Waitawheta Hut via The Tram Line – Tramway

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The Waitawheta Tramway track is a relatively flat easy walk following the old tram line for 9km one way. It’ll take you around 6 to 8 hours to complete this great round trip walk through the stunning Waitawheta Gorge. Waitawheta Sawmill started operation in 1923. They built a tramway up the Waitawheta valley to get the timber out to the gold miners working in the Mt Martha Gold mine in Waihi and just down the road in the Karangahake Gorge. Waitawheta is one of the most spectacular bush tramways ever built. A relatively lengthy (14 km) section still survives in near pristine condition today.

Quick Facts

        • Location: North Island NZ
        • Distance: 19 km
        • Time needed: 6 to 8 Hours
        • Difficulty: Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: Double back
        • Elevation: 350m
        • Wet Feet: Yes
        • Toilets: Yes
        • Dogs: No
        • Mobile Coverage: No
        • Last Updated: November, 2019
  • Track Highlights

    The Waitawheta valley is where all the history on the old days of Kauri logging. Around the Waitawheta Hut you can look at the old Waitawheta sawmill then you walk all the way out on the old, very flat Tramway. Waitawheta is one of the most spectacular bush tramways ever built. A relatively lengthy (14 km) section survives in near pristine condition.

  • Track Quality

    You walk along the very flat and historic Waitawheta Tramline, there were three river crossing. The track is wide and good quality. There are only two toilets, one is in the new Waitawheta Hut and the other is 30 minutes down river form the new Waitawheta Hut at the old Waitawheta Hut site.

  • Hazards

    River crossing after heavy rain. This track should not be attempted when heavy rain is forecast from the north to south east direction.

  • Transport

    Make your own way there, no public transport.

  • Water

    Plenty of good river water along the way or at the Waitawheta Hut.

  • Driving Instructions

    The start of the walking track is about 11 km from Waihi. In Waihi, turn off SH 2 onto Kenny Street. Turn right into Victoria Street and follow this as it becomes Frankton Road, then Waitawheta Road. After about 9 km, turn off Waitawheta Road into Franklin Road. Follow this to the parking area at the end.

  • Shops or Restaurants nearby


  • Area & Track History

    The Waitawheta River valley in full of history, you can see amassing rock formation and high bluffs in narrow river gorges. The Kaimai Rangers was very rich in Kauri trees. The timber was used for masts and spars in the old sailing ships, then later on the timber was used to build houses. When gold was discovered in the Waihi Coromandel area timber was worth as much as gold. Plus it took one ton of valuable firewood to process one ton of gold bearing ore. Thousands of feet of timber was used for bracing in the tunnels and to build water races. In 1896 there was a public auction in Waitawheta Kauri Forest for the sale of 17,500,000 feet of Kauri timber. The Waitawheta Sawmill started operation in 1923 and built a tramway up the Waitawheta valley to remove the giant Kauri logs. But when the new 750 pound loco arrived from Invercargill and driven up to Devils Elbow it would not get around the corner, so out goes the new loco and back came the horses. It was not till 1923 that Joughin’s tractor arrived and took over the heavy work from the horses. Waitawheta Tramway also made history in 1913 when NZ’s longest transmission line went down the Waitawheta river to Waihi, a staggering 77km. 50,000 volts was supplied to the Victoria Battery and the still working Martha Mine.

  • Best Things To Do near this walk

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  • Map location of Waitawheta Hut via The Tram Line - Tramway

    Map of walk

Points of interest along the walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description about each one.

Point 1: The Franklin Road Car Park – Start of the walk

Franklin Road car park is a short 11.5km drive from the town of Waihi on a sealed narrow country road. You can only park in the designated car park, you might get towed by the farmers tractor if you block the road off.

Point 2: First river crossing

From the car park just follow the road to the farm gate. Now follow the orange markers across private farm land to the start of the Waitawheta Tramway. There are two gates and a fence to navigate through. The track on your left as you enter the bush is the 2km, 45 minute wet feet walk to the Bluff Stream and Kauri Loop Walk, now just follow your nose along the Waitawheta Tramway. In the first ten minutes all you will see are the tramway sleepers, the rest of the walk is over hard clay and stones. In about 45 minutes, you should be at the turnoff on your right to Dalys Clearing hut. Just around the corner from Dalys Clearing turnoff is a waterfall where I tipped out my chemically treated town water and topped up with fresh water. It is amazing how accustom we get to disgusting town water. This section of the tramway was very interesting. 15 minutes past Dalys Clearing turnoff you will meet up with the Bluff Stream walk. If you want to hike it over to Ananui Falls it will take you 3 hours and 30 minutes. Watch out for the old railway lines, you might trip over them, you are now at Devil’s Elbow and 5 minutes from the first new Waitawheta Swing Bridge. Just around the corner you can have a good look at one of the old timber wagons before getting your feet wet.

Point 3: Waitawheta Hut

1 hour and 30 minutes to go. In the next 10 minutes you have two giant swing bridges, but this is followed but two wet stream crossings, before you arrive at the old Waitawheta Hut site. The is also the first toilet on the walk. This is also a good site to pitch the tent if you don’t mind the sun hitting your tent till very very late in the morning. 40 minutes from the old hut site I was crossing the last bridge 100m before the Waitawheta Hut. You will see a track on your left just after you cross the last bridge, this track will take you to the old sawmill site. So come back to this track after you dropped your gear off at the hut and made a hot coffee. If you are staying the night, take the track behind the hut that run’s up to Mt Te Aroha. Walk past the new bridge to the bend in the stream 20m, the water here is very good and at night you will see glowworms. There can be rat’s around the hut. If you are interested in looking at a Kauri Dam go back to the last bridge you crossed, turn to the right, no to the left as if you were going home, this is the Wharawhara saddle track. Walk about 40 minutes and keep looking for an old sign post with the sign missing on your right. Turn to the left onto a very old track and walk up hill for ten minutes, you will drop down into a creek where you will see the Kauri dam.

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