Paeroa to Waihi
Distance: 24 kms (6 - 8 hours Return)
Trail Status: Notification
Fitness: All Levels
Skill: All Levels
Traffic: Light to Moderate
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. This distinctly different landscape includes the cascading Owharoa waterfall, photogenic gold mining sites, the charmingly old-fashioned Victoria Battery museum, and freaky Windows Walkway that burrows through a shadowy side-gorge.
The pièce de résistance is an amazing 1100-metre long railway tunnel, wobbled through with the aid of a torch or headlamp. Halfway is Waikino Station where there’s a charming railway cafe . This is the terminus of the Goldfields Railway vintage train which runs between Waikino and Waihi. Time your ride to coincide with its timetable for a special experience.
We recommend you catch the train to Waihi, and ride back to indulge or stay at Falls Retreat. Get away from the hustle and bustle and relax in one of the quaint cottages, and enjoy amazing food from a stunning menu including gourmet wood fired pizzas. There’s lots of great cafes, and Karangahake Winery Estate tucked into the hill-side with direct access from the Trail.
With its variety of accommodation, eateries and proximity to glorious beaches, Waihi is a great base for your Hauraki adventures. This ‘Heart of Gold’ town still has the operational Martha Mine that can be visited on tours, plus the wonderfully interactive museum known as the Gold Discovery Centre.
- Mobile phone coverage can be patchy for parts of the Karangahake Gorge.
- Dogs on leads are permitted in the Karangahake Gorge section of the Rail Trail from Waikino Station to the old Karangahake Hall site at the northern end of the Rail Tunnel, and where the trail intersects the urban areas of Waihi and Paeroa only.
- Explore the dramatic bush clad Karangahake Gorge
- Immerse yourself in the rich pioneering and mining history
- Ride through the historic and spooky 1km railway tunnel and look for Glowworms
- Explore one of New Zealand’s best short walks, the Windows Walk, and along the Ohinemuri River
- Stop for a picnic at the beautiful cascade Owharoa Falls and cool off with a swim
- Experience the Goldfields Railway and hop on the vintage train for a leisurely ride from Waihi to Waikino
- Rattle the drill, crank the handles and enjoy the interactive activities at the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre, and take a Tour of the operational Martha Mine
Paeroa to Waihi
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.
From $145 per night
Trailblazer Studios is a newly built, central accomodation located in the heart of Waihi.
from $80 per night
A quaint cabin set in a beautiful rural setting in the Karangahake Gorge. Close to stunning cycleways and the historic Waikino mining area.
Circa 1902 Miners Cottage
Relax and explore Waihi and the surrounding area from an historic miner's cottage with luxury features.
From $40 per night
Located in the beautiful Karangahake Gorge. Great facilities and close to walks and trail.
Paeroa Motel Casa Mexicana is located on the main road into Paeora, with all you need in short walking distance.
Traxx - Shunters Cottage
From $160 a couple
Shunters Cottage is an original railway cottage that comfortably sleeps 2-6 adults, right on the doorstep of the Trail.
Charming self-contained accommodation set in the grounds of the historic Gold Refinery building.
Dine & Drink
Paeroa to Waihi
Waikino Station Café
Catch the Train, and enjoy a great selection of food and beverages at Waikino Station Cafe.
The Falls Retreat
Please see website
The Falls retreat is a unique and special restaurant, function center and boutique accomodation located in the Karangahake Gorge.
Great Food and Great entertainment. Paeroa's best hidden secret!
Karangahake Winery Estate
Enjoy the fruits of a cycle well done by relaxing with a glass of craft wine and great food.
Enjoy heartwarming hospitality at the newly restored Waikino Hotel Bar & Kitchen.
Talisman Café and Crafts
See & Do
Paeroa to Waihi
ULTIMATE is a company that offers a wide range of customized outdoor activities and sightseeing tours. Based in the stunning Karangahake Gorge.
Katikati Arts Junction and Information Centre
Visit Katikatis's home of the arts, and find information about all that Katikati has to offer.
Travel back in time on a heritage train journey between Waihi and Waikino
Western Bay Museum
A small museum with a big heart and an even bigger story to tell
Paeroa Information Hub
They do it all at the Hub! Centrally located on the Rail Trail for all your cycling and accommodation needs.
Waihi Arts Centre & Museum
$3.00 to $5.00
Where the real gold lies...
Victoria Battery Tramway and Museum
Step back in time with a visit to the Victoria Battery Tram and Museum.
Historical Maritime Park
Adults from $5.00
This Museum is the home to a very important collection of Maritime history.
Waihi Gold Discovery Centre
Rattle the drill, crank the handles, push the plunger and become immersed in interactive activities at the Waihi Gold Experience.
Paeroa to Waihi
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.
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. Rivers were a hive of activity. As roads were developed and cars and trucks became more common, the shipping service stopped. More shipping history can be found at the Historical Maritime Park & Museum just outside Paeroa.
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.
All the mining companies’ requirements such as heavy machinery, coal, provisions for increasing staff numbers, were hauled by horses and wagons to Karangahake, Waitekauri and Waihi. Teams of 20 horses each were regularly used to pulling 20-ton loads while over a 100 tons of coal per day were hauled by eight and ten horse-teams and wagons to the processing batteries. On any one day there could be an estimated 400 horses on the road between Paeroa and Waihi. All this traffic went along Paeroa’s main street.
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 1905 the railway line had been constructed through the Karangahake Gorge to Waihi and this spelt the end to horse-drawn traffic and also had an effect on river shipping. The coming of the motor vehicle from around 1914 and particularly after the First World War (1914-18) saw the boat traffic gradually decline, ceasing in the late 1930s. 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.
On the local government scene, Paeroa’s infancy was spent under the wing of the Thames County Council. In 1885 pressure from the developing Paeroa and Waihi districts saw the Ohinemuri County Council established and take control of the area, which then included Netherton, Kerepehi, Kaihere and Waitoa. These areas were taken over by the Hauraki Plains and Piako Counties when they came into being just after the First World War.
While the Waihi Borough Council came into being in 1902, the Paeroa Borough Council was finally approved in 1915. From that point the borough council took positive steps to develop the town with the main focus being on roads, water and sewerage, along with finishing off the flood protection scheme. In 1989, the two boroughs, Paeroa and Waihi joined the counties of Ohinemuri and Hauraki Plains to constitute the Hauraki District Council.
The legend of Ohinemuri – According to Maori folklore, a small pa near the area known now as Turner’s Hill , was occupied by a sub-tribe. The pa was attacked by a marauding tribe, making all the inhabitants flee except the chief’s daughter, who was away gathering food. On her return she found that the pa was occupied and she didn’t know where to hide. A taniwha who in a deep cave at the top of the hill took pity on her and after guiding her into the cave, blocked the entrance with a large rock. There they stayed until her tribe could re-occupy the pa and the chief reclaimed his daughter. The river was then named ‘Ohinemuri’, meaning “the maid who was left behind”.
Karangahake Gorge provides insight into our early mining heritage and contains some of the most important historical industrial sites in New Zealand. The Karangahake Gorge section of the Hauraki Rail Trail follows part of the old railway line that ran between Paeroa and Taneatua. The line was closed in 1979, allowing the public access to historical sites associated with gold mining that occurred from the 1870s through to the 1950s. The Karangahake region contains the remains of four major gold mining sites
The first gold was mined from the Karangahake in 1875. Although the climate and geography of the Coromandel area were slightly more favourable than some other regions where gold was mined around New Zealand, the onerous tasks of establishing and undertaking mining in the area were by no means easy. The underground quartz lodes had to be mined, crushed and treated before the gold could be extracted. Lack of capital and economical techniques to extract the gold in payable quantities led to the collapse of many early companies. A major breakthrough occurred in 1889 with the introduction of the McArthur-Forrest cyanide process for extracting gold from quartz, which enabled a dramatic increase in gold recovery. Three large batteries were built at Karangahake in the 1890s – the Crown, Talisman and Woodstock – to treat ore taken from extensive mine networks inside Karangahake Mountain. In 1909, output from the Karangahake and Waihi quartz mines comprised 55% of the total gold produced in New Zealand. In the earliest mining days, only a small percentage of gold and silver was extracted by the old pan amalgamation process.
In 1896, the Victoria Battery began its ear-splitting work. With 200 stamps, it was the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia, capable of crushing over 812 tonnes of ore each day to the consistency of sand. The adoption of the cyanide process by the Waihi Gold Mining Company in 1894 was one of the crucial factors in the success of the Waihi mines. Prior to the cyanide process (pioneered in Karangahake), only a small percentage of gold and silver had been extracted by the old pan amalgamation process.Development of the Martha Mine occurred at a rapid pace and with the increased tonnages of ore to treat, the Waihi Gold Mining Company's treatment plants in Waihi, with sixty-nine stamps, soon became inadequate. The existing facilities were extended but it was decided in 1896 to build the Victoria Battery to supplement the other plants.
The Victoria Battery got its name from Victoria Rock (Queen's Head), located between Waihi and Waikino, which resembles the profile of Queen Victoria. The battery was constructed on a two hectare site on the south bank of the Ohinemuri River to process ore from the Martha Mine in Waihi. The site was initially selected due to the availability of relatively cheap hydro power from the Ohinemuri and Waitekauri Rivers. The development of the battery took place over a period of five years but additions, in line with improvements in gold extraction and recovery, continued to be made until about 1931. When construction was completed, the battery, with 200 stamps, was the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia. It was capable of crushing over 812 tonnes of ore each day to the consistency of sand. About 200 people, on average, were employed at the battery throughout its life.
As well as the ore treatment plant, the Victoria Battery also boasted many ancilliary facilities, including a sawmill, blacksmith and a foundary. While the Martha Mine closed in 1952, work continued at the Battery with a reduced workforce until 1955. The foundations now form a popular tourist attraction at Waikino. You can wander through the quiet foundations and imagine the fearful, 24 hour pounding that could be heard from as far away as Waihi. The Martha Mine has since been reopened and is able to be viewed opposite the Gold Discovery Centre.
Built around 1904 at Waihi, The Cornish Pumphouse is from a design used in the tin mines of Cornwall, England, the structure housed steam engines and pumping machinery. The pumps were needed to cope with the ever increasing quantities of water as the mine workings followed the gold-bearing quartz reefs to a final depth of 600 metres. The pump was used until 1913. The pumphouse was kept in working order until 1929 as the miners did not trust electricity. By the early 1930s the building was stripped of machinery and left derelict as the mine continued to operate. It has since been restored and stands on the side of the Martha Mine.
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.
Waihi had become one of New Zealand's most famous small towns, its history established on the rich goldfields which stamped it with a very special pioneering character. But gold was a diminishing asset, and the town prospected in other directions. Largely from within the community had grown a successor, quite different, and yet equally characteristic of Waihi's resourcefulness. Founder of the Akrad Radio Corporation, Mr Keith Marsden Wrigley. Akrad developed out of a small radio sales and repair business that Keith started in Waihi in 1932. Electronics became the new life and soul of Waihi just as gold was its birthmark. From precious metal to advanced electronics, there had been a remarkable development commensurate with the progressive spirit Waihi had always shown.
Over the years Akrad (Auckland Radio), as the company was named, manufactured radios and parts, coils, transformers, improvising, building equipment and premises as expansion made necessary. By the arrival of the forties, and the war the staff grew to fifty and the range of products increased. The emergencies of war proved valuable experience for the growing concern. Domestic radio production diminished at Government request. This was further opportunity to broaden the range of production, and an array of defence and signal mechanics were developed, more in keeping with the times. And so, having produced sirens, buzzers, morse keys, and field radios, Akrad emerged from the war years with a large staff and a determination to succeed in the domestic field of electronics.
The foundation era of the company ended with the sudden death of the founder, Keith Marsden Wrigley, but it led into the new era of television. In 1949, Akrad became associated with PYE of England. Two years later, PYE Ltd (NZ) was established and a successful campaign was launched to produce and market various models of the PYE radio. Their ready acceptance boosted the company and by 1958 a two hundred strong workforce was ready for further development, in the field of television.
The first television transmission in New Zealand was made in Waihi in 1954. Since then the name PYE became synonymous, in New Zealand, with the best in Television, sound and communications equipment. By mid-1978, something in excess of one quarter million television receivers had been produced in Waihi. This figure includes one hundred thousand colour sets manufactured since 1974. In 1978 some 400 Waihi townsmen came daily to work at PYE. In the 1980 Philips took over PYE NZ Ltd, and in 1986 the factory was closed as part of Philips worldwide restructuring.