King Country–Waikato

3D King Country - Waikato from eastClick 3D map to enlarge; click again to zoom

Tongariro to Taumarunui: 65.5 km, 3 days

3D view Tongariro to Te Kuiti
Tongariro Family Holiday Park, SH 47 to Owhango: 38.5 km (maps 50, 49, 48)

Continue south-west on SH47 a short distance, then take the turn-off to the historic Te Pore Redoubt at right. You cross a bridge over a relative trickle of the Whanganui River, not far from its origins on Mt Tongariro. A track leads from the redoubt (military fortification) to Access Rd 3, which services the Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre. After passing the centre take the track off at right, and then the branch at left a short distance from the road. After 4.5 km the track descends to cross the Mangatepopo Stream before sidling above the now enlarged Whanganui River. It then joins up with the 42 Traverse Track (an old logging road) and emerges at Owhango on the Ohinetonga Rd. The 42 Traverse Track is said to be one of the best mountain bike trails in the North Island, so watch for cyclists. You could even take it yourself, as there are operators who will drop you off at the start (at Kapoors Rd?, further south-west on SH47 from the holiday park) and carry your pack to Owhango. There are no shops in Owhango. Circumvent the town by turning left into Onga St, then right into Omatane Rd to reach SH4, or stay at one of these places:

  • Forest Lodge & Motels – 13 Omaki Rd, $60/double, 07 895 4773.
  • Bushline Lodge – View on Bookabach, 54 Owhango Rd, 0274 848 999.
  • Owhango Hotel – SH 4 at Omatane Rd. Has bar and cafe and accommodation, $60/double or $30/person in two bed rooms. Seems to be synonymous, or associated with, Owhango Lodge, and Owhango Adventures.

Owhango to Taumarunui: 27 km (maps 48, 47)

Walk down SH4 a short distance from Owhango and turn right into Kawautahi Rd, and then right again into Hikumutu Rd. You then stay on this all the way to the south side of Taumarunui where you cross a bridge over the Whanganui and walk alongside the Taumarunui Domain. Turn slightly left into Miriama St, then quickly right into Hikaia St to reach the main street through town. Supermarkets are at the west end of town, and the camp ground is about 3 km east.

The only cheap places to stay in Taumarunui are the Taumarunui Holiday Park and Grandad’s Cottage. Both are unfortunately 4 km and 5.2 km (respectively) east of town.

  • Taumarunui Holiday Park  – ph 0800 473 281; 07 895 9345. Has basic cabins ($50 each) and camping sites.
  • Grandad’s Cottage – 298 Miro St, 027 600 8998. No website. Shared facilities in 2 room cottage and possibly camping.
  • Forgotten World Motel – Usefully located at west end of main street, opposite New World supermarket. Hakiaha St, Taumarunui, 07 895 7181, freephone 0800 724 52278.
  • Joss Beaton – Private accommodation 5 mins walk from supermarket. Two rooms with shared facilities: a double room and another with double bed and a single. $55 for 2 people, $15.00 for the third person in the single. Dogs present at the house. 027 346 8057.

Taumarunui to Te Kuiti via Pureora Forest:
161.5 km, 6 days

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Pureora Forest Park, north-west of Lake Taupo, between Te Kuiti and Taumarunui, was established in 1978 following tree-sitting protests about logging of native trees. It is known for its remaining giant rimu, matai, miro, totara and tawa trees, seen especially at the northern end of the trail, as well as for the rare kokako bird. The popularity of the Timber Trail means there are a number of operators offering shuttle services out of Taumarunui, Ongarue and other places to the trail ends.

In October 2017 the TA Trust rerouted the track to run along the mountain biker’s Timber Trail, which kind of rendered notes from my walk on the earlier route in 2016 redundant. The new route does mean less mud, a shorter trail, and avoids the problem of a poor camping site at the end of a long road walk from Taumarunui (and shortens that road walk). But accommodation along the Timber trail is only at camping sites (except where you can divert to Bogg Inn Hut near the end), you will be encountering a lot of cyclists, and you miss out on some good tramping. Also, with the route now changed there will be fewer TA people in the huts on the old route. So, if you want to do some bush tramping I would still consider the old route as follows, but I will draw something from the official notes to cover the new route as well (which I haven’t hiked).

Old Route

Taumarunui to Mangakahu Valley Road end: 9 hrs, 32 km

At the western end of Taumarunui, just after the McDonalds restaurant and before the bridge over the Ongarue River, turn north into Short St. Then go left into Golf Rd and continue through a round-about on it past the golf course to Taringamotu Rd. Turn right into this and left at its intersection with Simmons Rd to stay on the road as it soon passes through the small settlement of Taringamotu. At 10.5 km from Taumarunui turn left into Ngakonui-Ongarue Rd at the small settlement of Ngakonui, and right at its intersection with Piaua Rd 500m further on to remain on the same road. Then left at a further 2 km to stick with Ngakonui-Ongarue Rd at its intersection with Roberts Rd. Turn off to the right at the next intersection to get onto Mangakahu Rd. Towards the end it becomes a private farm road and you pass through several gates to reach the point where the road nominally ends and there is a signpost to the tramping track. The road end is more or less at a largish open area that could be camped upon, but the ground looks hard and there are no facilities.

Mangakahu Valley Road end to Hauhungaroa Hut (6 bunks): 3.5 hrs, 6 km (maps 45, 46)

A 4WD track continues on from the road end. It enters the Mangakahu Stream and goes up the stream bed a short distance before exiting to the right, but you can avoid getting wet feet by branching off at left before the 4WD track goes down to the water and then rejoining the track just after it exits the stream. It is a long climb up to Motere peak, through often muddy stretches. After sidling round the peak the track continues along the ridge, with sections of up and down. The turn-off to the hut at left is well signposted.

Hauhungaroa Hut has been recently built and has double glazing and fly screens as well as a great view and sunny orientation. It is a nice place to stay.

Hauhungaroa Hut to Waihaha Hut (10 bunks): 7 hrs, 11.5 km (maps 44, 45)

The route continues along the Hauhungaroa Range ridgeline, with alternating sections of level walking and up and down for 6.5 km, before steeply descending to follow a mostly flat route along the banks of the Waihaha River for another 6 km to the hut. There are two grassy areas very suitable for camping not far north of the descent off the Hauhungaroa Range. The first is about 500m from the bottom, on the 5711 horizontal gridline. The second, larger, and probably better, is 150m or so further north. There is also a pleasant flat section of river terrace in the bush amongst large trees about 1 km south of the Waihaha Hut that could also be used for camping.

The Waihaha Hut is situated in a very large grassy clearing. In the weekend you may find you are sharing the hut with overnight trampers who have come in on the 3 hr Waihaha Track to the east.

Waihaha Hut to Bog Inn Hut (4 bunks): 8.5 hrs, 17 km (maps 43, 44)

The track meets the Mangatu Stream 1 hr 15 mins after leaving the hut. A large fallen log across the stream provides a reasonably safe way across it to avoid wet feet. There is a flat area near the stream that would be a nice spot to camp. This is just before you attempt a strenuous, near vertical, climb by using tree trunks and roots as hand holds up onto a ridge.

After about 4 km on the ridge the track descends to the left at an intersection. A point of interest when you get down on the flat is a swampy pond just off to the right of the track. About ten minutes further on is a small area in the bush with a circle of stones for a fireplace that would be suitable for camping. A 300m steep ascent takes the track to Weraroa peak and another ridge of about 5.5 km, and then it is downhill to Bog Inn Hut.

Bog Inn Hut is a rustic affair, made from chainsawn and axe split timbers in 1960 to house scientists studying the nearby bog. There is space in the forest beyond it for several tents.

Bog Inn Hut to Pureora: 5 hrs, 16.5 km (map 43)

Leave Bog Inn on the track you arrived but watch for the intersection by a large tree for the track going uphill. It is not marked and you could easily find yourself on the way to Waihaha Hut again. The track then joins with the Timber Trail after 1 km. Eventually the track departs at right to steeply climb a muddy stretch to Mt Pureora (1165m). The top is bare, and offers 360 degree views taking in Lake Taupo to the south east. (The lake is a collapsed volcano whose most recent eruption around 233 CE was the biggest the world has seen over the last 5,000 years).

After another section of sometimes muddy track the trail rejoins the Timber Trail on the other side and winds its way down through previously logged country before entering the final, flatter stretch of 3 km through a forest of huge, ancient trees. There is an interesting 5 minute diversion to view an historic caterpillar tractor used to bring split logs for fence posts out of the bush in the 1930s and 40s.

The track ends at the Ngaherenga picnic area with toilets and barbecues near a DoC field station. You can camp here for a small fee, and a few hundred metres east along the road is another camping site. There is also Pureora Cabins in the village (phone Edwina or Kiri (07) 878 4879) and Pa Harakeke chalets 2 km along the trail from Pureora on Maraeroa Rd at Pa Harakeke Cultural Centre (same phone number). The cabins might be intended for groups and the chalets are somewhat upmarket ($150 for two people). The Timber Trail is big business in these parts and services are oriented towards people with plenty of money to spend on an outdoor experience.

New Route

Taumarunui to Ongarue Campsite: 23 km (maps 47, 46)

At the western end of Taumarunui, just after the McDonalds restaurant and before the bridge over the Ongarue River, turn north into Short St. Then go left into Golf Rd and continue through a round-about on it past the golf course. Continue past the  Taringamotu Rd turn-off on what becomes the Ongarue Back Rd and which follows the railway line along the Ongarue Stream. Turn right before a bridge that crosses over to the settlement of Ongarue into Ngakonui-Ongarue Rd and at Bennett Rd there is a campsite, specially constructed for TA walkers. There is also accommodation in Ongarue at Flashpackers if you want something more luxurious.

The Timber Trail – Ongarue Campsite to Pureora: 82 km (maps 46, 45, 44, 43)

The trail is a well graded, wide track, frequented by cyclists, with several campsites and some spectacular suspension bridges. There are toilets at campsites plus Mystery Creek and Harrison’s Rest Area. The trail can be divided up for walkers as follows: 17 km mostly uphill to No. 10 Camp; a further 25 km to Piropiro Campsite via No. 11 Camp and the 141m Maramataha Bridge; 22 km to Bogg Inn (4 bunks, but room for several tents in the hut surrounds (not boggy!); 18 km to Pureora; plus a 1. 5 hr diversion to the top of Mt Pureora for views of Lake Taupo, Mt Ruapehu and the Kaimanawa Ranges. See details above on the Ngaherenga picnic/camping area at Pureora and some cabins. There is nothing much else at Pureora – no shops or petrol station.

To Te Kuiti and points north

I have no personal experience of the trail from this point north, so these notes are simply a reverse paste and edit of the official notes, using the trail maps, NZ Topo maps and street maps for guidance. Please accept that there may be occasional small errors, but probably no more than if you had been doing this yourself. As with the other rural areas of the North Island the official notes offer no suggestions for camping for long stretches, but note that you shouldn’t camp on private land. So I can’t offer many suggestions for breaking the hike into day-long sections.

Pureora to Te Kuiti: 56.5 km (maps 43, 42, 41, 40)

You begin 36.5 km of back country road walking by heading west along the road from Pureora (Maraeroa Rd) and after 3.5 km turn left into SH30. After 7.5 km turn right into Mangaokewa Rd. Keep left at all the turn offs, including at the fork to Horokino at 4 km,  Allen Rd at the right after another 5 km, and Waipa Rd after another 3 km. The road turns south for 2 km at Waipa Rd. There is an airstrip and a turn off at right on this stretch. Ignore this branch too. The road turns west for 8.5 km to a point where Mangakaoweka North Rd branches off at right. Now you can finally turn right, into this road. After about 3.5 km this becomes the Mangakaoweka River Trail at a gate. You pass through farmland then pine and eucalyptus forest followed by more farmland and then totara forest with some good picnic spots. The track enters the Mangaokewa Reserve and after 2.5km crosses a swing bridge at the Waiteti Viaduct carpark to the east bank of the river (the viaduct is the train bridge down the road).

The track then crosses back over the river to a disused limeworks and quarry and follows alongside Beros Rd to a vehicle bridge and the Waitete Sawmill and Graymont Limeworks. You then turn right into Waitete Rd (SH30) and it is 1.5 km into the centre of Te Kuiti.

There is no specific accommodation on the route except 19 km south of Te Kuiti (leaving you 37.5 km to walk from Pureora) where at 200m north of the Mangaokewa North Rd road end land owners Sam and Laura have established a campsite by the trail, with a toilet, shelter, water and picnic table. There is an honesty box for the $5 fee (bring cash). 

Or you could hitch into Benneydale at the turn-off 12 km from Pureora to stay there:

  • Artdoc Gallery – 07 878 4780. $120 double. Check this is still going. Website taken down during 2018.
  • Benneydale Lodge and Wooden Heart Cafe 07 878 4708. $75 for 1 person, $110 for 2, $130 for 3.

Te Kuiti:

  • Hunt’s Farm Backpackers, BBH hostel – Formerly Casara Mesa Backpackers. Private and shared rooms, tent sites. Free pick-up possible. 2.2 km by foot north-east of the centre of town, 42 Mangarino Rd, RD6, Te Kuiti, 07 878 6697.
  • Te Kuiti Camping Ground – 1 Hinerangi St, 3 streets north-east of the main street, 07 878 8966. Fairly basic according to reviewers.
  • Sue Sands – Beds $25, camping $18. Text 021 104 9707.
  • There are several motels and a New World supermarket in town.
  • Te Kuiti i-Site Visitor Information Centre – Rora St, Te Kuiti, 07 878 8077.
  • DOC Maniapoto Area Office – 78 Taupiri Street, Te Kuiti, 07 878 1050.

Te Kuiti to Hamilton via Pirongia Mountain: 123 km, 6 days

There are no supermarkets between Te Kuiti and Hamilton and the only resupply options are the village store in Waitomo and a petrol station at Whatawhata (which is only a day away from Hamilton). There are cafés and eateries at Waitomo and Whatawhata. You could hitch-hike off trail just before Pirongia Mountain to Otorohanga to the south or the larger town of Te Awamutu to the east, but this seems more trouble than it is worth.

3D view Te Kuiti to Hamilton

Pehitawa Track – Te Kuiti to Waitomo: 17.5 km, 6 hrs (maps 39, 40)

This is a medium-grade tramp, largely on farms and in bush but includes a small portion of road margin. The track is steep sometimes. Expect hills with 150-metre ascents and descents. It pauses on top of high karsts to stare across the King Country’s low agriculture and tumbled limestone hills that rise to formidable volcanic summits – north to Pirongia, east to Pureora, and south to Ruapehu.

The first part is closed for lambing from 1 Aug to 1 Oct each year. At this time you can detour by walking north along SH 3 to Gadsby Rd and going down this to join up with the track.

Otherwise, turn west off SH3 at the north end of Te Kuiti to Brook Park Reserve on the Blue Trail and then Red Trail. The park offers panoramic views of Te Kuiti. The park is used as a farming operation by the Te Kuiti High School Charitable Trust. Noted tree collections are scattered throughout the park, including black walnuts, Pinus radiata tree crops, rhododendrons, and native trees such as kauri and rimu. Climb up through pines to trig point 263. Continue north over farmland and over a stile. On the next paddock is a small stand of trees with a marker and another stile. Veer east, over a stile, across a bridged stream and up a hill to two stiles separated by a farm race. 50m north-east is a viewing point with an historic pohutukawa and holly trees. In 1883 Maori chief Mahuki seized a railway surveying party of Wilson Hursthouse and others. Mahuki was furious at Hursthouse’s role in sacking the peaceful village of Parihaka. The prisoners were held in a shed on this site. They were fearful of being killed, but were rescued by the outlaw Te Kooti.

Continue down to a stile at Oparure Rd. A short distance north-east on the road the track continues at another stile. From a fence near the top of the hill follow markers down a ridge line to Pehitawa Forest (Queen Elizabeth II Trust-covenanted land with a fine remnant stand of kahikatea trees). The trail then crosses a suspension bridge over the Mangapu River followed by a stile at the right and farm bridge over a stream. Climb up to a farm race then along a fenceline, crossing a stile to continue on its other side to yet another stile and down through a patch of regenerating bush. On exiting onto farmland, continue north along a marked fenceline to a steep ascent through bush that can be very slippery when wet.

When you return to farmland again there are some enormous boulders thought to have been thrown out by a volcanic eruption 60 km away. You pass through a small gate and across a marked section of farmland to a stile at Fullerton Rd. Follow the road north for 1 km to Te Anga Rd (SH 37) and left into Waitomo Village. There are cafes and other eateries here, plus a motorcamp, a visitor centre, and the famous Waitomo Gloworm Caves. Expensive but worth a visit (07 878 8227; 0800 456 922 freephone). You can also do blackwater rafting.

  • Juno Hall, Waitomo – YHA and BBH, 600 Waitomo Caves Road, 1 km east of the village, 07 878 7649.
  • Kiwi Paka – Hotel Access Rd, offers a variety of levels of accommodation, 07 878 3395.
  • Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park – 12 Te Anga Rd, close to the village, 0508 498 666 (freephone); 07 878 7639.
  • Waitomo Caves Hotel – School Access Rd, cheapest rooms $125, 07 878 8204.
  • Hamilton Tomo Group – 155 Te Anga Rd, 1.5km north-west of Waitomo Village, Friendly caving club hut with plenty of bunk rooms and space to camp. Hot showers, drying room for wet gear, kitchen and large communal sitting room with wood burner and large deck. $15pp/night for bunkbed, $7.50pp/night camping – both include shower/kitchen. The club trips are held 1st Saturday of each month, email ahead if you’d like to join the trip. Some equipment can be hired.
  • Waitomo Village Store – 10 Waitomo Caves Rd, open 7 days, 7am to 7pm.

Waitomo to Hihikiwi track over Pirongia Mountain, 43.5 km (maps 38, 39)

This is a sometimes steep, rough tramping track with some back country road walking. Please respect track closure during lambing: 1 August to 1 October each year. Leave gates open or closed as you find them and give way to farming operations. NO camping or fires on private land. There are pockets of reserve and DoC land that can be used for camping along the way.

Waitomo to Pirongia Forest Park, 27 km
Head north-west out of Waitomo Village on Te Anga Rd and the Waikato Walkway that runs alongside it. You exit from the walkway onto the road at the roundabout and when Te Anga Rd turns sharply to the left keep going in your original direction on Ngatapuwae Rd. This then becomes an old logging track, with markers on the left. 12.5 km of walking through bush and farmland follows. There is a crossing of the Moakurarua Stream half-way along. This should be less than knee deep in normal flows but can rise higher after rain, when you should wait for the waters to recede.

On exiting mature forest you walk 1.5 km along a fence line through cut scrub, then over a stile, along a graded track for 700m, and a further 400m to a grass airstrip, which you need to cross. However, stop first to check the airstrip is not in use. If it is, attract the attention of the site manager and wait for their OK to cross, as this is a high risk area. Continue west along a fence line for about 1 km to the stile at the Mahoe Rd/Orongo Rd intersection.

Head north on the gravel Mahoe Road 500m past a woolshed near the north end of the road and a DOC sign “Omarama Scenic Reserve”. The trail follows old timber trails for some of the distance to a stile. Continue for 2 km to another airstrip and Gayne Rd. After 1 km there is a carpark and a locked gate at the intersection with Kaimango Rd. Keep right until you get to the intersection with Honikiwi Rd 50m further on and turn left to stay on Kaimango Rd, heading north through DoC forest.

Begining of Pirongia Forest Park to start of Hihikiwi track (Omanawa Stream) 17 km
Follow Kaimango Rd for 7.5 km through Pirongia Forest Park. When you reach Kawhia Rd (SH 31) at Te Rauamoa turn left and walk for 2.7 km until you come to Te Rauamoa Rd on the right as the main road turns west. Continue on Te Rauamoa Rd for 5.5 km to an intersection with Pekanui Rd on the right and Okupata Rd on the right. Keep going in the same direction north on Pirongia West Rd for 2 km to the Omanawa Stream.

If you want to go off-trail to resupply you could hitch east then south on Kawhia Rd (SH31) to Otorohanga, which has a Countdown supermarket. The larger town of Te Awamutu is due east but once you have to depart from Kawhia Rd there is no direct route to the centre. Another option, not so much for resupply, though it does have a general store, is to head west on the Kawhai Rd to Kawhai itself, a pleasant sea-side settlement.

  • Bartlam’s Bush Homestay – South of Pirongia (7.5 km east of the trail), 027 294 3652 (Lynn), Caravan accommodation (incl bathroom), tent sites (incl bathroom), shuttle from/to trail (for a small fee), laundry, organic meals.
  • Rangimarie Bush Retreat – Airbnb, about 5 km east of Te Rauamoa, $95 (Totara Cabin) & $90 (The Barn).

Pirongia Traverse – Pirongia West Rd at Omanawa Stream to Kaniwhaniwha campsite: 14 km (maps 37, 38)

Omanawa Stream to Pahautea Hut 5.5 km
Climb up a spur up the Hihikiwi Track to Hihikiwi peak (905 m) and then a short distance to Pahautea Hut (20 bunks on two platforms). There are campsites by the hut and a shelter, but note that fires are not permitted. The Pirongia Traverse is notoriously muddy, so be prepared for deep mud after rain or in winter.

Pahautea Hut to Kaniwhaniwha campsite 8.5 km
From here head east to Pirongia Mountain peak (959m) and keep left at the next two track forks to end up on the long straight Tahuanui Track that follows a ridge down hill to the Kaniwhaniwha campsite (with toilets and a place to swim).

Waipa Walk – Kaniwhaniwha campsite to Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton: 30.5 km (maps 37, 36)

Take the 2.5 km Nikau Walk to the Kaniwhaniwha carpark and picnic area on the Limeworks Loop Rd. Walk west and then north on Limeworks Loop Rd, turning left before a bridge and then crossing another bridge to meet Fillery Rd. Just over the bridge the Karamu Walkway South (aka Kapamauhanga Walkway?) begins at right. There is an Airbnb near here (see below).

The next section is closed for lambing 1 August to 10 November. During this time, cross the first bridge mentioned above to walk east on Limeworks Loop Rd and then left on Te Pahu Rd until in joins Old Mountain Rd.

Otherwise, go along the Karamu Walkway beside the Kaniwhaniwha River, then head uphill and down the other side to a rural airstrip. Keep going north 3 km to Old Mountain Rd, staying to the right when the track forks near the road.

Turn right into Old Mountain Rd and walk 5 km to Te Pahu Rd. Cross the road to a riverside track by the Waipa River. Note that when the river is in flood this may not be usable – use Te Pahu Rd instead. The track joins up with the road briefly to cross the Paratawa Stream before following the river again.

The track ends on SH23, Whatawhata Rd. Go north on it about 1km, over the Waipa River, and just before Whatawhata village turn right into Kakaramea Rd (SH39). There is a petrol station (Whatawhata Service Centre) and tavern (The Backyard Bar and Eatery) in the village. Turn left into Walsh Rd. This turns 90 degrees right after 1km, and at its end a 2 km track heads off east at left. At its end is O’Dea Rd. This becomes Howden Rd, and from this you turn right into Taitua Rd to end up at the Taitua Arboretum carpark. It is about 8 km east into the centre of the major city Hamilton from here.

Hamilton’s Taitua Arboretum Is a collection of mature trees on 20 hectares of open pasture, lakes and woodland gardens linked by a network of walking tracks and bridges. The park also features great views and wonderful bird life. Open 7 days from 8am to half an hour before dusk. Admission free.

  • Karamu Cottage – AirbnB, on Limeworks Rd, near Fillery Rd, $80.
  • Karamu Valley Lodge – 207 Old Mountain Rd, Karamu (about halfway along the TA section of the road), 07 829 3304; 021 298 9407, $120/night for single or couple. Pick ups & drop offs are available.
  • Backyard Bar and Eatery – 1333 Horotiu Rd, Whatawhata (SH39/SH23 intersection), 07 829-8804; 021 2846237 (Roger); Free campsite with showers and toilet or cabin with bunk beds for $15pp. A range of food and drinks available in the Eatery. Owners live on site.
  • Stokes family – Camping on lawn at 10C Bell RD, about 600m north-west of trail at Waipa River bridge, Whatawhata. Turn off trail onto Maori Point Rd from Whatawhata Rd. 022 400 6123 (Paul).
  • T & T’s Place – Airbnb, Rowe Rd, near Taitua Arboretum, double bed, $48.

Taitua Arboretum to Pukete Rd, Hamilton: 18 km (map 36)

Continue on Taitua Rd until you reach Wallace Rd, and turn left into it. A paved cycleway across farmland branches off at right when the road turns directly north. This takes you to Tills Lookout on a reserve. Continue in a slightly more northerly direction on Melva St to join up with Whatawhata Rd. Turn right into it and walk about 1.2 km to a roundabout. Take the Killarney Rd exit going east. Just over the rail line is the Western Rail Trail going north (exit onto Fraser St a short distance north to the Hamilton Railway Station if you need to take a train north towards Auckland (departing 4.30pm) or south towards Wellington (10.15 am)).

The trail ends at Norris Ward Park. Cross the park to Tristram St, and at the south end Ward St continues north-east. When it reaches Anglesea St you can continue on through to Victoria St, the main drag of Hamilton, via Ward St and a complex area of lanes and a hopping centre. If some areas are closed, turn left on Anglesea St and right into Bryce St to reach Victoria St (the Hamilton Transport Centre is on the corner of Anglesea and Bryce, should you need either a bus out of town, or a local taxi or bus). In either case, turn right into Victoria St and after a short distance left into Alma St and down the Centennial Steps to Te Awa (a combined walk-cycle way) along the river, heading 8 km north-west to end at Pukete Rd.

  • I-SITE Visitor Information Centre – 5 Garden Place, Hamilton, 07 839 3580.
  • DOC Waikato Area Office – 5 Northway St, Te Rapa, 07 838 3363.
  • Hamilton Transport Centre – cnr Bryce and Anglesea Sts, with toilets, showers, luggage lockers, cafe, toilets. BusIt goes between Huntly and Hamilton (0800 800 402), Dalroy Express to Auckland, New Plymouth and Hawera (0508 465 622), plus Intercity and Naked Bus for national services.
  • Free Hamilton City Centre buses go every 10 minutes Monday – Friday: 7am-6pm Mon-Fri and 9am-1pm Sat–Sun.
  • Supermarkets: PakN’Save (Clarence St, and 17 Mill St);  Countdown (Cnr Anglesea & Liverpool Sts); Wellmart Asian (27 Liverpool St); New Save Asian (130-136 Tristram St).
  • Trek’n’Travel – 221 Victoria St. Outdoor supplies. Has a register book for TA hikers and very knowledgeable staff.
  • Backpapckers Central – 846 Victoria St, as the name suggests, very central and is minutes way from the TA trail. Price includes breakfast. 07 839 1928.
  • Eagles Nest backpackers – 937 Victoria St, slightly further north than Backpackers Central. No website? 07 838 2704.
  • Microtel Lodge  – 140 Ulster St, slightly further north than Eagles Nest Backpackers and near Mill St Pak’nSave supermarket, with small single rooms sharing facilities with one other bedroom at $49, plus doubles, dorm beds, and cheap studio rooms, 07 9571848.
  • YWCA Hostel – Cnr Clarence & Pembroke Sts, about 700m south of the TA trail where it meets Ward St. Pak’nSave supermarket nearby, but further from centre of town than other accommodations above. 07 838 2219.
  • Forty winks Backpackers Hostel – 267 River Rd, Claudelands, on the other side of the river from the shopping centre of Hamilton, over the Claudelands Rd bridge. No website, but has Facebook page.  07 855 2033.
  • Hamilton City Holiday Park – 14 Ruakura Rd, Claudelands, about 2 km east of city centre. Camping, cabins & self contained units, 07 855 8255.
  • TA walkers offering accommodation: Murray Pinkerton has cabin or campsite at his house available for a small fee on the western outskirts of Hamilton, just before Dinsdale (after Whatawhata). 0274 952848 or And the Smith family offer campsite accommodation in North Hamilton, near the trail: 027 323 3787.

Hamilton to Mercer – River Walking: 70 km, 3 days

The rest of the trail in the Waikato is mostly along the banks of the Waikato River. This is is a dangerous river, running swift and deep, and swimming is NOT recommended. Water erosion may undermine the bank near the river edge and the track may become impassable when the river is in flood. 

3D view Hamilton to Mercer

Hamilton to Ngaruawahia – Te Awa (The River): 12 km, 3 hrs (maps 35, 36)

Keep going in the same direction along Pukete Rd until a path branches off at right along the river. Follow this until it curves around to join up with Pukete Rd again. Then turn right down Meadow View Rd to the river again. A large Fonterra milk processing plant will be at your left when this road turns directly to the river near its end. Just after passing under the Waikato Expressway bridge you cross the river on the Horotiu Bridge and follow the river on its other bank before re-crossing at the spectacular new green pedestrian/cycle Perry Bridge over to the margin of the Ngaruawahia Golf Course (the bridge was opened in October 2017 and doesn’t appear on some maps yet).

Continue north-west along the river bank. As you near the rail bridge you will pass the Turangawaewae Marae across the river. This is the official residence and reception centre of the head of the Kingitanga (Maori King Movement), making Ngaruawahia a significant place for Maori. The marae is open only once a year, during the annual canoe regatta, which is held on the nearest Saturday to 17 March. Taupiri Mountain, which watches over Ngaruawahia, is sacred and contains the Waikato’s most significant Maori burial ground. It is about 6 km north-west of the township on the true right bank of the river by SH1. You can walk to the summit for views of the region but it is not on your route, as you progress north on the other side of the river.

As you continue you will pass under the road and then rail bridge to come to the junction of two great rivers, the Waikato and Waipa, which once served as important canoe routes. Turn at the junction of the rivers to go south a short distance on the Waipa before crossing Waingaro Rd bridge.

  • River Bed Motel – 13 Market St, Ngaruawahia, 07 824 8360. Formerly Arrow Lodge Motel.
  • Kandoit Earthship – Waingaro Rd, Ngaruawahia. Off-grid eco retreat built from car tyres and other recycled material to create NZ’s first ‘Earthship’ standard home. $60/person b&b, 027 271 3400.

  • New World Supermarket – 7 Galileo St, Ngaruawahia

Hakarimata Walkway: Ngaruawahia to Parker Rd, 12 km, 6-7 hrs (maps 34, 35)

The Hakarimata Track is steep, hilly and arduous but the bush and views are worth it.

Turn right over the Waingaro bridge into Hakarimata Rd and then left into Brownlee Ave to start the Hakarimata Summit Track. The summit is 374m high, and from there you head north along the ridge. You end up at the Upper Lookout. From here you can take the Kauri Loop Track to the west to a grove of large kauri trees and an old pa (Maori fortified village) site. A shorter route takes you directly to the Lower Lookout through stands of rimu trees. From here you descend a long flight of steps to Parker Rd.

Parker Rd to Rangiriri, 21 km (maps 33, 34)

Turn left from the northern end of Parker Rd into Hakarimata Rd, which then turns into Riverview Rd along the bank of the Waikato River again. When it turns left away from the river a little it becomes Harris St at an intersection with Rotowaro Rd and Tainui Bridge Rd. You can head over the bridge into Huntly for food or accommodation. Otherwise keep going north on Harris St. Keep right when it forks into Hetherington and Te Ohaki Rds to stay on the river side of the huge Huntly Power Station. The trail passes through bush in a sculpture park for 200m in front of the power station then continues on Te Ohaki Rd.

The track ducks over the stopbanks off the road for 500m after Te Ohaaki Marae before rejoining the road for a similar distance and then departing at right again along a stopbank. After 1.5km it goes to the river side of the Huntly Golf Course. Walkers are welcome to have refreshments at the clubhouse when it is open on the weekends.

About 1.4 km before Maurea Marae, there’s a monument to the Ngati Naho chief, Te Wheoro, who embodied the extraordinary stresses of colonial rule on Waikato Maori as they argued strategies to preserve tribal identity. Te Wheoro sided at first with the crown and was against the idea of a Maori king. In the years following the 1863 British military invasion of the Waikato however, he served as an intermediary for the government’s negotiation with Tawhiao, the Maori King. But as a Maori MP over the next two decades, Te Wheoro witnessed government decisions he saw as racist and finally became an implacable critic of the Native Land Court. He came to believe local self-government was right for Maori and in 1884, in company with Tawhiao, he travelled to England to unsuccessfully petition Queen Victoria for redress of Maori land seizures.

The track ends at a stile. Cross the bridge here over the river to Rangiriri. It is safer to cross on the south side and then scramble down the bank and under the bridge to head north.

  • Huntly i-Site Visitor Information – 156 Great South Rd, Huntly, 07 828 6406
  • Huntly Camping Grounds (aka Lake Hakanoa Motor Caravan Park) – 5 Taihua St, Huntly, about 2 km north of the road bridge, 07 828 8363. 15 tent sites, 42 power sites, 4 onsite caravans, 3 cabins.
  • The Essex Arms – 151 Main St, Huntly, just north of the rail bridge, backpackers $60/person, 07 828 7179.
  • Manor Views – 24 Upland Rd, Huntly, rooms from $90, plus honeymoon suites, 07 828 0171; 021 959 562.
  • Fred’s 4 Four Square – Gordon Rd, Huntly.
  • Countdown Supermarket – 16/18 Tumate Mahuta Drive, Huntly.
  • Rangiriri Hotel – 8 Talbot Street, Rangiriri (pub, bar, food & accommodation), 07 826 3467.
  • Cathy Miller is in Rangiriri, adjacent to the pub and cafe. There are camping and shower facilities, washing machine, food and a 4 bedroom guest house. Call/text Cathy on 0274 404 924.

Rangiriri to Mercer, 25.5 km (maps 33, 32)

Waikato River, 17.5km
The trail begins near an old redoubt where, in 1863, British troops fought Waikato warriors in a bloody encounter. The nearby Rangiriri Battle Site Heritage Centre displays military relics and an audio-visual of the battle.

The next section goes for 2km on the stopbank then 2 km on the road, and a further 3 km on stopbank. Young bulls are sometimes grazed in the first section, so walking on the road is an option if you would prefer to avoid them.

Near the end of the final section is Tarahanga, an island that was used in former times as a Maori sentry post to detect invaders on the river. High priests here once uttered powerful incantations and sounded alarms through a rock structure known as Te Pahu o Ngati Pou, warning of any impending danger.

After passing the Pumphouse and 30m of boardwalk over a swamp the remaining 9 km to Draway Rd are the most scenic part of the track. There is a water supply near the pumphouse at about where Churchill East Rd comes in from the east (approx grid ref 1782.7/5859.3).

Whangamarino Wetlands Track, 5.5km
Turn left back to the river when you get to Dragway Rd and walk along the stopbank, past the outfall of the former power station, landscaped grasslands, boggy wetlands and mythological taniwha lairs. Keep as close to the river as you can before turning right to go under two highway bridges and a rail line to the Whangamarino floodgate and over the Oram Rd bridge

Whangamarino Redoubt Track, 2.5km
This is a very scenic route but the track is basic, hilly and can be slippery. You begin near the Whangamarino Redoubt (an historic fortification from the NZ Wars). Follow the markers through bush and over farmland. From the high points, there are great views of the Waikato River and the Whangamarino wetland which is the second largest bog and swamp complex in the North Island. You eventually go along a fence line with orange markers to join Skeet Rd. At the end of Skeet Rd turn left into Koheroa Rd and over the motorway and then right to follow the river bank to the Service Centre, with a petrol station and eateries.

Long haul bus companies such as InterCity, Northliner Express Coach Service and Naked Bus call into Mercer on request (there are separate stops going north and south for InterCity). On the other side of the motorway is the train station but no trains currently stop here, though there are moves to start a commuter train service from Auckland to Hamilton.

Mercer Motel – 2 Roose Rd, Mercer, 09 233 6555. Has motel units plus free campsites and showers/toilets for Te Araroa walkers. Adjacent to the Mercer Motel is a tavern called Podge’s Place with meals and refreshments.

Always check the Trail Status pages of the official Te Araroa website for recent changes or alerts on the trail.

Last updated 5 October 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s