Type of track: one way, or there and back.
Official distance: 9.5 km one way
Official time: 3 hours one way
Jenny’s time: about 2.5 hours, but only from Ngakawau to Watson’s Mill and back.
Tips: The track is accessible from either Ngakawau at the Southwestern end, or Seddonville at the Northeastern end (but 14km down a gravel road from Seddonville). Ideally you’d have two cars and just do it one way. It could easily be a fully day’s hike if you do it both ways (6 hours walking, plus stops to read the information panels). Bring a flashlight (torch) for the tunnels.
Sometimes hiking in New Zealand isn’t all about the scenery.
Well, ok, there’s beautiful scenery everywhere in New Zealand, so you’re always going to get that, but sometimes a hike can be to check out history too.
Such is the case with the Charming Creek Walkway.
This walk goes along a former private railway line along the edge of the Ngakawau Gorge. It was first built in 1912 to transport timber out of the valley, and then expanded in 1929 to access the Charming Creek coal mine.
Although the railway line has been described as ‘steep’, this has different meaning for a walker than it does for a railway car full of heavy coal! With only a 100 metre height difference over the almost 10km path, it’s a very easy walk.
About ten minutes in from the Ngakawau end, you can see the remains of some of the mine buildings, as well as an old coal car and the rusted top of a locomotive.
The Charming Creek Walkway is gorgeous, through vegetation that grows over the path to make a tunnel, across wooden bridges and a 37 metre-long suspension bridge. From the bridge and beyond Mangatini Falls comes into view, thundering into the river and reflecting in a pool.
In a couple of places there are overhangs where the railway was cut out of the rock. One of these is bare rock but another is dripping with vegetation.
There are tunnels too, also hewn out of solid rock, and while they’re not too long, a flashlight (torch) can be helpful to find your footing.
Although the railway stopped working in 1958, the rails themselves remain, although now skewed and uprooted by the forces of nature.
Also in place are the centre rails on the steepest sections, used for braking of the heavy coal-filled cars.
Almost halfway along the Charming Creek Walkway is the site of Watson’s timber mill, on a flattened out area with remnants of machinery lying around. There are information panels in a small shelter, telling you all about Robert Watson and his entrepreneurial endeavours.
I reluctantly chose to turn around here, knowing I didn’t have time to complete the track and then walk all the way back. But the track continues for another hour and a half, past the site of Mumm’s Mill to the abandoned Charming Creek mine at the Seddonville end of the track.
So if you’re up this way, definitely head for the Charming Creek Walkway. It’s very, well…charming! Maybe one day I’ll be able to go back and walk this track from the other end!
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