New Zealand | North Island Hiking


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new zealand, north island, hiking, karangahake gorge, windows walkKarangahake Gorge.Kail and I heard a lot of reactions when we would tell people about our upcoming New Zealand campervan adventure. The most common was: 11 days is NOT enough time to see both the North and South Islands. We also got a lot of: Just go to the South Island because there’s nothing to see on the North Island. I would say people were wrong on both counts.new zealand, north island, hiking, karangahake gorge, windows walkHike along the Waitawheta River.True, 11 days is not enough time to see everything on both islands — we certainly could have spent all 11 days on one island or the other and still not seen it all. But it was enough to see many of the highlights (weather permitting) and enjoy the vast beauty that is New Zealand.new zealand, north island, hiking, karangahake gorge, windows walkWaitawheta River.Our first full day in New Zealand, we departed Manukau Holiday Park outside Auckland and hit the road. We knew we had to head south and end up near the town of Matamata that night because we had booked a tour of Hobbiton the next day. We also knew we wanted to spend some time outdoors on a short day hike, or “tramp” as New Zealanders call it. After consulting our complimentary NZ Frenzy guidebooks, we decided to check out Karangahake Gorge, a historic site of goldmine ruins, railway tunnels, tramping paths, swimming holes and waterfalls.new zealand, north island, hiking, karangahake gorge, windows walkView from the “Windows Walk.”We arrived at the carpark, where the Waitawheta River merges with the Ohinemuri River. There are a few different tramping options, and we opted for the “Windows Walk,” a one-hour loop that partially follows the old mining tramway track through tunnels in the mountain. (A flashlight or headlamp is necessary.) Part of the loop was closed for repair, so we ended up doing a sort of out-and-back on one half of the track, then the other.new zealand, north island, hiking, karangahake gorge, windows walkView of one of the “windows” from the trail below.Along the tunnel there are “windows” cut out from the side of the mountain, offering glimpses of the beautiful gorge below. Since we weren’t able to do the full Windows Walk loop due to the trail closure, we also hiked part of the Crown Track, a one-hour one-way riverside walk that follows the Waitawheta River upstream. Eventually we turned around and headed back to the campervan, where I made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.new zealand, north island, hiking, wairere fallsWairere Falls.By the time we left Karangahake Gorge it was mid-afternoon, so we still had enough daylight hours to do one more outdoor activity. We decided to see Wairere Falls, which, at 152 meters, are the North Island’s highest falls. There are two hiking options: 6-kilometer or 10-kilometer out-and-back trails, the shorter of which takes you up to a viewpoint to see the falls and the longer of which takes you all the way to the top of the falls.new zealand, north island, hiking, wairere fallsWe didn’t have quite enough time (or energy) for the 10-kilometer version, but even the shorter hike got our heart rates up on some of the steeper climbs. Compared to the Karangahake Gorge hike, which mostly followed the river (minus the part in the tunnels), the Wairere Falls hike took us through thick canopies of trees in the forest.new zealand, north island, hiking, wairere fallsView of Wairere Falls from the road.We really enjoyed both hikes and were no less than awed by our first day in New Zealand. I remember thinking that even if our vacation ended the next day, I’d seen so much natural beauty that I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed. Little did I know what else the country had in store for us. Nothing to see on the North Island? I disagree.What are some of your favorite hiking tracks?The Details: Karangahake GorgeGPS Coordinates: -37.422682, 175.721492Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/gcPKfHike: Easy walks to difficult tramps; one to three hoursThe Details: Wairere FallsGPS Coordinates: -37.737183, 175.862572Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/O0nAUHike: Moderate to difficult tramps 3km or 5km one way; 45 to 90 minutesSee more photos from New Zealand’s North Island.

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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