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Itinerary: A family week on wheels

This week-long family adventure explores some of the Central North Island’s best family friendly riding. Based around Rotorua and Taupo, this itinerary includes cycle trails, city rides, river trails and mountain bike parks and a diverse range of scenery. With so many rides in the Central North Island, there are options for longer or more challenging trails for experienced riders and older families and a few family favourite activities off the bike thrown in there too.

Day 1 - Hauraki Rail Trail 

Start your week on the Hauraki Rail Trail, one of the New Zealand Cycle Way rides. Kids will love the section from Karangahake Gorge. Ride out to the picturesque Owharoa Falls for a picnic and explore the amazing 1100-metre long railway tunnel - don’t forget to take a torch!

Grab something to eat and then head on over to Rotorua (about 2 hours driving time), where you’ll be based for the next few days.

Stay

  •          Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park is a family favourite, centrally located with a selection of cabins or campsites.
  •          Aura Accommodation has family units, free scooter hire, a heated outdoor pool and thermally heated spa pool.
  •          Holiday Inn Rotorua has a great location just minutes ride from Whakarewarewa forest. It’s   well set up for cyclists with Bike storage and cleaning facilities
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Tunnels on the Hauraki Rail Trail

Day 2 - Te Ara Ahi

Explore Rotorua city and the lakefront this morning. Te Ara Ahi on the National Cycle trail has a section that takes you through Government Gardens and Sulphur Point, a geothermal area on the edge of Lake Rotorua. Or book in with Happy Ewe Cycle Tours for a guided tour and great stories.

Then head over to the Whakarewarewa Forest. There are a variety of walking tracks that all start from the Redwoods i-SITE and visitor centre taking you through towering Redwoods. If the kids want to ride more, the 3.6km Mokopuna Trail is a great introduction to the Rotorua forest trails.

From here you can also do the Redwoods Treewalk Nightlights experience. This is a great option to explore the forest after dark on a suspended walkway.

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Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail Rotorua

Day 3 - Waikareao Estuary Loop

Tauranga is an hour’s drive from Rotorua, an ideal day trip to explore the Waikareao Estuary Loop ride. The 9km loop of easy riding features boardwalks and bridges and plenty of places to stop along the way for coffee or snacks! This beautiful wetland environment is the perfect place to spot local wildlife, keep an eye out for kingfishers, herons, grey ducks, pied stilts and oyster catchers. A short drive from here takes you to Mount Maunganui, a stunning white sand surf beach. If the kids still have some energy, tackle the walking track to the top of Mauao or grab an ice cream or gelato and stroll on the beach.

Pamper yourself with a mud bath and spa on the way back to Rotorua at Hell’s Gate, stop off at Okere Falls for a walk to see Tutea falls on the Kaituna River, or drop into the Okere Falls Store to refuel.

Day 4 - Whakarewarewa Forest

With another day in Rotorua, head over to Waipa Mountain Bike Car Park for a day of riding in the Whakarewarewa Forest, also known as the Redwoods. The Pak n Save kids loop is a great place to start. The well-marked trail combines the family friendly grade 2 trails. Those with a little more energy in the tank may want to continue onto Creek track or head on up to Challenge (grade 3). Older and more capable kids will love the shuttle bus taking you to access the higher trails in the forest without having to ride all the way there. Corners is a great place to start from the top of the shuttle.

Dad and daughter rail a smooth berm on the popular Dipper Track in Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua. Photo: Nick Lambert

Family trails in Whakarewarewa Forest

Day 5 - Te Awa & Cougar Park or Waikato River Trails

Checking out of your Rotorua accommodation this morning, Hamilton is the next stop (approx. 1 hour 15 mins drive time) to check out Te Awa – the Great New Zealand River Ride. Following the Waikato River, Te Awa has 70km of track, broken into 7 sections. Hamilton CBD is a great starting point with heaps of options for lunch, and the Hamilton Gardens are also a firm family favourite.

From Hamilton, drive to Taupo (Approx 1.5-2 hours) where you’ll be based for the rest of the week. Stop off half way in Tokoroa for a blast around Cougar Mountain Bike Park. 3 Blind Mice is a great track for families with some fast flowing sections and a number of exits along the 3.4km track offering an easy out for tired legs!

Alternatively, the Waikato River Trails would also be a convenient stop off before heading to Taupo for intermediate to advances riders. 

Stay:

  •          Lake Taupo Holiday Resort has a swim up bar so you can relax with a beer while the kids explore the activities, fun and games on offer.
  •          Taupo Debretts Spa resort has heaps of family activities and the pools, water playground and slides.
  •          Wairakei Resort has a family villa with all the comforts of home.

Day 6 - Lion's Walk or Great Lake Trail

The Great Lake Walkway – Lion’s Walk provides flat easy riding along the shoreline of Lake Taupo, with majestic views across the lake to the snow-capped peaks of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu.

Older families may want to head out to ride a section of the Great Lake Trails. Kinloch is a great place to start and you can head out in either direction towards Whakaipo Bay or to Kawakawa Bay. For a bigger adventure you can get packages including shuttles to the Waihaha and Waihora sections of the trail and a water taxi back across Lake Taupo at the end of your ride.

Relax in the afternoon and take the opportunity to visit the iconic Huka Falls. The falls can be viewed a short walk from the car park, and there are a number of viewing platforms along the river. To relieve the tired legs, explore the natural geothermal hot springs at Spa Park.

The Rotary Ride offers great views of Huka Falls, Taupo. Photo: DGLT

Huka Falls - Taupo

Day 7 - Craters Mountain Bike Park

Finish the week with a whip around Craters Mountain Bike Park. Here you can ride as much or as little as you want and there’s a great skills area to practice some wooden features and ramps. Craters is a great wet weather option, the pumice here means the trails drain really well, where other areas may turn into a mud bath. The trails at Craters are managed by Bike Taupō, so you’ll need to purchase a permit to ride here.

Don’t leave Taupo without a visit to Huka Prawn Park, a short drive from the biking trails!