The Karangahake Railway Tunnel walk is one of the trails in Karangahake Gorge. It’s a picturesque hike with some interesting history and things to see along the way. We stopped to stretch our legs on our road trip from the Coromandel Peninsula to Rotorua. This guide will provide all the information you need for the walk.

Where is Karangahake Gorge?

The gorge is situated on State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Waihi on New Zealand‘s North Island. It is easy to get to from Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, and Tauranga.

How do you get to Karangahake Gorge?

It will take about 2 hours by car from Auckland along SH1 and then SH2. It is 5 minutes past Paeroa.

When is the best time to visit?

There isn’t a best time to do this walk. A fine day would be better though to make the most of the stunning scenery.

view over the river of a bridge and rocks on walking trail

Where can you park?

There are two car parks; one by the Karangahake Hall and the other is the Karangahake Domain car park. Both are just off State Highway 2.

We parked at Karangahake Hall as it is the closest one to the rail tunnel.

Karangahake Railway Tunnel Walk

Length and walk time of Railway Tunnel Loop

The Railway Tunnel walk is a 2.5km loop trail that will take around an hour and a half to complete. It is an easy walk but not suitable for wheelchairs.

Karangahake Railway Tunnel Walk distance guide

The walking track

If you start at Karangahake Hall, take a look at the old battery before heading up to the bridge.

Karangahake gorge

You will cross the pedestrian bridge over the river and highway before heading into the rail tunnel.

Karangahake Railway Tunnel bridge

The tunnel was built between 1900 and 1905 to transport mining material and gold to and from Waihi. This replaced the pack horses that did the job previously. It used to be the busiest gold mine in New Zealand.

It is 1086m long but the time went quickly, and we enjoyed the walk through it. There are lights but it can still be quite dark and there were some puddles of water when we went. It is definitely a great feature to have on a walking trail.

Karangahake Railway Tunnel

Once out of the tunnel, you cross another bridge back over the river. Turn right and follow the Ohinemuri River.

It’s a beautiful scenic walk, and there are plenty of opportunities for photogrtaphy enthusiasts.

Karangahake gorge river track

You then come to a swing bridge that takes you across the Waitawheta River. There is a second swing bridge that leads into the main car park. Cross this for toilets and water. There are also rubbish bins provided here.

To carry on the walk, cross back over the bridge, turn right and follow the river back to the Karangahake Hall car park.

Windows Walk

You can extend this walk by taking the Windows Walk which starts just before the Swing Bridge and finishes the other side of it. This trail is also 2.5km and will take an additional hour and a half.


  • Take a torch or use your phone light in the tunnel
  • Make sure you have plenty of water for your walk
  • Dogs are not allowed on this part of the trail
  • Toilets and water can be found at Karangahake Domain car park
  • Remember your camera
  • Allow enough time to explore the area

Map of Karangahake Gorge

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Karangahake Trails Brochure

You can download a copy of the brochure on the Department of Conversation’s website. This also shows a map of the walking trail and where the car parks are located.

Other Hikes on New Zealand’s North island

New Zealand has some of best scenery in the world and what better way to see it than on a hike. The Karangahake Trail and Cathedral Cove Walk are some of the best hikes in the North Island.


We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite at the Best Western in Rotorua and would stay there again. It was centrally based, good value, and had a separate kitchen, dining and lounge area. The resort included free Wi-Fi, mini golf and a heated pool with spa pool.

As usual, we booked through due to their competitive pricing and free cancellation on most properties.

Read more about the property here.

swimming pool in a resort
Karangahake gorge river views


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  1. This hike is right up my alley, Wendy! I really like the idea that you can extend it if you wish. I’m not a hiker, but I’m quite sure New Zealand will convert me 😉 I’d have to add time to my visit to account for all the photos I’d be taking, though. What beautiful scenery!

    1. I’m still going through all the photos I took! This walk took us longer as I kept stopping to take photos 🙂

  2. travelingness says:

    This looks like such a fun and scenic walk with the Waitawheta River! I especially like that you get to walk through the old tunnel which makes it so different from most walks. Great post Wendy! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Vanessa. The scenery was beautiful but it was the tunnel that made it special.

  3. That is a hike with a difference! Really interesting. I always forget to take a torch on hikes. Fortunately Peter usually has everything you could possibly need!

    1. I’m not very prepared either but always have my phone on me which has a torch 🙂

  4. It’s great to know that they preserved the tunnel so people can see what it was like back then. I would definitely visit. The location is perfect as well for photography.

    1. It was interesting as well as picturesque and, yes, a perfect place to try out your photography skills.

  5. The Karangahake Gorge looks like a great place to get some exercise while enjoying great scenery. The tunnel looks like it might be a bit scary though. Are there any safety issues or concerns for people with claustrophobia?

    1. It is a wonderful place to walk. There are other trails that are also stunning if anyone suffers from claustrophobia. These don’t require you to walk through the tunnel. It wasn’t too dark though and didn’t feel like a confined space.

  6. I can’t believe how wonderful this places is! It has everything, beautiful landscape, the tunnel, rivers it looks fantastic! And it’s not far, do you recommend to stay there or better to do it like a day trip?

    1. It is a beautiful place to walk. I would recommend basing yourself in one of the larger towns and visiting here as a day trip.

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