Waihi Tourist Attractions
The once flourishing gold-miners' settlement of Waihi (pop. 4,500) lies in the southern foothills of the Coromandel Range, near the Bay of Plenty. Gold was found here in 1878, and the gold mine on Martha Hill, which was worked until 1952, was the most productive in the whole of New Zealand. Its deepest shaft goes down 550m and there are no fewer than 160km of galleries and tunnels. In 1912 there were serious clashes between the miners and the mine owners, one consequence of which was the foundation of the New Zealand Labor Party.When the Martha Mine closed in 1952, because it was no longer economic to work, there were fears for the future of the town. Since then, however, Waihi has developed into the main commercial center of a wide area and some industry has been established in the town. In 1988 gold mining was resumed.The town has twice suffered severe damage from landslides. In 1846 Chief Tuwharetoa Te Heuheu Tukino and many members of his tribe were killed when a landslide dammed the stream and an avalanche of mud engulfed the village.The village has a very handsome Roman Catholic church, St Werenfried's (1889), with a beautiful Maori-style interior and fine stained glass depicting the Virgin and Christ in Maori dress. The meeting house (1959) contains older carved decoration. Notable also is the tomb of Chief Te Heuheu Tukino.Near the village are the 90m high Waihi Falls.
Martha Hill Gold Mine
There are many buildings in the town dating from early gold-mining days, and on Martha Hill are the ruins of the old pumping house. The new Waihi Gold Mining Company is now working the gold by opencast methods over a large area. A huge hole in the ground, 200m deep, is to become the central feature of a new recreation area (conducted tours by appointment).
This gorge between Waihi and Paeroa is a kind of open-air museum of early gold mining. The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway along the old railroad line passes some of the huge machines in which the ore was crushed.
11km east of the town is a beautiful sandy beach 10km long.
Waihi Arts Centre and Museum
The Waihi Arts Centre and Museum recalls the days of the gold rush. All aspects of gold mining are illustrated by a model of the mine, miners' equipment both old and modern and photographs.
During the main holiday season a steam train runs through the gorge from Waihi to Paeroa, a distance of 13km.