Karangahake Gorge is an odd mix of remnant goldfields and nature’s majesty. Once the site of New Zealand’s most lucrative gold strike, it is now a recreation and impressive hiking destination. Swing bridges, gold mine shafts, a historic cyanide treatment plant, and lush green forest led us to the gorge, a jaw-droppingly beautiful site.
The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway parallels an old railway line that once ran between Paeroa and Waihi. With several walks to choose from, we opted for the Karangahake Windows Walk. It took us into the mine shafts and then out to “windows” offering impressive views of the gorge and the river below.
Much of the history dates back to 1875, when gold was first discovered here. In fact, 60% of the gold mined in New Zealand originated here. While this rush lasted for a while, by 1920, it was no longer profitable, and the main batteries at Karangahake were demolished.
However, gold is being mined today in the nearby town of Waihi.
Check out the nearby Coromandel
Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
The Karangahake Gorge walks should be taken slowly. Read the signage. Learn the area’s history. Enjoy the extraordinary remains of the mining and railway ages.
The images below are:
- The view from the bridge of the Ohinemuri River.
- Rusty equipment from the gold mining days.
- Swing bridge at the remains of the Crown Goldmining Company’s cyanide treatment plant.
- Overlooking some of the trees from a point where the aerial tramway once passed.
Crown Goldmining Company’s cyanide treatment plant
One of the more unique sites is the remains of the Crown Goldmining Company’s cyanide treatment plant. In 1889, was the world’s first commercial user of potassium cyanide for extracting gold from crushed ore.
Karangahake Windows Walk
No doubt, the Karangahake Windows Walk is the highlight of any visit.
We walked along the old mining tram tracks toward the mine shaft tunnels. Even with a flashlight, the mine shafts felt cold and dark, not a place I would have wanted to work early in the last century.
The periodic light from the side tunnels made the ‘windows’ easy to find. The windows were created when the miners blasted holes through the cliff face to tip tailings into the gorge below. Today, they offer spectacular and unexpected views of the gorge and river.
What You Will Need for the Karangahake Gorge Walks
- Good solid walking shoes as much of the ground is uneven.
- Torch (flashlight) as many areas of the tunnels are dark.
- Camera, the photo opportunities are endless.
Nearby Karangahake Gorge Accommodation
Riverside: If you love the region, why not stay a while? There is plenty to explore, and in summer, you can take a dip in some of the waterways. Our pick is the Riverside Accommodation. Perfect for couples, families, and budget travellers. The rooms are comfortable, the staff is friendly, and the range of room types offers both private and shared bathrooms. Reserve your stay at Riverside Accommodation here
If you are into antiques, the logical place to stay is just down the road (8 km) in Paeroa, the antiquing capital of New Zealand as well as home to our unofficial national drink, L&P (which stands for Lemon and Paeroa and is now owned by Coca-Cola). Check and reserve a Paeroa accommodations here.
Practical Information on Visiting Karangahake Gorge
- Karangahake Gorge is on State Hwy 2 between Waihi and Paeroa. It’s about a two-hour drive from Auckland or one hour from either Tauranga or Hamilton.
- There is plenty of parking, bathroom facilities, and a visitor kiosk at the main trailhead.
- The Karangahake Windows walk is 2.5 km and takes about an hour. It is not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. Bring a torch (flashlight) and take caution in the abandoned mine shafts as a sign warns that they can collapse at any time.
- There are several other Karangahake Gorge walks and options ranging from simply exploring the history just across the bridge to a four-hour hike that includes a waterfall.
- A section of the Hauraki Rail Trail passes through the area, and this Karangahake Gorge cycle trail section and is often considered the highlight of the three-day Grade-One cycle trail.
Other cool nearby things to do
Ngatea Water Gardens
To the West – towards Auckland
If you are heading west from here, don’t miss the Ngatea Water Gardens, a collection of water features, humour, and an unprecedented Canny Museum featuring over 11,000 beer, soda, and other beverage cans.
Glow Worm Kayak Tour
To the East – towards Bay of Plenty
One of the best things we did in the Bay of Plenty was the night kayaking tour to see the glowworms in the canyon on Lake McLaren. Fully organized, with everything provided, it was nature that really caught us off guard. You can read my review here or click here to check for discounts on the night you want to go.
To the South – towards Rotorua)
Probably the most popular, and definitely the more touristy thing to do in the region, is a visit Hobbiton. Lord of the Rings fans won’t want to miss this movie set tour of the Shire. Don’t miss out, purchase your Hobbiton tickets in advance.
Don’t be one of the many people driving by Karangahake Gorge without a second thought. We try to take at least an hour to enjoy the Karangahake Windows Walk whenever we travel from Auckland to Tauranga or the Coromandel.
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These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or BookABatch (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Activity discounts: we check Bookme.com for discounts of up to 70% on activities.
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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When will you do the Karangahake Windows Walk?
For more on New Zealand, start here: New Zealand Road Trips: Itineraries for North or South Island Adventures, or you might like …
Two by Tour
For such a short hike there certainly seems to be quite a lot to look at. Everything I see from New Zealand is incredible. It’s on our travel wishlist. Places like this, with lots of history to them, are some of our favorites. We spent hours at the bottom of New River Gorge last year, walking around the site of two vanished coal towns.
Lots of history, as well as natural beauty there, Rhonda.
What a stunning hike, Rhonda! It looks like something out of Indiana Jones. It’s a great idea for an exciting family outing.
Can’t wait to finally visit NZ someday ! It looks like a lot of fun to wander around in nature and a great place to relax !
I love to hike so I love the idea of this – but have to say not sure how I’d fare going inside! I’m claustrophobic – but for those window views I may just have to suck it up!
I’d love to return to New Zealand and wind an itinerary around this hike. It looks gorgeous and what an interesting history. I’m with you though and wouldn’t have wanted to work in those dark caves long ago.
Jessi (Two Feet, One World)
Ooooh I love the Gorge – haven’t visited in many years! Such beautiful views from the windows.
We really enjoyed visiting this historical site, we did some of the walks there except I got scared on the big bridge at the beginning lol
What a beautiful route, Rhonda! Going through the mine shafts and seeing the lush, green gorge from up high must have been fantastic. I am more and more convinced I should visit New Zealand very soon. It’s irresistible!
What a fascinating place for a walk!
Wow, what an absolutely beautiful place for a mine. I always imagined the gold mining areas to be dark, dusty, and brown (I don’t know why… don’t judge me, lol), but this looks tropical and beautiful. I don’t think I’d get much mining done. I love your photo with the contrast between the red berries and the greenery. That pop of color is beautiful!
Would love to visit New Zealand one day! This looks like such a picturesque hike, I’d love to look out one of those windows.
Keri | Ladies What Travel
Wow, this place looks amazing, I’d love to explore somewhere like this!
Loving all your NZ posts, this looks so beautiful!!
Wow, what a place! The walls of the gorge are incredible. I have noticed a lot of mines are located in remote places surrounded by natural places. The areas may have been inhospitable for people who made “riches” there but we are left with the history and inspiring landscapes.
Lydia C. Lee
That looks good – and an easy way to bushwalk!
What an amazing place to explore – history and scenery. It’s hard to imagine the size of the gorge until you see the walkway looking so tiny.
What an amazing trail to hike! Must have been awesome to visit an old gold mine no longer in use! Pinned for later!
Thanks. I love my camera. It’s lightweight and durable and shoots in all conditions. I am shooting with an Olympus OMD em5.
Great article! This is my home turf, we love doing the Windows Walk whenever we visit! Have you done the loop through the train tunnel (back the other way from the Windows)? It’s a huge hit with the kids.
What a fabulous place to live.
Wow, I would definitely travel to Krangehake, it looks so beautiful. I love the pic where you can see the tracks to the old mining site. I love Gorges and lush landscape. Looks like a place for me. I really want to visit New Zealand soon. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks. That’s one of my favourite shots too.
There is so much history and culture attached to Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway that it’s a perfect place for me to check out in solitude and at length! I would love to read and relate to the signage posts and I think the walk in such a place would be overwhelming for me!
Yes, we read the signage and followed the interesting history. The place is fascinating, and I learned quite a bit about gold.
You find the coolest places to go! I’m bookmarking them in case I ever make it to New Zealand – which I sure hope that I do
We love to head off the beaten path.
Karangahake Gorge looks so cool! There are a lot of abandoned gold and silver mines around California and Nevada, and we’ve had such fun visiting the ghost towns. But I’ve never seen anything like Karangahake Gorge! I’d love to explore, and I know my husband would be thrilled to hike through something so beautiful and so filled with artifacts. Very cool!
I have lived in both California (bay area) and Nevada (Tahoe area) and the ghost towns that I remember in Nevada are very different than the old gold mine in Karangahake.
Unbelievable Rhonda. It’s like you have taken me into history. It must have been very difficult to work in such dangerous situations in those days. Once again my friend, thank you . See ya.
Agreed. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in the mines.
What a fun adventure this would be. What a lovely trek and it is so rich with history.
Have a fabulous day, Rhonda. ♥
Yes, it was quite a fun adventure, with something to discover around every corner.
L. Diane Wolfe
I love heights and would love the bridges and the views. Shame, the only mining area I’ve ever seen was left to the elements in the desert.
The views were spectacular, and I was surprised by the height. It never felt we changed elevation that much.
Definitely a fascinating and beautifully picturesque place to visit. Thanks so much for sharing it
I’d never heard of this place despite having spent time in the area. It looks like a fascinating place to visit. I think a walk is always considerably more interesting if there is something to see and a bit of history
Agreed. I love walks like this one where the scenery keeps changing and interesting historical things are everywhere.
Fantastic photos of this amazing walk I did years ago
Has it changed much?
Nice tour Rhonda I have never crossed a swing bridge before I always enjoy your tours and photos
Have a trailtastic week 🙂
I used to be a bit scared of swing bridges, but after crossing the one in Canada (Capilano Suspension Bridge), I got over it.
Wow!! This looks beautiful 😍 With the photos and your descriptions, I felt like I was on the tour with you.
Perfect, that’s my goal.
Such a lovely area.
Yes, it is amazing here. I feel so lucky to have been.
Oh, how I wish I could go on such awesome adventures. The last time I did anything remotely like that I believe I was in day camp. Now, I’m too old & with Spinal Stenosis my walking is limited. 🙁 I love anything old, antique and if walls could talk… So now all I can do is watch others have the fun and/or look at their photos or videos. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure! It was awesome!
Sorry about your spine and I hope it is something that they can fix. Perhaps one day you will get to New Zealand.
Wow! Wow! Wow! It gives me chills simply looking at the photos. Gorgeousness abounds there. 🙂
Yes, that is exactly how it felt standing there.
I love those natural windows Rhonda. Quite the bird’s eye view. Cool deal too on swing bridges seemingly not hundreds of feet above the water below. Mount Cook got me a little shook with those swing bridge thingees LOL. Especially when it was a wee bit too crowded.
This one said max capacity 10 and I actually waited until others got off. It always surprises me how many people ignore those signs.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Old mining area – now that was a really clever idea to incorporate trails. Walking through an old mine shaft would be really amazing. Plus those views. Wow!
You would love it here. It’s the perfect setting for a good SciFi novel (or movie)
Hi Rhonda – that looks an amazing place to visit … and I’d love to walk it too … gorgeous … early history – cheers Hilary
It caught us by surprise, as I hadn’t heard of it before this recent drive trip.