Collins Drive Loop
Collins Drive Walkway is part of the Broken Hills Tracks on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island. The walkway passes through multiple short rock tunnels, past a nice waterfall, and as the highlight leads through a 500 meter long abandoned gold mine. An hour and a half drive from Auckland brought us to the Puketui Valley Road end car park. The Collins Drive tunnel can also be accessed from from Puketui Road, which is separate from the nearby Puketui Valley Road. There are different ways to get to Collins Drive, a map at the start of the track gives a good overview and from there you can choose a track. We didn’t have a lot of time as we started in the late afternoon, so we headed there the most direct way. To get there we hiked along the Water Race Tunnel Track, which follows an old waterway through three narrow but short tunnels.
We visited in winter and the path was really muddy. A few times we had to go above the former waterway by taking the improvised path on the left side. It took us about 15 minutes on the Water Race Tunnel Track and from there we went up the steps above the last tunnel and headed onto the Third Branch Track. We followed this track for another 20 min or so, passing an old mine tunnel. The tunnel ends after a few hundred meters and possible diversions are blocked off, as they are too dangerous to be entered.
We finally reached the east end of Collins Drive after an hour or so of hiking. The mine tunnel is 500 meters long and was built in an attempt to find quartz. You’ll need a headlamp or flashlight as there is no light in the tunnel minus the odd glow worm on the roof. The tunnel is well maintained with a walkway the entire way through. Unlike the other mine around the area, which there are plenty, Collins Drive is not muddy. The experience of walking through an old mine was pretty surreal and the fact that it is open to the public and no one else was around was another bonus. People built the tunnel with with spades and pick axes and for the most part there’s no real structure in place to keep the tunnel from collapsing except a few wooden beams.
If you turn off your flashlight close to the entrance and exit of Collins Drive, you’ll be able to see quite a few glow worms above your head and possibly some huge wetas as well . It took us about 10 minutes to reach the west end of the tunnel and from there we decided to head back to the parking lot along the Main Track.
After another 15 minutes of steep uphill hiking we reached a five minute diversion to head to a lookout, where we admired the views of the forests and the ocean in the distance.
Shortly after the lookout we came across two more short tunnels and a small waterfall next to one of the tunnel’s entrances. The rest of the way was easy downhill, just a bit slippery and steep in some places.
There are quite a few tracks to choose from in the Broken Hills reserve, of different lengths and difficulty, but we really enjoyed the Collins Drive Loop, as well as the Water Race Tunnel Track. It took about two and a half hours as we detoured through mines a few times, so the 2-3 hour estimate is about right.
On the same day, we also hiked the Wires Track, which is in the Coromandel Forest Park. The parking lot is at the end of Wires Road and for the last kilometer of the road it becomes a gravel road and is pretty rough to drive on with anything other than a four wheel drive. The parking lot marks the start of a 4WD off-road track, and we had to backtrack about 500 meters to get to the start of Wires Track. The track takes about 4-5 hours round trip if you do it as a loop and head back on the 4WD track. After crossing a field which was filled with cows we entered the Coromandel Forest Park. Opposite of what the DOC website says, the path was very overgrown when we visited and looked like it hadn’t been maintained or walked on in a long while. Orange plastic trail markers nailed to trees show the way, but in many places the trees have fallen across the path which makes them hard to spot. There is the possibility of getting lost if you don’t pay attention or don’t bring an offline GPS.
After an hour of hiking we reached a small wooden sign with the word waterfall sloppily painted on it. If you follow the sign you can detour to see a beautiful waterfall on the Hamuti Stream. The 15 minute climb down to the waterfall was very steep and slippery, especially after a lot of rain. It was very muddy and could be dangerous if you aren’t a decently fit hiker. It was more than worth the effort as the waterfall is gorgeous despite its relatively small stature.
The rest of the hike wasn’t very eventful or rewarding unfortunately. It consisted of pushing through lots of overgrown bush, trudging through quite a bit of mud, which was partially due to the time of year, and virtually no decent views. At one point a short detour led us to a few tall kauri trees, but otherwise the track didn’t have much to offer. After about three hours we reached the end of the Wires Track and hit the 4WD road. The walk back on the 4WD road was super muddy and rather unpleasant, although luckily a massive tree had fallen across the road about half way down which kept any trucks and quads from coming by and spraying us with mud, as we have read about.
Overall we can’t recommend hiking the entire Wires Track, but would instead only walk to the waterfall and return the same way as it is more scenic and there isn’t much reward for the rest of the path.
Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach
After a long day of hiking we set out the next morning to head back to one of our favorite spots in New Zealand, Cathedral Cove for sunrise and Hot Water Beach to relax our sore legs. You may have read about our last visit to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, so I’ll just touch briefly on the area again. Cathedral Cove for sunrise is a sight not to be missed, so make sure to get to the parking lot at least 45 minutes before sunrise as it’s a bit of a walk down.
We had the beach entirely to ourselves as it was the middle of winter and a bit early, which is a rarity for such a popular spot. If the tide is low you can pass through the arch that separates the beach and see the beautiful rocks that made it into Macklemore’s “Can’t hold us” music video and the second Chronicles of Narnia movie.
Make sure to check out the view from the arch as well since the sky has lit up pink, purple, and red the times we’ve been there.
On the way back toward the parking lot the color of the water can look really intense as we’ve seen the times we visited.
A short 10 minute drive brought us to Hot Water Beach about two hours before low tide, which is prime time for digging your own hot tub on the beach. Look for a rock outcropping to the left as you face the ocean, and probably people digging as well. Make sure to feel the ground with your bare feet to find a hot spot. Some places have sand too hot to stand on for more than a second, which are generally relatively good places to start digging. You’ll want a shovel so either grab one at The Warehouse for $9-15 depending on what’s in stock or you can rent one at the cafes nearby for $5 with a $20 deposit.
Make sure to check that the area you intend to dig in is hot to the touch, or else you’ll be one of the many people digging frigid pools on the beach and not understanding why everyone else is enjoying the experience more than you. Also make sure to check the time for low tide as you’ll need to be two hours on either side of it or the beach is under water.
If you have time, are in good hiking shape, are okay with driving a short way, don’t mind bending some rules, and want to check out a forbidden waterfall then check out this post on Omanawa Falls!