Windows Walk in Karangahake gorge

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.

Leyland O’Brien Tramway, Bay of Plenty

To prepare for my youngest’s first hut stay in September, I thought it would be a good idea to test out how long he can endure on a bush walk…

So first things first, I need to find him a friend to walk with. From previous experiences when my kids have a friend with them, there is a far lesser chance of complaints and a far greater chance of successful distraction!

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Hooray my friends are coming with us, both kids will have a buddy!

The start of this track can be confusing as there is no DOC signage on this particular track. My advice would be to either go in at the signpost for the “Pa Kereru Loop” track (this may add-on about 10 minutes to the walk), or take one of the two wider tramway looking tracks, to the left of the Pa Kereru sign (they both come out on the Leyland O’Brien tramway at different points not far from each other).

We took the track to the immediate left of the Pa Kereru Loop signpost, and the nice wide (but overgrown) track descended for about 100m until coming out to the flat track. The first part of the walk goes through swampy terrain, with long board walks and small bridges keeping the feet dry …. but it doesn’t last.

Because then the mud starts! Initially the two 7-year-old girls worked very hard to keep their shoes clean and their feet dry, which led to many interesting conversations, negotiations and techniques on crossing the many little streams and countless mud pits. However there came a turning point where my daughter paused and contemplated how to get around yet another mud pit…that was it, she gave up the fight and ran “straight up the guts”! The younger boys had given up the fight a lot earlier. The rest of the walk consisted of the kids happily yelling “mud run” and sprinting through the mud pits.


After 1.5 hours of easy (muddy) walking we reached the Ngamuwahine River, where once crossed the track continues for another 30 minutes. We turned around at this point as the river had reasonable flow and we didn’t want to attempt crossing it with the kids, as no doubt one of the 4 kids would have ended up in the water and being the middle of winter, that water was cold and the walk out would not have been fun!

We found a picturesque spot by the riverside for lunch and then we set off homeward bound. The walk back to the car was reasonably painless, with not many complaints or bribes needed.

The kids did awesome and now I am confident that my 5-year-old can go the distance. I would recommend this track to help build or test kids endurance as it is flat and you can just turn around at any point, but maybe only to families with a little bit of bush experience (due to signage and river crossing).

Note: “The Blade” area as it is locally known is right at the end of Whakamarama road. The driveway down there (from the road end ) is ~900m of gravel road to the main car park (this is single lane so go slow, there are a couple of places to stop if you come across another car). Other tracks can be accessed from this car park.


  • Location: Kaimai Mamaku Forest, Bay of Plenty
  • Access: The Blade, End of Whakamarama Road, Whakamarama
  • DOC Duration: 2 hours one way      Forest Family:  1.5 hrs one way to the Ngamuwahine river crossing (this is in line with the DOC times, as the track continues for 30 minutes after river crossing) we returned the same way. Our group was made up of 2 adults, two 7 and two 5 year old’s.
  • Track Grade: Advanced (due to river crossing)
  • Highlights/Features: Mud, mud and more mud (it was winter and kids were doing mud runs), remains of the historic tramway and a beautifully clear river with plenty of picnic spots along the way.
  • Notes:  Rivers in the area can rise very quickly after rain, hence the advanced grade. We also encountered a hunter with his hunting dogs on this track (luckily the dogs were well-trained and friendly).

Puketoki Scenic Reserve, Bay of Plenty

Puketoki Reserve is pretty much my local and I feel like I know it like the back of my hand. My kids have been walking the long loop since they were around 2 1/2 years old. I also do regular monitoring work there (off tracks) for the local pest control group the Friends of Puketoki . I often take groups of school children there to study the streams health (very healthy by the way) and to learn about native birds and plants.

It’s a great place to head with kids of any age, the short loop is buggy friendly (although you may encounter some mud) and you can bring the dog, on a lead.  The short loop is made up of the old tram lines so they are straight and relatively flat, perfect for little legs to wander along. Its nice if you just take your time and let the kids explore a bit at their own pace.There are picnic tables near the car park and a very pretty stream to check out.

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The long loop is more undulating, with sections of stairs, uneven ground and the odd muddy part. You may see pink tags and tape off the sides of the main walking track, these are trap lines (for possum and rodent bait stations). The main walking track is marked with orange triangles. There are a couple of short marked detours off the main track to see giant rimu and puriri trees and they are well worth the couple of minutes detour it takes (if things are going well! )

We often see kereru (native wood-pigeon) and robins and hear tui and grey warbler. Occasionally you might see or hear kaka (native parrot).Puketoki Reserve is a good place to start if you and your family haven’t done much bush walking before as the loop walks are very short and easy, so there’s no stress about distance, you can just meander and enjoy.

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  • Location: 12kms west of Tauranga, on Leyland Rd (off Whakamarama Rd). This reserve is managed by the Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC).
  • WBOPDC duration: Short loop: 20 minutes. Long Loop: 60 minutes. Forest Family:  Short loop: 10 minutes with older kids, 20 minutes with littlies, Long loop: 1 hr
  • WBOPDC track grade: “Tramping track” (or DOC grade- easy)
  • Highlights/Features: Part of the track is formed by the old tramline, historical info at the start of the track. We often see kereru (native wood pigeon) and friendly NZ robins, thanks in part to the wonderful work of the pest control group Friends of Puketoki. The Te Puna stream wends its way quietly through it and check out the giant Rimu and Puriri trees! See glow worms at night along the banks on short walk!
  • For more info:WBOPDC Puketoki Res

Side notes: Dogs are allowed on leads.  The short walk is buggy friendly.  Picnic tables and toilets available near the car park.

Kiaora welcome to Forest Family!

Anita and I are so freaking excited to welcome you to the launching of Forest Family! We will be delivering a fresh family perspective on a range of walking tracks in NZ and from abroad, including short day walks to over night hiking trips. We will be offering “Confidence Booster” walks to women who want a little guidance in getting started (look out for those in summer) and, we will be reviewing the mountain bike trails that we ride with our families.

We’d love for you to subscribe to our blog and come along on this adventure with us.  We hope it will inspire you to create some adventures of your own!

casual cheerful daylight friends
Love Tammy & Anita 


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


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