20 May Wonders of Waihi
“Where are you from?” I asked the broad blonde in the bar.
“Waihi” he repeated.
I continued to stare blankly at this lovely man. His voice had hints of an English accent, so perhaps Waihi was somewhere in the UK.
He responded to my blank look by continuing to explain, “It’s a small town in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.”
Ahhh, a Kiwi!
That night, five years ago, was the first I’d heard of this small town. I’ve since visited Waihi three times, and every time I return, I seem to appreciate the beauty of this place more and more.
Not only is Waihi New Zealand’s ‘Heart of Gold‘, with a gold mining history spanning three centuries and a local open-pit mine that is still fully operational, it boasts many natural wonders – beaches, waterfalls, mountains, rivers and gorges.
Every time we visit Waihi, my Kiwi partner, Dan, and I explore these wonders together. These are my favourite parts of his hometown.
Oh you’ll love Orokawa, they said.
I didn’t doubt them, so I followed my boyfriend around a dirt bush track from the Northern end of Waihi Beach. The walk is about 45 minutes through lush Kiwi lands and absolutely stunning in it’s own right. About 15 minutes in, you can start to see glimpses of this heavenly strip of white sand rolling into turquoise waters.
When we arrived to the beach, the whole atmosphere seemed to have changed. I didn’t feel like I was in New Zealand anymore. The air seemed tropical and I felt like I was somewhere in Central America. Costa Rica, to be exact. This Scenic Reserve contains uncommon remnants of coastal forest making it feel different to Waihi Beach, 45 minutes around the corner.
This pohutukawa-fringed beach was next to empty. There was no infrastructure. Only a shirtless tanned hippie with a tattoo of the sun cast on his back. He strode along the white sand throwing a stick to his Kelpie.
This walk is a must while in Waihi to enjoy beautiful views, a picnic and a swim. It has good rock fishing and surf when the tide is right.
The small town of Waihi Beach is a collection of high end boutique stores, cafes, surf shops and your token “Fush n Chups” shop.
There is excellent surf at the Northern End of the beach when the conditions are right. The rest of the beach is decorated with beachfront baches. Among the baches, is Flat White Cafe. A rustic, coastal charm open day and night, with absolute beach front views.
You can also check out the Fresh Produce Market every summer Sunday.
Bowentown sits at the southern end of Waihi Beach and is blessed with two contrasting beaches.
On one side sits the open ocean, with several kilometres of white sand and rolling surf, which eventually meets Waihi Beach. This is an ideal spot for surfing, wind and kite surfing or enjoying a long walk and some peace and quiet.
At the very end of the peninsula you will find Anzac Bay, a sheltered cove with turquoise water gently lapping at the shore. This is the perfect spot for young children and those who want to swim in calm waters.
Freedom camping is allowed in motorhomes only in the Anzac Bay carpark for most of the year but is prohibited from the third week of December through to Waitangi Day on February 6. Picnic tables and public toilets are provided.
Bowentown is a quiet spot, off the beaten track and is a wonderful place to escape the crowds.
Situated at the base of the Coromandel Range, the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi, giving access to impressive remains from the mining and railway eras in a stunning natural gorge setting, including two steel truss bridges and a 1 km rail tunnel.
I’ve seen locals swim under the main truss bridge, but it’s also a popular spot for Fly Fishing.
More info on the walkways can be found here.
The stunning staircase Owharoa Falls are nestled in the heart of the Karangahake Gorge. Ideal for a picnic stop and swim while doing the Hauraki Rail Trail from the Gorge, or it’s an easy 5 minute walk from the carpark which is just off State Highway 2.
These waterfalls are one of New Zealand’s best swimming holes, so be sure to stop by for a dip!
Waitawheta River and Valley Track
Dan grew up by these rivers, walking these banks. He was so graceful and I, so clumsy. Being more natural with the ocean, he was patient with my uncertainty as I navigated across the river stones. I could see the excited 12 year old in his eyes as he smelt the familiarity of his childhood.
We walked for over an hour, along the Waitawheta River Track, to reach these pools, stopping off at waterfalls to fill our water bottles. We cooled off in the icy river, jumping from rocks and exploring the banks, hardly another soul in sight.
You can walk the entire track and stay in the Waitawheta Hut.