The distinctive Kaimai ridgeline forms a mountain backdrop to the western Bay of Plenty. It brings enjoyable tramping within easy reach of 1.5 million Kiwis and overseas visitors.
The Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park stretches 70 km from the Karangahake Gorge in a narrow, precipitous spine of volcanic ridges, down to the broad, flat reaches of the Mamaku Plateau near Rotorua. The range has similar volcanic origins to the Coromandel Range, which continues north on the same fault line. The rugged profile and broken country along the flanks can be off-putting. But the positive benefits are; the relatively low average height of 800 metres, dependable Bay of Plenty climate, warm temperatures, luxuriant forests and plunging waterfalls. Plus a wide selection of short walks and multi-day tramps on 300 km of tracks.
To explore this true Kiwi wilderness first obtain maps and brochures from visitor centres in either Tauranga, Paeroa, Te Aroha or Matamata. From these towns, access roads run directly into the park to connect with well-marked tramping tracks. Day walks encompass a wide variety of scenery. From Karangahake Gorge the Waitewheta Track follows a kauri log tramline to old milling sites in the bush, passing rocky bluffs, deep gorges and waterfalls. From Te Aroha Domain tracks lead to the summit of Mt Te Aroha (952m), the ‘mountain of loving greetings’, with wide views over the whole central North Island. Try the Domain’s hydrothermal spa waters, the only ‘Soda Water Geyser’ in the world. The nearby Waiorongomai Valley has numerous relics of the gold mining days, including mines and shafts, water races, stamping batteries and iron tramway tracks. The most historic trading route across the Kaimai Range is 26 km south of Te Aroha, where a steep track skirts around to the 153 metre high Wairere Falls.
Other popular activities are; fishing in the eastern catchments, rock climbing around Karangahake, hunting, trail bike riding and gemstone collecting.
For a genuine first-hand experience of Kiwi bush tramping you can’t go past the Kaimais.