Paeroa to Te Aroha
Distance: 23 kms
Trail Status: Open
Fitness: All Levels
Skill: All Levels
Traffic: Light to Moderate
This section of the Hauraki Rail Trail is a leisurely Grade 1 (Easy) ride through lush Waikato farmland, with views of 952m-high Mt Te Aroha, (mountain of love), the bush clad Kaimai Ranges and the Hauraki Plains along the old railway track formation.
Cyclists can enjoy the peace of the lush green countryside, greeted by dairy cows and farm animals along the way. Be careful on the cattle stops as these can be tricky to negotiate.
The historic spa town of Te Aroha signals the end of this section of the Hauraki Rail Trail. Explore Te Aroha, with Adrian Worsley's incredible art work that also features as bike racks. The cafes here are a gastro lovers heaven. Hop off your bike and into a kayak on the Waihou River. Guided tours are available for nearby Wairongomai Valley.
There are a variety of accommodation options in and around Te Aroha.
- Mobile phone coverage is generally good on this section of the trail.
- DOGS ARE NOT PERMITTED on this section of the Rail Trail except where the trail intersects the urban areas of Paeroa and Te Aroha.
- A leisurely ride through the serene country landscapes beside the Kaimai Ranges.
- Views up to Mt Te Aroha and the bush clad ranges.
- A perfect ride for the whole family with various farm animals to see along the way.
- Indulge in delicious baking with a cup of tea or coffee at The Depot Garden.
- Take time to relax in the mineral spas at Te Aroha.
- Kayak the Waihou River.
- Guided tours of this historic town and Wairongomai Valley are available.
Paeroa to Te Aroha
Aroha Mountain Lodge
From $135 per night
Nestled at the foot of Mount Te Aroha, and close to the many attractions of the area.
Pedlars Motel Paeroa
From $139 per night
Pedlars Motel is situated right on the edge of the Hauraki Rail Trail in the heart of Paeroa.
Paeroa Pukeko Lodge
From $130 per night
Set in the gorgeous rural surroundings of Paeroa, this BnB is well appointed with great utilities.
Paeroa Motel Casa Mexicana is located on the main road into Paeroa with a supermarket and shops in easy walking distance.
Charming self-contained accommodation set in the grounds of the historic Gold Refinery building.
Off Peak rates available
Conveniently situated on the northern end of Paeroa, we are the ‘Park & Ride” of the Rail Trail.
Te Aroha Holiday Park
The Te Aroha Holiday Park is a unique country camping experience in one of New Zealand’s few remaining traditional holiday parks in the Waikato.
See & Do
Paeroa to Te Aroha
Adventure Te Aroha
Enjoy some time kayaking the river, the perfect half day excursion from the Hauraki Rail Trail.
Swim Zone Te Aroha
Set in a natural bush setting, Swim Zone heated pools and outdoor spa provide the perfect place to play.
Te Aroha Mineral Spas
Relax in your own private mineral spa. Soak in the natural mineral waters that flow from the majestic Mount Te Aroha.
Paeroa Information Hub
They do it all it the Hub for nothing. Centrally located on the Rail Trail for all your cycling and accommodation needs.
Paeroa to Te Aroha
The original settlers in this area was the Ngati Maru people who were friendly people. By the 1600s Tainui’s Ngati Paoa people had begun to arrive and eventually settled both sides of the Firth and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Paeroa (a low hill) featured prominently in the early Maori settlement of Hauraki, with the large Raupo Pa, on the junction of the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers, 3km west of the town, being inhabited from around 1300AD. Paeroa was on the main route from Hauraki and points north to the Bay of Plenty. Travellers went by canoes using the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers to reach Paeroa. From here they tramped through the Karangahake Gorge, across the Waihi Plains to Athenree, at the northern end of the Tauranga Harbour, and continued on their journey by canoe.
The Hauraki Plains is known for farming which are mainly dairy. Over the years butter has been manufactured at Ngatea, cheese at Hikutaia, casein at Wharepoa and at Turua, and milk powder at Kerepehi. Today cheese is made at Matatoki. Timber is logged chiefly from the western slopes of the Coromandel Range and there are sawmills at Matatoki and at Ngatea.
Water was a problem to the early settlers but it was also a godsend. There were no roads for access so the rivers and drains became the roads and highways for access to the farms and to get produce to the markets. River traffic coming from Auckland used the only three rivers flowing down the Valley, the Waihou, the Piako and the Waitakaruru Stream. Rivers were a hive of activity. As the roads improved by using metal and cars and trucks became common the shipping service stopped. More shipping history can be found at the Historical Maritime Park & Museum just outside Paeroa.
The main exports from the Hauraki Plains over the years have been timber, flax, and dairy produce. The pasture and land has been improved. Drains and canals now mean that the water level has been controlled. Pumping stations can be seen on many drains to provide an extra insurance for drainage.
The first white settler to arrive in the Paeroa district was Joshua Thorp, in 1842. He purchased land from the Ngati Tamatera Paramount Chief Tararia, and established his home close to where the Historic Maritime Park is today, 3kms north of Paeroa on SH2.
By March 3, 1875, agreement was reached with local Maori land owners for access, and Ohinemuri gold fields were declared opened. With the goldfields developing at a fast rate so did Paeroa into a bustling river port to service a demanding industry. All the mining companies’ requirements such as heavy machinery, coal, provisions for increasing staff numbers, were hauled by horses and wagons to mines in Karangahake, Waitekauri and Waihi.
With the main trunk railway line (Auckland-Wellington) being pushed ahead in the 1880-90s, a railway route was surveyed from Hamilton to Thames. By 1895 this link was completed between Hamilton and Paeroa. Although the Thames-Paeroa section was started almost 20 years previously, politics and local Maori opposition did not allow the link with Paeroa to be achieved until 1897. By the 1950s the Paeroa railway station, had become one of the largest junctions in New Zealand. Economic trends saw the railway closed in 1970s with the opening of the Kaimai tunnel and road transport diminished after a series of company amalgamations around 1990.
As the mining enterprises wound down, the slowly developing farming industry gathered pace. The first creamery was built in Thames Road in 1899, then came a butter factory in 1901 (where Agrisea and Buchanan Joinery are today), with other butter and cheese factories in the district at Netherton and Hikutaia.
By the 1960s Paeroa had its butter factory and a modern milk-powder producing factory, and at Kerepehi 13kms away, was one of the largest milk-powder factories in the Southern Hemisphere. But again through the 1980s with changing economic times and company mergers within the industry taking place all these factories were closed.
A chance discovery of a spring on a block of land in Junction Road was the start of the ‘famous in New Zealand’ brand Lemon and Paeroa of soft drink. The unique mineral waters bubbling from a deep underground spring were recognised for its medicinal and thirst quenching qualities. Local residents would partake regularly of the spring’s waters with a popular addition of a slice of lemon. In 1909, owners of the property, Robert Fewell in partnership with his brother-in-law Frank Brinkler commenced marketing the mineral water through his company the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company, which was incorporated in March 1910.
This firm built up a large clientele over a wide area including Auckland as it supplied cases of bottled Paeroa mineral water. The firm also consigned barrels of the water to customers in Auckland on the Northern Steamship Company’s river steamers SS Taniwha and SS Waimari. In 1915 Mr Fewell sold his Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company’s property and proprietary rights to Grey and Menzies Limited a local and regional aerated water manufacturing company.
In 1960 New Zealand Breweries took over the business although it was still operated as Grey and Menzies Limited. Later the Auckland firm, Schweppes Limited took over from New Zealand Breweries and formed a company named Contract Bottlers Limited. In 1963 C. L. Innes, a long-standing Hamilton aerated mater manufacturer, became involved and the new firm Innes Tartan Limited formed. Demands for the unique drink continued to climb.
Schweppes (New Zealand) Limited, another cordial manufacturer, became associated with Innes Tartan Limited to manufacture Lemon & Paeroa at its New Zealand factories. With the changing economic climate during the late 1970s and with the trend of the day being amalgamations, Oasis Industries, another Auckland aerated water manufacturer, became involved taking over Innes Tartan and Schweppes. The Paeroa factory was closed by its new owners in July, 1980, and the whole production unit moved to Auckland. The ownership of the spring remains with the Auckland firm, which in more recent times has been absorbed by the international and American-based company Coca-Cola Amatil.
Established in the late 1870s, Te Aroha flourished from 1880, when gold was discovered locally. The boom was brief, but hot springs at the foot of the mountain made the settlement prosperous. Mokena Hau, a Ngāti Rāhiri chief, gifted the springs to the government. Te Aroha developed as a spa from 1883, attracting thousands of visitors, especially after a railway link from Hamilton was completed in 1886. Visitors from Thames travelled up the Waihou (or "River Thames") using the area for recreation: duck shooting, picnicking, and visiting the hot springs at Te Aroha.
The discovery of gold-bearing quartz on Bald Spur at Te Aroha in 1880 occurred at a time when the Thames Goldfield was beginning to show a decline. Harry Kenrick Warden of the Hauraki district who was also appointed first warden for Te Aroha, carried out the formal opening of the field on the 25th November 1880. The firing of a gun completed the opening ceremony. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography states, "20 natives and 850 Europeans took out licences".
The field did not turn out to be very successful and by the end of the first year many prospectors had started to leave the field. During the winter of 1881 Wherahiko was prospecting the Waiorongomai Valley, and it was there he discovered gold in November. This claim, ‘New Find’, was the first of a number of claims in this area that lead to the establishment of Waiorongomai Township. It is probably at this time that mining in Te Aroha went into decline and emphasis turned to the development of the hot springs.
There is clear evidence of gold mining activity within what is now the Domain area. This includes mine shafts, tracks and evidence of building sites associated with the mining. Even after the initial rush, mining was a significant activity in the township and Domain. The Warden’s Court in Rewi Street, which still exists, would have dealt with mining licences for the Waiorongomai field. The Mines Department was involved in design and construction of the Cadman Bath House, and mining technology was used in the construction of the shaft and tunnel associated with No. 18 and 19 springs.
In 1878 George Lipsey built the first Hot Springs Hotel for his father-in-law, Mokena Hou. The Thames Advertiser wrote: 'The hotel if well conducted will be a great boon for persons seeking these springs for their health giving properties”. During the 1870s regular excursions were conducted from Thames to Te Aroha by boat so that visitors could take advantage of the hot springs. The construction of the first permanent Bath Houses began in 1883. By this time the hot springs were becoming well known as a tourist resort.
The town of Te Aroha was developing rapidly at this time and it was visitors to the hot pools that were bringing prosperity to be town rather than the profits of local gold mining. In August 1885 the initial landscape development began including manicured lawns, provision for lawn tennis and racket courts, and tree planting. Further springs were being opened and the paths were beginning to be constructed linking the new features. Apart from the pleasures and benefits of the hot springs and the Domain itself, visitors enjoyed visits to the mines, to the Waiorongomai battery, walks to the top of Mount Te Aroha and trips up the river to picnic spots.
By now there were three large hotels, The Palace, the Te Aroha and the Hot Springs and two boarding houses, altogether providing accommodation for 500 visitors. In the year ended 31 March 1887, 28,553 baths were taken at Te Aroha. By way of comparison, Rotorua had 4,878 taken over the same period. The spa was to help protect Te Aroha from the effects of the long depression of the late 1880s and early 1890s. By the 1890s Te Aroha had become the most popular Spa in the country.
On Queen Victoria’s birthday, 24 May 1898 Hon. A J Cadman, Minister for Railways and Mines, opened the Cadman Bath House. The building measured 30m long by 8.5m wide with private baths and a central corridor 2.4m wide. A new band rotunda was also erected. By the turn of the century 22 springs had been discovered in The Domain, 15 of which were hot.
The Te Aroha spa continued to be as important for curative purposes as it was for recreation and enjoyment throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1906 massage rooms were fitted up and an operator installed, and in 1929 a new massage room was built onto the rear of the Cadman Bath House and updated X-ray equipment was installed. As late as 1950 a qualified physiotherapist was practising, providing massage and special treatments and provided 4,000 treatments in the year 1949-50.
Te Aroha was an important sporting centre as well. Two new asphalt tennis courts were provided in 1908. Bowling tournaments were often held in the Domain with teams coming from the top half of the North Island. The township complemented the Domain with a variety of licensed hotels and private hotels. At the peak of its popularity there were five hotels and eight boarding houses.
The Domain was a popular picnic spot and school parties regularly came on special excursion trains. There were walks along the river to the waterfall behind the Domain, to the glow-worms in an old mining tunnel behind the Domain, to Bald-Spur and to a defensive pa south of the waterfall. Te Aroha was an especially popular destination for day-trippers on public holidays. On New Years Day 1912, 7,000 visitors arrived in Te Aroha for the day. Many of these arrived on special excursion trains from Auckland, which took five hours each way.
The decline in popularity of the Domain was gradual. Rotorua soon took over from
Te Aroha as the pre-eminent Spa. Troops stationed near Te Aroha during the Second World War saw a brief revival in the fortunes of the pools, but the long-term decline continued.
Far back in time Mt Te Aroha gained its name in Maori legend. One story tells how the son of Arawa chief, Kahu-Mata-Momoe was on his way home from visiting a kinsman at Kaipara.
As was the habit with this explorer, he ascended to the highest point possible along the way. As he stood on top of the mountain, he was overjoyed to see the familiar landmarks of his tribal home he decided to name it “Aroha ki tai – This shall be called the Mountain of Aroha. The legend continues that in time the spirit of Kahu-Mata-Momoe caused a stream of crystal water to flow from the heart of the mountain. Where the stream emerged there appeared hot springs with healing qualities.