The gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula, the Karangahake Gorge twists its way through the Kaimai & Coromandel Ranges. There are a number of tracks in this area, and this time we chose to check out the Historic Walkway through to Victoria Battery. We arrived just after 9am on a Sunday, and there was plenty of parking space (though it got busier later in the day). There are good facilities there with toilets, drinking water, rubbish bins etc, and some access to the river for swimming. Heading over the suspension bridge, we set out to explore!
The first part of the track is a fairly narrow piece, between a cliff and the Ohinemuri. The whole track is fairly flat and easy going, following along the side of the river the whole way. We passed several interesting remnants from mining years ago, and enjoyed the shade along the track.
The track turns to a wide gravel driveway for a lot of the walk, wide enough to fit two people side by side with dogs. This is a shared track, so there are lots of cyclists (this forms part of the rail trail, and the area is popular with mountain bikers of all levels) as well as people running and hiking. Being a more touristy area, we did notice a lot of people and kids were really excited to see the dogs, so we had to be careful to let them know which dogs would be okay to pat and which would rather not meet everyone. While it can be frustrating and can be a challenge with less confident dogs (it would be great to see more discussion around this topic with people of all ages) , this is something that we have come to expect & manage when doing busier walks.
After about an hour and a half, we reached Victoria Battery, a large site which was the largest and most advanced mining site of its time. Here’s Flight and Spring out in front of one of the structures. There is a small & slow passenger train (tourist attraction) that runs through this site so you do need to keep an eye out.
On our way back, we took a left at the road and headed up the 100m to Owharoa Falls. I’ve seen a lot of photos of this famous waterfall, but in all my times heading past haven’t headed in to check it out yet so that was something to tick off my list! There was a group of teenagers there jumping off the waterfall and swimming, as well as other people passing through and enjoying the view. We chose not to let the dogs swim in here as it is quite a steep drop in, and opted to wait for a spot at the stream later on. Parking is available on the side of the road, right near the falls if you wish to just visit the falls or to do a shorter walk on this trail.
Middy (my friends dog) with her awesome tramping backpack – super handy!
Continuing on the track, we took the turn off to do the tunnel loop. This involves a couple of suspension bridges, as well as a walk through the 1100m former rail tunnel! This tunnel has some lighting these days and was an easy walk through. Keep in mind that if your dog is noise sensitive, there is a lot of echo heading through tunnels like this – especially with lots of other visitors in the area.
The final bit loops back over the river, then you head left to go back over your original suspension bridge. All up it was a little over 14km, and took us just over 3 hours including a stop at the waterfall and for photos.
Parking – Lots in a proper car park just off the side of the highway, but gets busier as the day progresses so head in early.
Toilets – Yes, both ends.
Water/Bins – Yes, at the start with a fountain and access to the river at the car park for the dogs to have a drink/paddle.
Other – Lots of tourists, cyclists and families so ensure you & your dog can cope with these, particularly around peak times over summer. Lots of other walks in the area too, which I’ll be exploring in future. This is a great stop off on your way to the beach, or for a good day trip like we did. There are tons of food places around the area, but I’m not sure which are dog friendly. We opted to take a 25 minute drive out to Waihi Beach (dog friendly except from the 3rd Wednesday in December through til 2nd week of February) to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a paddle in the ocean which was a nice side trip.