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For years, treasure-hunters have set their sights on Waihi in search of silver and gold. While the town still produces plentiful precious metals, Waihi today rewards visitors with riches of a different sort. It’s a small town with abundant treasures hidden in plain sight, the type of place where travelers have intended to stop for an afternoon and ended up staying for a satisfying long weekend.
Go back in time.
What was life like for the ambitious early settlers who built the bustling town of Waihi more than a hundred years ago? Well-preserved relics commemorate this history and help you imagine life in Waihi at the turn of the century. The Cornish Pumphouse towers over town just across from the excellent Waihi Gold Discovery Centre where you can hear the goldmining tales of yesteryear and get hand on with modern mining techniques. Down the street is the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum, and along Waihi’s main street, carefully restored buildings and informative displays help bring the town’s history to life.
After visiting the relics in town, you can climb aboard the historic Goldfields Railway for an authentic heritage train experience. You’ll arrive at the historic Waikino station, where you can enjoy a hearty lunch in the cafe before setting out by foot or bicycle to the nearby Victoria Battery. (You can hire a bicycle at Waikino Station or bring one from Waihi on the train.) The battery grounds provide fascinating insight into the turn-of-the-century gold and silver operations.
From the Victoria Battery, you’re well-positioned to continue by bicycle or foot along the Hauraki Rail Trail to the breathtaking Karangahake Gorge and its wealth of nearby trails. Cycling across the gorge and through the tunnel is surely one of the most exhilarating history lessons on earth.
Back in town, the Pit Rim Walkway brings you to the edge of the Martha Mine, a working mine near the center of Waihi. It first opened as an underground mine in the 1880s, then re-opened as an open-cast (pit) mine in 1987. Now, Martha Mine reveals layers of colourful rock and mineral to runners and walkers along the perimeter. The walkway includes lookouts with signage detailing the history of the mine and how it has shaped the town. The nearby Gold Cross Mine Walkway leads you through a former mine site that is now a working farm. You can also take a tour deep into the bowels of the mine with Waihi Gold Mine Tours
Discover gold, of course!
For modern-day treasure hunters, Waihi is the place to see what it looks like to find precious metals today. The Martha Mine is one of few working mines in the world that currently produces both gold and silver. The pit is in full view from the rim walkway; a tour offers an up-close perspective and wealth of information about the what and how of this massive operation.
The Waihi Gold Mine Tour takes you through the security gates to view the pit from different levels and see the processing operations in action. You’ll learn about the massive trucks that move rock from the bottom of the pit to the beginning of the conveyor, see huge piles ready for processing, and find out how that pile of rocks becomes a bar of gold. You’ll also see the entrance to a working underground mine and travel through former mining areas restored with native planting. It’s an informative and in-depth experience, with knowledgeable guides ready to answer the most detailed or most general questions.
When you’ve completed your quest, it’s time to celebrate! Relax and reflect on your weekend’s treasures at Waihi Beach or at one of the town’s charming cafes, restaurants or pubs.
Learn more and plan your weekend in Waihi at www.thecoromandel.com.
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