Enjoy the Hauraki rail trail and Karangahake gorge as a family

So we are all about making memories as a family, out and about being active. What better way than on bikes? Most kids love the freedom of bikes, parents can get some great exercise for themselves and let’s not forget it’s also good for the environment to ditch the car and use our own pedal power. 

The Hauraki rail trail is a good day or weekend option from Auckland or Hamilton and the flat, easy riding makes it manageable for kids and a great introduction to riding trails as a family. Let’s face it – it’s great to get out of the city on a bike and really feel the fresh, country air.

Given the Karangahake gorge is so beautiful and there is so much to do with kids we turned it into a short weekend trip – leaving Saturday morning and arriving home late Sunday afternoon so it was easy on both the family and the traffic!

Here is the low down on our adventures.

Biking the Hauraki rail trail with kids

We have chosen the section between Paeroa and Waihi because it takes in the beauty of the gorge but also has some great attractions for the kids. A nice, gentle pedal through rolling countryside and tree lined railway cuttings was a joy but the real excitement came at the tunnels. Donning head torches and cycling through the “spooky” dim light was a real adventure for the kids (enhanced by the spooky sound effects added by the parents!). It also pushed their boundaries because it’s not easy keeping your balance, avoiding collisions and maintaining momentum in the dark, even for adults! So they did very well and got a real boost in getting to the end.

They were rewarded by another of many cool bridges to go over and lunch in a scenic spot by the river. Kids being kids they spent most of their “break” clambering the rocks. Then we were on the homeward stretch through the goldfields battery with all its history and over another long swing bridge to the historic Waikino railway station and the long promised ice cream!

17 kilometres in total went by in a few hours, several hot cross buns, numerous jelly dinosaurs and very minimal protests – just requests for more dinosaur fuel! With pretty active kids ranging from 5 to 8 it was the perfect length. For children who are a bit more cautious there are plenty of options to hire “tag ons” which strap to your bike effectively making it a tandem so they pedal when they want to. And for parents who need a little power assistance the emergence of e-bikes is a godsend. All of these can easily be rented locally.

The excitement of the Goldfields railway


excitement of the goldfields railwayOur day was topped off with a ride for us (and our bikes) on the historic Goldfields Railway, a heritage train which operates between Waikino and Waihi. Now let’s be honest, unless you are over 80 or under 10,a 7km deadly slow ride on a train is not on your bucket list, right? But it was brilliant fun for all as the kids loved it. From the bright coloured tickets, the hand stamps (every kids loves a stamp!), the thrill of riding outdoors on a train, in fact just being on a train – it was 30 minutes of huge smiles and laughter. It was like little kid nirvana. 
For the first few kms the train rides next to the highway and that age old game of waving at cars to see who waves, or even better honks, provided the entertainment. Thereon in the volunteers (who i have to say were superb) amused the kids, pointing out colourful taniwha, hidden faces in rocks and yes, even cows peeing (city kids, easy amused!). I personally loved to see that the railway gave opportunities to local people with learning difficulties opportunities to work and the whole operation oozed community spirit

A family friendly walk through the Karangahake gorge

Let’s face it a family walk can often be a challenge. Not so much on the legs, but sometimes on the ears. Kids whining can destroy even the most active and positive of parent’s enjoyment of family walks and they can descend from family bonding to family frustration!
Well a tramp along the family friendly walking paths of the Karangahake gorge with maps for kids to follow and a Toyota Kiwi Guardians medal at stake was so fun the kids barely noticed they were walking. With old mining relics to find and more tunnels to search through with head torches they practically ran from one thing to the next. And in true kid fashion the highlight was their own made up game – searching for gold crystals en route and filling their bulging pockets.
We were glad we took the time to do this on the Sunday, rather than cramming it on with the bike ride. The kids were refreshed and relaxed and had a good few hours hunting their gold!

Family friendly accommodation in Waihi Beach 

We chose to overnight at Waihi beach – just 10 minutes down the road it seemed silly not to hang out in the beautiful beachside town.

There are plenty of good Air B&Bs in town but we also enjoy using the two Top 10 Holiday parks which both have good family sized, fully contained cabins and play areas for the kids.


The Waihi Beach Holiday Resort has the added attraction of a swimming pool and spa!


Other family friendly activities in Karangahake and Waihi

There are several family friendly walks in Waihi beach. From the far end of the beach you can take the path along the coastline towards Orakawa bay with stunning views out to sea:


Or The Trig Walk, a relatively new trail, will take you a couple of hours through the bush and leading to views of the bay


If you fancy making the most of the well known Waihi surf breaks then take a family surf lesson. The beach surf school offers groups lessons : https://www.beachsurfschool.co.nz/

Or if you would rather rest weary legs (and butts!) after a day on the bikes then check out the Gold Discovery Centre. It educates kids on the gold mining history in an interactive way and gives them an opportunity to get up close to modern day gold mining. Honestly our kids were begging to check it out once we got inside the funky new centre.


The options for family adventure are endless in this easily accessible part of Aotearoa. Let us plan your trip for you, so you can just turn up and enjoy! Or join us on one of our group family trips.

What are you waiting for?