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12 Best Things to Do in Waihi – Stike Gold in the Waikato

Waihi is a small town, located on the North Island. Nicknamed New Zealand’s ‘Heart of Gold’, it’s got a long history of gold mining.

It’s a popular place to visit in the Coromandel due to its interesting history and proximity to some of New Zealand’s best (and safest) surf beaches.

Not only that, but you’ll find plenty of things to do in Waihi, ranging from its fantastic Gold Discovery Centre to beautiful coastal trails.

Lady riding mountain bike through an old open-air building.
The Victoria Battery is just one stop on the Hauraki Rail Trail, near Waihi. Photo: Brent Purcell.

The Best Things to Do in Waihi

Whether you’re looking to relax or you’d prefer to spend time outdoors, this charming town has something for everyone.

So, let’s take a look at the best things to do in Waihi…

1. Visit the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre

One of the top things to do in Waihi is to visit the town’s Gold Discovery Centre!

This town has over 300 years of gold mining history and is home to New Zealand’s richest gold mine, which is still in use today. So it practically goes without saying that you’ll need to pay a visit to the Martha Gold Mine.

The centre is situated right next to mine and will take you on a journey through Waihi’s impressive gold mining history.

There are two hands-on experiences available at the Gold Discovery Centre; the Waihi Gold Experience and the Waihi Gold Mine Tours. Both are fantastic, so if you’ve got time we’d recommend doing both.

126 Seddon Street, Waihi 3610

A man using an interactive exhibit at the Gold Discovery Centre in Waihi.
Check out the exhibits at the local gold mine. Photo: Gold Discovery Centre.

2. Ride the Goldfields Railway: Heritage Railway

No trip to Waihi is complete without riding the Goldfields Railway!

You’ll get to travel on a heritage train from Waihi to Waikino which is undoubtedly one of the best ways to travel between the two towns.

The journey will take you along the old ‘East Coast Main Trunk Line’ and you’ll get to enjoy spectacular scenery along the way!

If you don’t fancy cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail, then you can catch the train to Waikino. Then take some time to explore before heading back to Waihi later on.

30 Wrigley Street, Waihi 3610

Pro Tip: This journey can get relatively busy so make sure you book your tickets in advance!

Family sitting on an open-air scenic train at the Goldfields Railway.
The Goldfields Railway is a popular option among families. Photo: Hauraki Rail Trail.

3. Visit the Waihi Arts Centre and Museum

The Waihi Arts Centre and Museum is one of the best spots in town if you’re wanting to learn about the area’s history. It’s also a great choice for a rainy day.

There are several rooms within the museum dedicated to Waihi’s mining and social history, so it’s home plenty of exhibits.

Waihi Arts Centre and Museum also have a gallery and hosts various exhibitions throughout the year relating to art and crafts. For a small town, this gallery packs a surprising punch.

To make the most of your visit, we’d recommend spending an hour or two here. This will give you enough time to wander through all the exhibits.

54 Kenny Street, Waihi 3610

Classic facade of Waihi Arts and Centre Museum beside the road.
The Waihi Arts Centre and Museum. Photo: Ulrich Lange.

4. Play a round at the Waihi Golf Club

There are plenty of things to do in Waihi, but it’s important to have some downtime too.

One of the best places for this is Waihi Golf Club with its scenic surroundings and laid-back atmosphere.

It’s an 18-hole course that will provide you with plenty of challenges, whether you’re a seasoned golfer or someone wanting to give it a go. Or, if you’re travelling on your own, Waihi Golf Course is the perfect spot for some peace and quiet.

There are electric golf carts available to hire and there’s also a pro shop and clubhouse on-site.

Just make sure you book your tee time in advance to secure a spot.

113 Woodlands Road, Waihi 3682

A golf club about to hit a golf ball on the grass.
Test your skills on the local golf course.

5. Head to Victoria Battery

Located just outside of Waihi’s town centre, you’ll find Victoria Battery.

This historic attraction plays an important role in New Zealand’s history as it used to be one of the biggest industrial sites in the country.

It was also the biggest quartz ore processing plant in NZ and Australia, dating back to 1896.

Today, you can wander around the battery, take a ride on the electric tram, or explore the Transformer House which is now full of displays.

You’re welcome to explore much of the area by yourself but some prefer to head out on a tour as you’ll get to walk through one of the tunnels.

Ohinemuri River, Waikato 3682

Old ruins of Victoria Battery surrounded by grass and trees at a distance.
Victoria Battery. Photo: Alison Thomas.

6. Explore Waihi Lavender Farm

Visiting Waihi Lavender Farm is one of the best things to do in Waihi – especially if you’re heading there between December and April. This is the best time of year to see the site’s beautiful lavender fields, so make sure you have your camera ready.

Not only is Waihi Lavender Farm stunning, but it also produces chemical-free lavender products including soaps and lip balm.

They are super passionate about sustainability too, so make sure you drop by and purchase one of their products to take home, for yourself or as a gift.

If that’s not enough to convince you then this spot also offers blueberry lavender ice cream. It’s seriously delicious!

118 Landlyst Road, Waihi 3681

An expanse of lavender flowers and green grasses in Waihi Lavender Farm.

7. Enjoy Waihi Beach to Surf, Swim and Sunbathe

During your time in this charming town, you need to visit Waihi Beach and neighbouring Bowentown.

It’s just a 10-minute drive from the town centre and is one of the best spots in the area for relaxing.

Waihi Beach is actually a small beachside village that’s home to boutique stores, eateries and of course – breathtaking views.

However, this area is most famous for its quick access to over 9km of seemingly endless white sands where you can relax and watch the world go by.

Waihi Beach is also known for its consistent surf. Jump in and test your balance on a surfboard, catch some waves on a boogie board or just enjoy a swim. The beach is patrolled and safe, so it’s a great place for the whole whānau.

Pro Tip: Be sure to pay a visit to the Waihi Beach Seaside Store & Takeway for delicious beach-side fish and chips, and to Flatwhite for upmarket cafe-style meals and coffee.

Rope fence and uncut grass near the shores of Waihi Beach.
Photo: Florian Pilz.

8. Hike some of the coastal trails from Waihi Beach

There are plenty of coastal trails in the area including Athenree Estuary, the Waihi Beach walk, and the Pa Head and Viewpoint walk.

However, one of the best hikes in the area is the Orokawa Trail!

Starting from the northern end of Waihi Beach, you’ll walk past Oukori Bay towards Orokawa. You’ll want to give yourself some extra time to appreciate the views along the way, so allow at least 45 minutes to reach the bay.

Once you reach Orokawa Bay, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the ocean.

You can then continue your hike along to Homunga Bay if you wish.

Crashing waves and white sands of Orokawa Bay as seen from Orokawa Trail.
Photo: Rodney Farrant.

Things to Do Near Waihi

9. Cycle part of the Hauraki Rail Trail

If you’re a fan of the outdoors then we recommend cycling along the Hauraki Rail Trail.

The trail is 197 km in total but is split up into five different sections. So, if you don’t want to cycle the whole trail on a multi-day trip then you can just choose a specific section.

The most popular section of the Hauraki Rail Trail is the route between Paeroa and Waihi. It’s around 24km long and takes around 6-8 hours for a return trip.

You’ll followi the Ohinemuri River through Karangahake Gorge before heading past Owaharoa Falls. You’ve also got the option of visiting some of the historic gold mining sites mentioned in this post.

Two people stand afar at the entrance of a bridge.
Photo: Robin Capper.

10. Walk/Bike the Karangahake Gorge (including Owharoa Falls)

Karangahake Gorge is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the area and is a must-visit if you’re staying in Waihi.

As we just mentioned, this incredible gorge and Owharoa Falls can be accessed via the Hauraki Rail Trail.

However, not everyone is a keen cyclist so you can also drive your car and then walk to visit these impressive sites.

The best option is the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walk which will take you along the Ohinemuri River, before reaching other popular attractions including Owharoa Falls and the Battery.

The views along the way are truly something else, so make sure you’ve got your camera ready!

The Karangahake Windows Walk is another popular trail in the area. This 2.5km walk is suitable for the whole family (kids can even earn a Kiwi Guardian medal) and rewards with beautiful scenery, mining relics and tunnels. However, at the time of writing, it was temporarily closed. Please check it is open again before visiting.

A woman standing on a bridge in Karangahake Gorge, and looking at the rocky river.
The Karangahake Gorge attracts visitors from all around the central North Island. Photo: Kathrin & Stefan Marks.

11. Visit Paeroa

If you’re looking for places to visit outside of Waihi then make sure you head to Paeroa.

Although only a small town, Paeroa is home to a variety of antique shops and quaint cafes. The Bullswool Farm Heritage Park is also nearby!

However, it’s most famous for being the birthplace of Lemon & Paeroa (otherwise known as L&P). Speaking of this refreshing drink, you’ll want to snap a photo by the giant L&P bottle during your time here!

If you’ve never tried it before, you’ll also want to visit one of the nearby stores to grab yourself a bottle. Trust us – you won’t regret it.

Kiwi icons don’t get bigger or more iconic than the big L&P bottle! Photo: James Maddock.

12. Drive over to Katikati to check out the murals

Katikati is just a 25-minute drive from Waihi and it makes for a great little day trip.

With the Haiku Pathway, boutique galleries, and roadside stalls (during the harvest), Katikati is a great place to wander around. You’ll even get to taste the delicious kiwifruit and avocados that this part of New Zealand is famous for.

However, the highlight of this place has to be its awesome murals!

Known as the ‘Mural Town’, Katikati is home to over 35 carvings, murals, and sculptures. They are mostly found near the main street, and they’re all free to view.

These works of art depict the town’s heritage and early residents, making them quite the attraction.

A large wall with a mural of a house and people in front of it.
Katikati. Photo: gérard.

As you can see there are tons of fantastic things to do in and around Waihi!

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or learn about the town’s gold mining history, there’s something for everyone.

Have you ever been to Waihi?

If you have, we’d love to hear about your favourite things to do in the comments below!

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