Waitawheta is one of the most spectacular bush tramways ever built. A relatively lengthy (14 km) section survives in near pristine condition in a magnificent gorge and bush setting. This is a ‘must visit’ bush tram route, second only to Charming Creek in terms of ‘wow’.
In October 2004 DOC opened a new 26 bunk hut at the top of the tram, which makes the overnight option very comfortable. It is located on the site of the Waitawheta Sawmilling Co cookhouse. Guest of honour at the hut opening was 92 year old Ruth Murray, who began work here as a cookhouse waitress aged 12 in 1922.
The track is located in the Waitawheta Valley and can be accessed from Waihi along SH2. From Waihi travel on SH2 towards Paeroa, turn left onto the Waitawhta Road, 2km past the Waikino Cafe. Continue along the Waitawheta Road and turn right into Franklin Road until the road ends. Access to the track is over farmland, 200m past the carpark.0
Today the tram route is a popular trampers track. Several of the more challenging river crossings have been bridged however multiple river crossings are still required to reach the site of the former Waitawheta Saw Mill.
Note: The track includes six crossings of the Waitawhata river. Visitors should not attempt to walk the track if conditions are wet as the river can rise quickly. Estimated time: 6-7 hours return.
The walk is a family-friendly overnight adventure and listed by te Department of Conservation as an iconic site.
Photograph by K. Knill