Tairua River (II) Broken Hills run: SH25A to Hikuai

Trip overview/summary

At the right flow, this is a great one-day trip through scenic Kauri forests in the heart of the Coromandel. It’s not well known so it doesn’t get paddled very often, but its proximity to Auckland makes it a great trip that doesn’t require heaps of driving. Most of the trip goes through native forests, but there are some farmland sections at the start and at the end.

It would be possible to camp and/or do some hikes from the Broken Hill campsite if you wanted to extend the trip. There are lots of great swimming holes and rope swings all along the river if you’re doing the trip in the warmer months. The time on the river is about 4 hours, depending on the flow and how leisurely you’d like to make the trip.

Thanks to Caleb Tarzwell for the information and photos.


Driving in an easterly direction over the SH25A, about 100m beyond the bridge, on the right, is a gravel road. It heads south towards the river to a spot which probably gets used by locals for parties etc (bit of rubbish/beer cans). A 2WD can make it to within about 100m of the water. It’s an easy way to get to the river and is technically public walking access.

Alternatively, If the flows are enough, drive down Puketui Rd to the ford, then scrape or walk the tributary down to the main river.

The shuttle is only 8km, so you could do a two car shuttle, but a bike, jog or hitchhike are all feasible options.

The best takeout is where SH25A crosses the Tairua by Hikuai. Note that this is the second road bridge once you get into Hikuai. There is a gas station in Hikuai with good pies and snacks for a post-trip recovery.

There’s road access after Broken Hills if you need to bail early for any reason, or need a shorter trip.

Route information

The first few k’s are flat water, but before long class I and II rapids emerge to provide some entertainment. T In higher flow there looked like there would be some great drops that would be very fun. There are lots of nice beaches and swimming holes that make good rest spots. The rapids continue into the farmland, but then the river reverts to flatwater for the final few km to the take out.

The Broken Hills campground is just before the halfway point of the trip and would be possible to camp at or stop and do some hiking around the old gold mines and tunnels. The main hazard to watch out for are some willows. You may need to scout rapids if you do it at high flow. When we did it, there weren’t many hazards. 


River level at Tairua – Waikato Regional Council.

We did the trip at 2.7 cumecs and that was probably the minimum flow you’d want. I reckon 4-5 would probably be ideal but be cautious as the rapids will be of a different nature than we saw and I can’t comment on that. Flows above 2.7 would likely only be enjoyed in the winter/spring or after a big rain so you do need a degree of spontaneity to do the run.

Above and below

We’ve heard the upper sections of the river or the Fourth Branch stream can be paddled with some gnarlier class III but you would need a lot more flow than this trip.  

Below Hikuai, it is a class I float, with rural scenery.

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  1. Bradley scott says:

    Full trip as described below took us a leisurely 2 hours rather than 4. It’s a comfortable grade 1 and 2. A perfect intro to moving water for the first timer in our group. At 7.4 cumecs we were still scraping our asses down many rapids, I would happily do it in 10-20. Most the interesting rapids we’re before broken hills campsite. It would be a fun day to do this top section multiple times.

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