The northern end of the trail is the pretty town of Rawene on the edge of tranquil Hokianga Harbour. The route then heads inland through the magical Waipoua Kauri Forest before winding through farmland through to Dargaville and out to the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour.
Highlights of the trail include the twin settlements of Omapere and Opononi set alongside the beautiful Hokianga Harbour, Waipoua Forest, and Trounson Kauri Park.
The trail also links to the Twin Coast Cycle Trail Great Ride, and the Heartland Ride touring routes to the north and south, the Far North Cycleway and Kaipara Missing Link.
The whole route between Rawene and Dargaville is about 8–11 hours riding time in all. An overnight stop is therefore suggested.
You will inevitably want to get up close with the mighty kauri trees. Please note, however, that Kauri Dieback disease may mean you can’t access all kauri forest walks; please respect all signage, staying well clear of any areas off-limits.
Starting in Rawene, this route heads out on Parnell Road to the T-intersection with State Highway 12. Then turn right and cycle to Opononi and on to Omapere. There are a couple of short hills in this section but good coastal views as well. Opononi and Omapere have places to eat and stay.
There is a sharp 110-metre climb out of the far side of Omapere.
Twelve kilometres on from Omapere is the small settlement of Waimamaku, which has a café and Four Square grocery store.
Beyond Waimamaku, the road climbs into Waipoua Forest. A small descent leads to the car park and takeaways caravan at the start of the one-minute walk to New Zealand’s most famous tree, Tane Mahuta. New Zealand’s largest living kauri and known as the 'Lord of the Forest', this imposing giant has a 13.77m girth, a trunk height of 17.68m, and a total height of 51.5m. Please respect all signage in relation to this, and other, forest reserves.
From Tane Mahuta, the road is mostly downhill for 10km.
Just after crossing the Waipoua River bridge, it is possible to detour 1km to the right to Café Forest, which is part of a visitor complex with information, camping and cabin options.
The touring route continues straight ahead on SH12 and up a 5km climb through forest and across farmland.
About 7km from the bridge, either continue to follow SH12 or take the gravel road to the east. The distance is the same. The gravel option will be slower but has less traffic.
If taking the gravel route: follow the road down to Donnellys Crossing, turn right onto Trounson Park Road, and cycle 8km to Trounson Kauri Park. Just after the kauri park, veer right to continue along Trouson Park Road and back up to SH12. Turn left to continue towards Dargaville.
Two kilometres after passing Kaihu Tavern, turn left onto Ahikiwi Road and take the following quiet country roads to Dargaville. Turn left onto Marapiu Road, then right onto Maropiu Settlement Road. Then 8 km from Kaihu, at a T-intersection, turn left onto Waihue Road, then 200 metres later, right onto Opanake Road. This is the quintessential Northland country road, providing expansive views over the Kaihu Valley and beyond. Almost 13km down Opanake Road, turn left onto Parore West Road and soon after, right onto Waihue Road to cruise into Dargaville and down to the main shops.
For a small town, Dargaville boasts a lot of art and craft, a prime example being The Woodturners Kauri Studio, which showcases kauri carvings and gives access to a workshop to see how it’s done.
And as this is New Zealand’s ‘kumara capital’, it’s no surprise to find a museum dedicated to farm machinery here. Harding Park is home to vintage tractors, harvesters, and logging equipment.
For amazing views of the area, it’s also worth taking the short, sharp walk to needle-like Tokatoka Peak.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Source: The New Zealand Cycle Trail