At the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, find a maze of riverside walking trails, old tunnels and mining artifacts scattered through the trees. No matter the weather, you will pass by many other avid hikers as you head toward Karangahake Gorge.
The gorge is just over a ten-minute drive from Waihi, and more than 90 minutes east of Auckland. The windy entrance road cuts through the rocky walls of the gorge, following the edge of the river. One of the most popular walks in the area is the Rail Tunnel Loop, which you will find plenty of signs for in the area.
From the car park, head toward the first suspension bridge to cross the fast-flowing Ohinemuri River. You can easily pick the local hikers. They were the ones who came prepared with gumboots as it will inevitably start raining. Water can build up on the suspension bridge in the rain, so appropriate footwear will pay off. You will feel the bridge move as more people try and crossover, but from the middle, you will have a great view from the river at the curved road leading through the gorge.
At the first junction, head left to continue alongside the river. You will immediately cross a second suspension bridge, where you will start to notice the remnants of the area’s mining history scattered on either side of the footpath. At the clearing, you will see the historic battery, as well as other historic artifacts throughout the area.
Follow the path alongside the river. You may be beside the river but you won’t see a lot of it while the trees become denser. The narrow path cuts through the trees and turns into muddy patches in the rain. Every now and then you will get a quick glimpse of the water through the shrubs until the path opens up and you have a clear view of the cars speeding along the road across the water.
From here you will see the river is covered in scattered rocks. All the while you will have a clear view of the road and the fast-flowing water. And in the case of rain, there is not much to shield you.
At the next junction, to follow the Rail Tunnel Loop it will be fairly clear which way you need to go. Cross another bridge to head into a slightly unnerving dark tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel is a great place to get photos, with enough natural light that you can make out the colorful markings on the tunnel wall. Crossing the 1100m, dimly lit tunnel feels a long time. It is eerily quiet inside, with plenty of dark nooks and crannies of to each side.
The tunnels will exit out onto a bridge over the highway. You will cross back to the other side of the river, and follow the trail back to the first suspension bridge. When you get back to the car park if you are feeling hungry after your walk, the quirky Talisman Café is located just across the road, which also features plenty of interesting local crafts as well.