Confession: If you, like me, have been driving past the Karangahake Gorge main car park (for years…) and have never stopped to do this walk, I’m here to tell you (now that I’ve finally done it), that you simply must check it out the next time you happen to pass, because this is a little beauty of walk! It has just the right ingredients to be a brilliant family walk, for example; it’s a short relatively easy walk, has amazing scenery, a stunning river, swing bridges, creepy tunnels, gold mining history and relics, and wicked views from the “windows”. Seriously it will blow your mind!
Park in the main car park, there you will find a detailed map of the walks. Follow the signs and directions to access this track, you will cross two swing bridges on route (a torch is essential so don’t forget to pack one). We visited in mid winter and spent a happy hour at the river here just after the first bridge with the kids aged 5, 7,8 and 11. They enjoyed looking for “precious” rocks like fools gold and quartz and messing about in the river, yes they are in their togs and yes they did get very wet!
However they soon dried off in the sun and after a picnic we crossed the second bridge. From there follow the signs as the track splits as it heads up hill, the track to the right is longer and more gradual, the track to the left is shorter and sharper. We took the latter. You will see old mining relics and closed shafts as you head towards the tunnels; a short one at first followed by a much longer tunnel, in which you really do need a torch, trust me I tried once and wimped out half way! The “windows” cut out of the rock look down onto the river, it’s quite gorgeous! All the windows are safely barred.
Once you pop out of the tunnel you will head down some steps, turn right and head across the swing bridge with the Waitawheta river below you. The return track is cut into the rock and follows the river back to the main swing bridge and car park. This is a good walk to have up your sleeve when overseas visitors stay and you want to show off our beautiful country just a little bit!
Extra: Need more? There are also other great walks and bike rides to do along the river here. They are well sign posted and highly recommended. There is also a cafe across the road from the main car park if tiny tummies start rumbling or you need a coffee!
*Toilets are located in the main car park.Sorry NO dogs allowed on this walk.
- Location: Kaimai Mamaku Forest, Bay of Plenty.
- Access: Karangahake Gorge Reserve car park. On the SH2 between Waihi and Paeroa. NO dogs allowed on this walk.
- DOC duration: 1hr Forest Family: 20 minutes! *See note below
- DOC Track grade: Easiest short walk
- Highlights/features: Suspension bridges, walking through old gold mining tunnels, views from the “windows”, the scenery and river!
- FYI- You need to bring a torch! * When you cross the first swing bridge you will see a DOC sign saying 1hr to do the Windows walk (clearly this is for those who will be stopping and enjoying the views and reading all of the signs, or perhaps you have a toddler or an older person in your party etc… ) not for those families like ours, who on the day consisted of: two 5 yr old’s, one 7, one 8 and one 11 yr old . Funnily enough when you cross the 2nd bridge just to the left of the 1st bridge, you will find a sign saying the walk takes 20 minutes! Classic.