The Kaimai Heritage Trail helps to bring these stories to life in the following locations:
Karangahake Gorge and Waikino
The Talisman, Woodstock and Crown mines are accessible via The Windows Walk. These remains are Category I Historic Places. Karangahake also features a cavernous underground pumphouse which is open to the public via a tunnel.
The historic railway line from Karangahake to the Victoria Battery and Waikino can be either walked or cycled. At Karangahake, the 1 km long railway tunnel can be seen on a loop walk. Crossing the historic rail bridges at either end of the tunnel completes the railway experience for short stop visitors.
The Martha Mine at Waihi has a long history, and presents a major visitor attraction in its own right.
The huge Victoria Battery complex at nearby Waikino is an historic reserve featuring visitor information and displays. Numerous foundations and other remains can be seen at Victoria Battery, presenting a glimpse of the battery’s original scale. The power Transformer House is a listed building and now serves as a museum. The huge ore roasting kilns have been excavated and protected, and are on show to the visitor. Underground tours and a mining tramway are run on the site by the Victoria Battery Tramway Society.
Find out more about Karangahake Gorge walks
An impressive logging tramway in the Waitawheta Valley was constructed by the Waihi Gold Mining Company and was later extended and developed by the Kauri Timber Company and others. This tramway forms the basis of the Waitawheta Tramway Walk, leading to the site of the historic Waitawheta Mill where remains include timbers, tramway turntables, and the start of the Waipapa Haul Line.
Find out more about the Waitawheta Tramway walk
A courageous public works initiative, the Piako County Tramway, connects the various mines in the Waiorongomai Valley. A series of large inclines are the most impressive features of the tramway which, with associated machinery and building remains, can be explored.
Find out more about Waiorongomail walks
The Kaimai Heritage Trail is located in the northern Kaimai Range at the southern end of the Coromandel between Paeroa and Waihi.
Kaimai Heritage Trail destinations are accessible via SH2 at Karanagahake and Waikino, and via SH26 at Te Aroha.
All destinations have convenient parking.
History and culture
The following timeline marks some significant dates in the history of the Kaimai Heritage Trail area.
- 1875: Hauraki goldfields open (including Karangahake and Waihi areas)
- 1881: Buck Reef is discovered at Te Aroha starting the Waiorongomai gold rush
- 1882: Karangahake experiences second gold rush when payable gold is discovered. Quartz crushing begins at Wairongomai
- 1883: Piako County Tramway opened at Waiorongomai
- 1884: Tui Mine discovered at Te Aroha
- 1889: Karangahake sees a breakthrough in gold production when the cyanide process proves successful on low grade ores, a discovery of international significance
- 1891: Martha Mine opens in Waihi
- 1896: Waitawheta Forest described by the New Zealand government as “a magnificent forest” containing 31.5 million feet of timber
- 1897: Victoria Battery construction commences
- 1899: Waihi Gold Mining Company loans money to the New Zealand government to build a railway link through Karangahake Gorge
- 1900: Woodstock mining company constructs the large underground pumphouse at Karangahake to clear mines of water
- 1905: Karangahake Rail Tunnel complete
- 1910: Kauri Timber Company sends first shipment of logs from Waitawheta,. Horahora pylon line marches over Kaimai Range providing power to the goldfields
- 1924: Waitawheta Mill commences operations in the bush
- 1927: Waitawheta Mill closes and tramway is dismantled
- 1946: Waiorongomai mining operations cease
- 1952: Victoria Battery ceases operations
- 1978: Rail line through Karangahake Gorge is closed in favour of the newer, faster, Kaimai Tunnel
Know before you go
- Mine tunnels and shafts are very dangerous and may be hidden by vegetation. Do not enter tunnels unless they are marked for public access.
- Take torches to explore the mining tunnels and caverns in the Karangahake Gorge.
- The Waitawheta River can rise quickly after heavy rain.