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Itinerary: Five great rides for the history buff

Want to explore 800 years of Maori settlement? How about riding in some of New Zealand's most ancient forests? Or follow in the footsteps of early European settlers? This itinerary is packed full of history and tales as you explore five of the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail – Nga Haerenga.

A lone rider crosses the historic 'Bridge to Nowhere', Ruapehu. Photo: Nick Lambert

The Bridge to Nowhere is a must-do section of Mountains to Sea for the history buff. Photo: Nick Lambert

The cycle trails of the Central North Island are steeped in history. From the early Maori who first arrived on these shores in the 13th century to the early European settlers many of the trails feature direct links to these people and their history. Complete with informative local museums, attractions and many detailed interpretation boards this five-trail itinerary will take you between 8-17 days to complete.

If you don't have the time to complete them all in one trip, why not pick them off one at a time. Either way by the time you get these completed you'll be an expert on some areas of New Zealand that very few get to visit.

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  • The lads relax alongside the Pakihi River at the end of the Motu Trail, Eastland, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
    Motu Trails provides a trilogy of contrasting trails that can be ridden in a loop totalling 93km. The three links offer a range of all-terrain riding, which includes stunning beaches, spectacular native forest and family friendly rest stops. This cycle trail can be ridden all year as a full loop, or can be split into the three shorter sections. As a popular 1-3 day ride, it offers options for all ages, abilities, fitness levels and preferences. 
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    The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail involves four to six days of riding through remote areas of native bush. The Grade 2-3 trails use a combination of local mountain biking trails, public roads and a jet-boat to take riders from the mountains of the Central Volcanic Plateau to the sea in Whanganui. Riders will traverse two national parks that are rich in natural and cultural heritage, enjoying stunning scenery along the way. 
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    The 77km Hauraki Rail Trail showcases New Zealand’s rich pioneering history against a backdrop of stunning rural and mountain scenery. Take two days to make the most of the experience which includes an historic gold mining town, luxurious mineral spas and the spectacular Karangahake Gorge. This easy to ride Grade 1 trail is suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. 
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    Ever imagined riding through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers in a chronically volcanic area? We certainly did and the Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike trail in Rotorua offers exactly that. The 51km Grade 2-3 cycle trail weaves through some of Rotorua’s most impressive thermal hot spots and is rich in Maori history, folklore and geothermal flora and fauna. 
  • Timber_Trail_Mountain_Bike_Trail_Image_1U0A9304.jpg
    Rejuvenate yourself with a ride through the ancient forests of the Timber Trail. This ride is a must do for any rider. The scenery is spectacular, the history unique and the track is a complete adventure experience. Expect to be surprised by the views offered by the eight large suspension bridges along the trail, the splendour of the forest, and the sounds of bird calls as you meander across the middle of the North Island. 

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  • 20150222_MotuPakihi_CR_0009.jpg
    The thermal wonderland of the Central North Island is rich in early Maori history, wartime establishments and heroic tales. For the history lover, these three trails will add to your insight and knowledge of New Zealand’s short, but vibrant history. Be in the moment as you ride along cycle trails originally built by soldiers, travel through volcanic landscapes and become familiar with more than 800 years of Maori practices.