Charming Creek walkway
Enter the walk at either the Ngakawau end or the Seddonville end – up to you. For the Ngakawau entrance, turn right just before the Ngakawau River Bridge and follow the road past the Charming Creek Tavern, across the working shunt line and park in the car park. Follow the river and track signage.
For the Seddonville end, drive to Seddonville, take a right at the Seddonvile Tavern corner, a left at the next corner and stay on that road until it ends at the old boiler carpark.
Charming Creek walkway
This walk is rated one of the top five day walks in the South Island.
We know you’ll love it. It has it all - amazing scenery and the story of the Watson Brothers, two early Scottish settlers, who carved out the private railway the track is built on. Their coal and timber operations ran from 1914 to 1958. Their memories are buried in the mining and railway relics along the way, with a swing bridge and two short tunnels thrown in for excitement and a sense of mystery.
From the Ngakawau walkway entrance there is an easy 20 minute walk through lush riverside forest to the Bins. Just after the bridge over the rushing Mine Creek, watch out for the top of a tiny locomotive called a ‘Coffee Pot’ which was used up this railroad lying in the bush on the left side. There are good story boards at the Bins telling the story of the Watsons and their private railroad.
Past the Bins the track enters the Lower Ngakawau Gorge. Sections of the old wooden centre brake rail are reminders of the difficulty of controlling heavy trains on the steep grades. After you’ve negotiated the rockfall section of the track, you’ll enter the first tunnel. It takes a strange turn with a major kink in the middle. It is known as Irishmen’s Tunnel - perhaps a little too much Irish whisky?
In the steepest, most confined section of the gorge, the hardy daisy-like Celmisia morganii flowers from December to January. This is the only known habitat for this rare and protected species. Cross the suspension bridge to look back at the impressive Mangatini Falls. The second 50 metre tunnel leads to The Verandah with spectacular views of the river and white water thundering off the canyon walls.
The track then leads to the river flats of Charming Creek and the site of Watson’s Mill. Steam boilers and other rusty relics can be found lying amongst the regenerating bush.
About 400 metres past a small suspension bridge spanning the main creek is the cold sulphur spring. From Watson's mill follow the old railway tracks through old cutover and farm paddocks to Mumm's Mill site. The sawmill steam engine and other relics are under cover at the mill site, with trolleys and a steam log hauler nearby.
The track then leads onto the old Charming Creek mine entrance and carpark…look for the fan that drew foul air from the the underground workings, the bathhouse shell, and the old coal bins near the sealed mine mouth…(the mine closed in 1986.)
There are also ancient giant snails, sulphur springs, glow-worms sometimes in the tunnels and railway cuttings and rare plants to see along the way such as the Celmisia Morganii daisy, found only in the Ngakawau Gorge.
Best picnic place: Watson’s Mill with toilets and shelter AND picnic rocks over the river (look for the side trail).
Note: A torch is handy for the tunnels; mountain-biking the track okay in off-peak times excluding December/early January and Easter (see the notice in the car park.)
The meaning of the Maori name: Ngakawau
Ngakawau is named after the huge colonies of shags or cormorants which used to live on the river. A small colony remains. Nga
Means Home of and Kawau means cormorant or shag.
Distance: 10.5 kms one way – time required 6 hours return. Best to do just the Ngakawau to Watson’s Mill part (3 hrs return) if you can’t arrange transport at the Seddonville end of the track. Be warned – at the Seddonville track exit, it is 14 kms of gravel road back to the Seddonville village.
Difficulty: Easy - and the first half is fabulous fun for kids