There’s a town, where the Waikato meets the Bay of Plenty, full of New Zealand settler history. And there’s a sense of that history, as you pull in to Waihi, a town of gold and a town of railways - and today, of course, a town of cycles too. Just the place to stop, stretch the legs, and seek out a roadtrip picnic spot.
Waihi. You’re located at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula. In one direction, there’s the beautiful Karangahake Gorge - home of railways, mining tunnels and cycle trails. In the other direction, there’s the nearby white sand treasure of Waihi Beach. And right here, a history of gold.
As they say, step back in time, and wander through the past today.
Heart of gold
Gold’s all around. You can’t miss it, here in the heart of gold.
Waihi is the home of New Zealand’s richest gold mine, still in operation today.
The lure of gold brought people to Waihi, back in the day. It was John McCombie and Robert Lee who first discovered gold-bearing quartz, in 1878, on Pukewa spur, a Māori burial ground which became the famous Martha Mine. It was soon one of the world’s most important gold mines.
Then, 30 years later in 1908, Waihi was the fastest growing town in the region, with a population three times that of Hamilton. The story goes that miners used to take their families across to Hamilton on long weekends, to escape the bustle of Waihi.
Today there are places to learn tales of the past, you can take a trip deep into the bowels of a mine pit. A vintage railway runs between Waihi and Waikino, to search out relics from the early gold rush days. And we recommend a rim walk.
Walk the pit rim
The pit rim walkway leads from the town centre to viewing platforms, with tremendous views of the pit and Waihi countryside. The walk begins at a striking pumphouse, around the edge of the open pit for a view into a vast chasm. Signs give interesting facts about mine, on the loop back to the pumphouse.
The Cornish Pumphouse was originally built in a different location, to house a large steam engine, to pump water out of the mine. It was based on a design from one used in tin mines in Cornwall - and so the name. It was moved here from nearby, now a historic place category 1 building, due to its importance as one of New Zealand’s principal industrial monuments. It adds to a striking vista of New Zealand history.
And enjoy a picnic stop
Before or after that rim walk, take a picnic stop. There are delicious places in town to pick up picnic provisions, and there are perfect spots to enjoy that roadside stop - and to contemplate Waihi’s history of gold. It’s tremendous to picnic and relax, eat some of the country’s finest, and get a sense of place. At The FoodPath NZ we like to celebrate the special New Zealandness of the places we find, picnic spots included.
And for more…
To find more on The FoodPath NZ’s handpicked eateries, food producers and picnic spots, for our collection of spot on New Zealand food moments to check out on your next road trip, including around the Waihi area, download our New Zealand Food Trail Guides app here.