On my drive south from Whitianga, I had enough daylight left to visit the Karangahake Gorge, an old mining area renowned for its beauty. I can never pass up history and great scenery, not to mention swing bridges. The road into the gorge alone was worth the trip. I pulled over beside a bike path when I saw signs for a waterfall.
The trek to the falls took less than five minutes. I didn’t imagine they would be this magnificent, but New Zealand always surpasses all expectation.
Knowing the sun sets before 5:00 this time of year, I hurried on to the main historic area of the gorge. I couldn’t have timed it better, as the sinking sun tinged everything with gold, rather appropriate given the mining history.
This area produced 60% of New Zealand’s gold in the early 20th century and operated up until the 1950s. The nearby town of Waihi is still an active mining center to this day.
In the Karangahake Gorge, nature is slowly reclaiming most of the mining works.
Just my kind of place, ruins and swing bridges!
I was running out of daylight, but I couldn’t resist the urge to venture down one of the nearby pathways to see what lay ahead. My decision paid off when I was soon greeted by wonderful views of the Ohinemuri River running through the gorge.
Further ahead, I saw signs for an old train tunnel. I couldn’t turn back now!
Some bikers emerged from the tunnel as I finished taking photos, but I didn’t have time to venture into its damp confines. I turned back and set off at a brisk pace. I didn’t want to be stuck on the winding gorge roads after sundown.
I’d love to come back to Karangahake with more time to explore at some point.
I got in my car and made the hour drive to Mount Maunganui, an extension of Tauranga, the largest city in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty region. Mount Maunganui is situated on a peninsula dominated by, you guessed it, Mount Maunganui, or simply, “the Mount.” I got to my hostel just after dark and enjoyed some reading by the fireplace with a glass of wine before heading to bed. Yes, this hostel had a fireplace!
The next morning, the day dawned a bit cloudy, but the rain seemed to be holding off. A half marathon was going on around the base of the Mount, but I was headed for its summit. I parked as close as I could manage and set off.
It didn’t take long for great views to start unfolding.
The path wound around the Mount and every side had its own spectacular sights.
Matakana Island, New Zealand’s only raised sand barrier island, stretched off into the distance to my right as rocky cliffs rose on my left.
As I neared the summit, the views became even more epic.
Best seat in the house.
As I rounded the other side of the Mount, the views out over town were incredible as the peninsula stretched seemingly to infinity.
I was able to get some good use out of my telephoto lens, as well. The city resembles a model village from above.
With the drive to Taupo still ahead of me and my stomach starting to grumble about food, I descended the Mount via the most direct path. I decided I still had time to make my way around the base before heading into town, though. I’m never one to turn away from an opportunity for exploration, and green pastures beckoned.
On the path around the base, I had to expertly maneuver my way through a seemingly endless tide of marathon runners, but the scenery was well worth it.
I got a delicious burger in town before hitting the road to Taupo, the last overnight destination of my trip. Of course, I made time for some adventures along the way. More to come on that soon!