Glittering coast, a tranquil harbour, wetlands, native forest and rolling farmland can all be enjoyed on this ride across the Far North, which passes through towns rich in history and manaakitanga (hospitality).
Following a smooth rail trail, cycle paths, wetland boardwalk, suspension bridges and country roads, it can be ridden in either direction or broken into smaller day trips. It is both relaxing and highly rewarding, with opportunities to visit various cultural sites and attractions while enjoying the sub-tropical climate for which the ‘winterless’ north is famous.
Opua is centred around a pretty marina and the car ferry port for the boat trip to and from historic Russell – a must visit for history lovers.
The trail begins alongside the marina and follows a pretty estuary edged with mangroves – a classic sight along New Zealand’s northern coasts.
The trail then runs beside the tracks of the Bay of Islands Vintage Steam Railway and crosses the beautifully restored bridge to reach cute little Taumarere Station, a nice photo op and good place to pause for a snack.
This section ends all too soon at the bustling rural town of Kawakawa where you will find one of Northland’s looniest tourism attractions – the Huntervasser toilets adorned with mosaic tiles, sculptures, cobblestone floors and a grassy roof. Cafes, shops, a museum and local Māori artists can also be found in the town.
After Kawakawa, the trail passes the sleepy rural town of Moerewa with its old disused wood mill before climbing gently for the next 25km through rolling farmland and forest to Kaikohe – Northland’s largest inland town.
Highlights of this section include beautiful waterfalls, graceful suspensions bridges and the Kaikohe Pioneer Village – a lively museum with complimentary tea, coffee and water for thirsty cyclists.
Kaikohe is a handy place to stop with plenty of accommodation, eateries and a couple of supermarkets. The Waiariki Hot Pools at nearby Ngawha Springs will soothe weary legs and numb butts after a day in the saddle.
The trail climbs gently along an old railway corridor to reach a viewpoint 280m above sea level. After passing through a spooky, curved 80m tunnel constructed in 1915, the trail descends to Lake Omapere, Northland’s largest lake and one steeped in Māori mythology.
Another trail highlight is the ford close to Okaihau. See if you can whizz through it without getting your feet wet, or just cross the adjacent walkway bridge.
This section ends at the tiny settlement of Okaihau, which serves the surrounding rural community with a cafe, takeaways, small supermarket, and public toilets.
Beyond Okaihau, the trail parallels the road passing churches and the war memorial gates, with information panels adding flavour to the ride.
Continuing through farmland riders are greeted by a fabulous view down the Utakura River valley where the trail follows a series of switchbacks. Further on is another highlight – the 1200m-long boardwalk section that snakes through the mangrove estuary connecting to the Hokianga Harbour.
Quaint Horeke, on the shores of the harbour, is a town with a history in spades. The tavern, a contender for New Zealand’s oldest, is well worth a visit, as is the nearby Wesleyan Mission House (1838–39) at Māngungu sitting pretty above the harbour.
Source: The New Zealand Cycle Trail