Something for everyone on the Hauraki Rail Trail
The Hauraki Rail Trail ticks so many boxes for so many different people. There really is something to enjoy for everyone along 160km of former railway corridors through provincial North Island towns and countryside in the Hauraki Plains.
The versatility of the Hauraki Rail Trail allows for access points from Kaiaua, Thames, Paeroa, Waihi and Te Aroha, all within two hours from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. It can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from multi-day active cycling holidays to family day trips and sightseeing tours.
Above all, it is a free and fun way to experience the heartland charms of regional North Island New Zealand, including stunning rural vistas, charming towns and fascinating heritage sites.
The trail is Grade 1, meaning it is mostly flat and can be cycled by all ages and abilities. Mountain or Hybrid bikes are recommended because of the gravel surface along most of the trail. There are currently four sections (plans are in underway for a fifth) which make up the entire journey, however these can be enjoyed separately or linked together depending on how much time you have. A favourite family excursion is the Paeroa to Waihi leg of the journey (Section C), through the Karangahake Gorge.
This part of the trail offers sights and attractions the entire family will find fascinating. Take a torch and cycle through the 1000metre Karangahake Tunnel - it will thrill even the hardiest adventurer in your family. Cycle through old mining remnants and relics of Victoria Battery and navigate your way over the steel swing bridges and walking trails of the Gorge area. The Karangahake Gorge by bike is arguably the best way to experience its stunning rock, river and bush-clad scenery. You get to be a part of the landscape while enjoying the sheer beauty of it up close.
From Waikino Railway Station, catch a vintage train to Waihi with bikes onboard, then take a short cycle through the historic gold mining town of Waihi. At the top of the town visit the Gold Discovery Centre - a fascinating hands-on place of exploration for all ages.
A family bike ride from Kopu to Matatoki (Section B) is an excellent introduction to trail cycling for young and old. A small animal farm at Matatoki Cheese Barn is bound to delight the kids.
For Foodie Friends
What better way to discover the fresh produce and innovative flavours of a region than by getting a group of foodie friends together and making a multi-day meal of it? Cycle from section to section, discovering organic cheeses, home baked treats, heritage pubs and award winning contemporary cuisine along every leg of the Hauraki Rail Trail.
Start with fresh fish and hot chips overlooking the tranquil Seabird Coast at Kaiaua before cycling to Thames (Section A), a town proud of its artisanal approach to food and produce. Thames Market in Grahamstown every Saturday is a gourmand’s wonderland with a feel-good vibe.
From Thames, the cycle trail heads through the rural pastures of Hauraki Plains (Section B).
At Matatoki Cheese Barn sample the bounty of the area with their award winning organic cow milk cheeses. Further along the Thames to Paeroa leg, whet your whistle at The Coach House Puriri (est 1881). Recently refurbished, The Coach House is a country pub with the charm of yesteryear and a hearty menu that has kept pace with modern appetites and diets.
Foodies will likely already be familiar with Falls Retreat, the outstanding restaurant in Karangahake Gorge between Paeroa and Waihi (Section C). It is the perfect place to build your cycling itinerary around, with a picturesque stop at neighbouring Owharoa Falls near the Trail. Falls Retreat is a rustic restaurant with a strong focus on fresh home and locally-grown produce, as evidenced by their magnificent on-site vegetable garden. The menu is innovative modern cuisine and a feast not only for the tastebuds, but for the eyes as well. Meals are presented beautifully and desserts look like art on a plate.
You don’t need a bicycle built for two to enjoy a fun-filled and romantic time spent cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail. Enjoy relaxing thermal hot pools, comfortable accommodation and delicious eateries while cycling through picturesque scenery.
On the Kaiaua to Kopu leg (Section A), park your bikes and wander out to the Bird Hide at the Robert Findlay Wildlife Reserve on the Miranda shellbank. Recognised as a Wetland of International Importance, this is a prime spot for birdwatching and a peaceful place to enjoy quality time with your mate.
Thames and Paeroa (Section B) are towns rich with heritage charm and leisurely pace. Paeroa is world famous in New Zealand - for its antique and secondhand shops as much as its giant L&P soft drink bottle. Thames offers an eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes and heritage parks and reserves. It is easy to while away several hours wandering around the town and soaking up the old-world atmosphere.
Cycling the Paeroa to Te Aroha (Section D) leg of the trail is a pleasant cruise through serene green cow paddocks and the looming shadow of the mountain of love - Mt TeAroha - in the distance. The Depot Garden Cafe is a lovely halfway spot for plunger coffee and home-made scones in a tranquil garden setting, while the reward of a soak in the steaming mineral pools of Te Aroha is a soothing way to conclude your journey.