New Zealand has some of the best hiking in the world, and we’re enjoying doing little hikes – hopefully one day we’ll work up to doing some of New Zealand’s Great Walks like the Milford Track. In the meantime, however, we’re finding day hikes and overnight hikes not too far from home in Auckland.
This past Easter weekend, we headed 2 hours south of Auckland to hike the Waitawheta Tramway, an easy hike in the northern Kaimai region near Waihi.
The Waitawheta Tramway hike
The area around Waihi is rich in gold mining and kauri logging history. We’ve already written about the kauri tree logging history around the Pinnacles Track further north in the Coromandel, and around Waitawheta was about as far south as kauri trees grow so it was as far south as logging went, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Kauri was an incredibly valuable timber; the trees grow straight and tall and the wood contains a lot of resin so it was prized for boat masts and hulls. Back in the sailing and steam trade days of 100-odd years ago, kauri was one of New Zealand’s biggest exports. The hills around Coromandel and the northern Kaimais were absolutely slaughtered until about the 1960s – in fact, the only big kauri trees left standing today are those where it was too difficult to access for the loggers. You should see some of the hills these guys got up to cut trees down though – it’s crazy! Fortunately these beautiful forest giants are now protected, thank goodness.
The Waitawheta Tramway was a 14 km tramway built into the hills where the kauri trees were cut down, to aid transport of the giant logs out to the bigger rivers to be able to be floated downstream to awaiting ships.
Today, the Waitawheta Tramway is New Zealand’s longest surviving tramway, and the hike we did follows the tramway for about 8 km up the Waitawheta River to a 26-bed hut where you can stay overnight. There are lots of remnants of the old kauri logging days, including the tramway sleepers, train wheels, and a mock cart with a log on it (the one Shaun is standing next to in the photo above).
The walk was pretty easy – tramways aren’t all that steep so we enjoyed meandering along, taking lots of photos and Snapchatting away (we’re theglobalcouple if you want to follow us!). The scenery is gorgeous – the river and gorge are stunning and the bush is so verdant.
Six big swing bridges later and we came to the one and only river crossing we’d have to do – eek it was so cold!
Three hours after leaving the car park we arrived at the hut and claimed a bunk, fortunately getting a room with no children! The Waitawheta is a popular hike for families as it’s easy for kids to do, and being Easter there were about 8 kids in the hut. Fortunately they were very well behaved!
Because it was an easy and short walk, we took a fancy dinner – eye fillet steak, green salad and garlic bread, and even a bottle of red wine! YUM. Such luxury! We definitely got some jealous looks from fellow hikers that were chowing down on freeze dried couscous and 2-minute noodles. Everything tastes so much better in the outdoors, don’t you think? That was the best meal we’d eaten in a long time.
The Waitawheta Hut, along with most other Department of Conservation huts, has no power, so it gets dark quite quickly. We lit candles around the hut and chatted for a while in the dim yellow light. We turned in early for the night – next time we’ll remember to take a pack of cards!
The walk out the following day followed the same trail, and we were back at the car before lunch time. What a great little walk! It’s such fun finding these slices of New Zealand that we haven’t explored yet but are so easy to get to. There are many other walks in this part of the country and it’s great that they’re so accessible from our hometown of Auckland. We’re looking forward to doing more in the months to come!
I’ve got to quickly mention an awesome product that our friends at Peak Design sent us recently. We’ve always had trouble carrying our cameras when hiking, and the guys at Peak Design have come up with this clip called the Capture Pro that goes on the shoulder strap of your backpack, that your camera then clips into. It means you don’t have a heavy camera bumping around your neck while hiking! We’ll do a more in-depth review of this product soon but we just wanted to give you a heads up on how great the Capture Pro is (and other Peak Design products too)!
What meals do you take with you when hiking? Are they as luxurious as ours? Share your thoughts in the comments below!