Itinerary builder

Three great rides for the history buff

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.

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The Lake Okaro restoration project is a highlight on Te Ara Ahi trail. Photo: RLC

1 Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike

The Te Ara Ahi trail provides 51km of diverse New Zealand highlights. A ride for the history buff, this trail passes the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, which is located next to Te Puia (the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute). Take your time to soak in the historic memoirs and learn from the informative displays that are on offer.

As you travel further, you will pass the Whakarewarewa Village, which has existed for more than 700 years and is home to many families of the survivors of the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera. As you ride, you will pass by other unique features such as the Lake Okaro restoration project – a re-established wetland. Rainbow Mountain with its fabulous off-road mountain bike trails, the Te Ranga Hot Pools and Waikite Geothermal Field.

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

2 Mountains to Sea

Our second ride for history lovers includes the three sections of the Mountains to Sea ride. Follow the Old Coach Road over cobblestones once used by horse-drawn coaches to transport passengers between the two railheads of the unfinished main trunk railway line (completed in 1909). Further along the trail, you will reach the viaduct, which was built in 1908 with a rare curved lattice structure, with 13 concrete piers and four steel towers.

Enjoy the gravel roads of Fisher’s Track and take some time with the War Memorial Monument.
Further along the ride, historians will appreciate the Mangapurua Track – roads, which were originally built to service two valleys that were settled by soldiers returning from World War 1. You will pass the remnants of these original settlements and travel along sheer bluff faces to the iconic 1936 "Bridge to Nowhere". 


Once the only access to Poverty Bay, the Motu Trail is steeped in history. Photo: Camilla Rutherford

3 Motu Trail

Up until the mid-20th Century, the historic Old Motu Coach Road was the only overland route between the Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti and Poverty Bay. The pre-European trail is located in an area steeped in Maori history. The area marks some of the earliest arrivals of Maori to New Zealand, stemming back to the 13th century. As you ride along this magnificent trail, you can soak in and experience how it might have been for those on the first waka to land on the Bay of Plenty coastline.

The Motu Trails will be a journey that is remembered for a lifetime. Take time to visit the Opotiki Museum, enjoy the Maori crafts and culture, and visit the restored Mataaua Whareui (traditional Maori meeting house).

These rides encompass a real New Zealand experience. You will meet the locals along the way and enjoy the landscapes, traditions, and culture that Kiwis have to offer.

History buff's bucket list:

  • Kerosene_016.jpg
    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. 
  • AC65-MoutainsToSea-Camilla-Stoddart.jpg
    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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 splendor of the forest, and the sounds of bird calls as you meander across the middle of the North Island.