Napier to Wairoa Heritage Trail

Broken hill country, deep ravines and geologically unstable terrain dissuaded early travellers from venturing too far inland on the torturous journey between Napier and Wairoa. Consequently early travel between the two centres was by canoe or along the coastal track.

The sea journey was dependent on weather conditions. Travel was frequently delayed by storms and high seas. Later when coastal steamers were introduced the notoriously unpredictable river bar at Wairoa caused further problems. This early sea link came to an end when Wairoa harbour trade ceased in the late 1930s.

The coastal walking track followed the line of shingly beaches, crossed numerous streams and rivers and climbed steep headlands. Gradually this developed into a bridle trail and became negotiable by horse or bullock drawn wagons. Adverse weather conditions caused floods and slips. Again travel was frequently delayed so an alternative was needed. By 1900 an inland road suitable for coaches had been formed. A weekly mail coach service between Napier and Wairoa was operating by 1908. Although more reliable than the coastal track the road still held much excitement for the traveller. Inclement weather played havoc with the road which traversed the high rugged hill country. The road surface often became a puggy papa mess which tested the skills of both driver and horses.

This road formed the basis of the present Napier to Wairoa highway which even today continues to be ruled by the elements. The completion of the Westshore road / rail bridge and embankment in 1918 was the first major step in the construction of a rail link to Wairoa. The line took 21 years to build. Construction was hampered by floods, earthquakes, massive slips and the depression years of the early 1930s. As well as
four notable viaducts there is one of New Zealand's highest viaducts and nine tunnels.

The line was officially opened in July 1939. Originally trains were hauled by steam engines then in 1955 diesel railcars were introduced. By 1966 freight trains were also hauled by diesel locomotives. Today this line no longer carries the volume of traffic that it did in former years.

Significant Points

  • Whirinaki
  • Tangoio Beach
  • Waipatiki Beach
  • Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve
  • White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve
  • Aropaoanui Beach
  • Lake Tutira
  • Tutira Memorial Church
  • Holt Forest Trust
  • Opouahi Scenic Reserve and Walkway
  • Bellbird Bush Scenic Reserve
  • Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve
  • Shine Falls
  • Putorino
  • Mohaka Railway Viaduct
  • Mohaka River Bridge
  • Raupunga
  • Mohaka
  • Wairoa River Bridge

Trail Details

Travelling direct from Napier to Wairoa allow approximately 2 hours. This does not allow for site stops or side trips to view sites along the trail.

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