I took a weekday off work, loaded the bike into the car and headed for the Hauraki rail trail hub in Paeroa.
The trail is part of the Hauraki Rail Trail which includes legs from Thames to Paeroa (33km), Paeroa to TeAroha (21km), and of course Paeroa to Waikino (14km one way or 28km return).
The Paeroa-Waikino trail is grade 1 - easy with no hills, only a gradual incline up to Waikino that is hardly noticeable at all, and no roads except for a couple of crossings. The surface is mostly hard-packed gravel that will only improve over time
The Hauraki Rail Trail passes through Paeroa following the retired railway line. The Railway Reserve is on the opposite side of the road to the information centre. Parking is just about everywhere - I parked near the Plunket rooms on Marshall Street, which backs onto the Esplanade track along the top of the river stopbank.
Click to enlarge the map below
Follow the path south until as it crosses the river on the State Highway 26 road bridge (TeAroha). Immediately after crossing the bridge, the track to TeAroha is signposted to your right. For the Waikino track, cross over the road and head for the intersection of Rotokohu Road another 250 meters after the bridge.
Follow the gravel track down Rotokohu Road, which then changes to the other side of the road 150 meters after the intersection. Keep heading south along the track for 1.4km before crossing the road and heading down the track beside Te Moananui Flats Road. Continue for about 650 meters - the trail then splits from the road at a red bus shelter and follows the obvious ex-railway embankment.
The trail winds through farms and tags alongside the river and gains some welcome tree cover.
The trail joins the established shared foot path at the entrance to the Karangahake tunnel at the gorge.
It is possible to bike through the 1km tunnel as there are lights every so often, but it's a wee bit freaky when you meet someone on foot and you can't really see where they are in relation to the tunnel wall. Next time I'd take some lights. The tunnel is just over 1km long and you can see the other end all the time so it's not too bad...
At the other side of the tunnel is the other 'half' of the Karangahake Gorge
The track continues to the historic ruins of the Victoria stamping battery - there is plenty to look at and wander around on the site, including the remains of the massive potassium cyanide tanks.
After checking out the ruins, continue onwards the last couple of hundred meters over a bridge, through an underpass and get some munchies and coffee at the cafe at the Waikino rail station. There are 'public' bike racks at the far side of the station. After a feed, turn around and bike back to Paeroa on the same track.
This track is now included in the NZOpenGPS maps.