, and a local open-pit mine that is still fully operational.
Across the road from the iconic Cornish Pumphouse, the Gold Discovery Centre invites visitors to step into the past and hear about tales of love, war and social strife in early Waihi.
The Gold Discovery Centre also houses the regional i-SITE, the visitor hub for the area’s abundant attractions, along with Waihi Bicycle Hire. With its bike hire, shuttle services and tours, you’ll find everything you need to experience the Hauraki Rail Trail.
Before or after your ride, the Waihi Gold Experience is a Must Do, and offers lots of fun for the whole family. Rattle the drill, crank the handles and immerse yourself in interactive activities, learning what it was like to grow up in a gold town.
For an extra adventure, a Waihi Gold Mine Tour takes you inside the fence of Martha Mine to experience modern day gold mining up close. Visitors are shown every stage of the process, from ore extraction and crushing, through to final processing.
We caught up with owner operators Eddie and Karen to hear about why riding the Trail isn’t just about riding a bike, what’s putting big smiles on faces, and where they’re off to explore next. With an intimate knowledge of the region, there’s no one better to tell a few stories about the Rail Trail.
Eddie and Karen Morrow, owner operators of the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre, Waihi Bicycle Hire and Waihi i-SITE.
Having been involved with the region’s tourism sector for many years, the development of the Hauraki Rail Trail has been something we have supported from its early days of inception. It is a significant piece of tourism infrastructure for the region, and provides a fantastic platform for market collaboration, quality product development, and expanding our visitor experiences. Signing up as an Official Partner was a no-brainer really!
Whilst we haven’t ridden the whole trail end to end, we have done bits of it over the years, from Kaiaua in the north to Matamata in the south. The section we know best and ride most often is Waihi to Paeroa through the Karangahake Gorge. Without trying to sound too biased, it’s probably fair to say this would be our favourite section. It has so much to offer in the way of scenery, and off-bike experiences to enjoy along the way.
Photo: Hauraki Rail Trail - Ohinemuri River
Having ridden with a number of groups through the Karangahake Gorge, it’s hard to forget the big smiles on the faces of riders as you pop out of the 1km long railway tunnel. It’s a unique experience for first-time riders of this section of the trail, and one that most find quite exciting.
Photo credit: @x.escape.reality.x on Instagram - Karangahake Gorge Tunnel
We believe a key feature of the Hauraki Rail Trail is the diversity of landscapes and themes that are delivered along the trail. From riding on the white shell track at Kaiaua with the view across the Firth of Thames to the Coromandel ranges, to the stunning scenery and rich heritage of the Karangahake Gorge, to the well-groomed farmland as you ride into Matamata. Riding the trail is not just about riding a bike, it needs to be a great experience for visitors, and we’re very lucky to have a trail that delivers that opportunity.
At Waihi Bicycle Hire we can take care of most customer needs, from one person just hiring a bike for the day, through to planning a full multi-day itinerary for a group of friends. This might include bike hire (trail or e-bikes), shuttle transfers, accommodation and activities and dining options along the way. We really enjoy helping people make the most of their Hauraki Rail Trail bike adventure, and build great memories with family and friends.
From a riding perspective, further exploring the trail between Te Aroha and Matamata with friends would be great. And of course enjoying some great food and refreshment stops along the way will be an essential part of any day out.
Photo: Hauraki Rail Trail - Te Aroha to Matamata
If you would like to adventure on Eddie and Karen’s favourite section of the Rail Trail between Paeroa and Waihi, 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. Home to a spectacular regenerating forest and wildlife paradise, it is an absolute must for any nature enthusiast.
The Karangahake Winery Estate is located in the Gorge, couched in a native bush and formal garden setting above the Ohinemuri River. A 160m track leads from the tunnel entrance on the Trail to the Cellar Door, making it a great place to stop and indulge.
Also in the heart of the Gorge is the Talisman Cafe and Crafts. The cosy unique café offers a large selection of meals, savouries, cakes and ice creams all homemade with love. There’s plenty of spots to park your bike safely while you explore the walkways and waterholes.
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.
The stunning staircase Owharoa Falls 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.
Photo credit: @kiwi_way_of_life_photography on Instagram - Owharoa Falls
The Falls Retreat is located opposite the Owahroa Falls, and offers award winning dining and boutique accomodation options. There are some exciting changes ahead for this magic location, and so riders are advised to call in advance as the venue will close for a period during alterations.
As you continue the ride towards Waihi, you'll find 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 towards Waihi follows a picturesque river. The trail is mostly flat, with some gentle undulation through farmland before finishing in historic Waihi township.
The Waikino Station Cafe is known for delicious and affordable home-style food. Pop in for lunch or refreshments before taking a ride on the train. The Goldfields Historic Railway operates a daily timetable between Waihi and Waikino, and riders can take their bike on the vintage train for the 30 minute journey between Stations.
Waihi Station is the only ex New Zealand Railway site in New Zealand that still contains its original buildings. Today the buildings are classified as Category II by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
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