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Top 5: Family friendly rides

With the recent development of the New Zealand Cycle Trail – Nga Haerenga, there is now more choice that ever when it comes to choosing family friendly rides. Round up your family and come exploring with us …


A family enjoys a day out on the Great Lake Walkway on the lakefront at Taupo. Photo: DGLT

The Central North Island provides the perfect selection of easy going trails for families that are new to mountain biking. This fun activity will create memories that your family will cherish for years to come.

So, what defines a family friendly ride? Smooth and fast rolling trails with no major hills or technical sections. These trails are perfect for families to gain confidence and improve fitness at their own pace, while sharing the experience of each trail. The trails also have plenty of places for picnicking, swimming and camping along the way.

Watch: Explore the Hauraki Rail Trail

1: Hauraki Rail Trail

Our number one family trail is the Hauraki Rail Trail. While the full trail is 82km in length, you can choose to ride just a section of the trail. The Hauraki Rail Trail showcases some of the best scenery in New Zealand. It is rich in pioneering history including the Karangahake Gorge, an historic gold mining town and luxurious mineral spas. This easy to ride, Grade 1 trail is suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels.

We suggest riding the 12km from Hikutaua from the Convenient Cow café, to Paeroa. Stop here and have a world famous Lemon and Paeroa (L&P) soft drink before deciding whether to keep going or to turnaround. If your fitness is feeling good, travel onwards over a number of bridges and through many long railway tunnels. Here riders can either take the vintage train, or ride the remaining 8km to Waihi.


Explore the wetlands and birdlife of the Waikareao Estuary with the whole family. Photo: Derek Morrison

2: Waikareao Estuary Loop

Our second trail for families is the popular Waikareao Estuary Loop in the coastal metropolis of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. The 9km of well-marked trail features boardwalks, bridges and plenty of cycle-friendly cafés as it winds around Waikareao Estuary, just above the high tide line in this beautiful wetland environment. Keep an eye out for the abundant bird life, which includes brightly coloured kingfishers, herons, grey ducks, pied stilts and oyster catchers. The trail is mostly flat with only slight undulations through some of the native bush sections. Allow up to two hours to complete the full loop at a leisurely pace.


A family explores the Lake Okaro wetland on Te Ara Ahi, Rotorua. Photo: RLC

3: Te Ara Ahi

The third trail we recommend is the Te Ara Ahi trail on the outskirts of Rotorua. This family friendly ride offers 47-51km of Grade 2-3 cycling through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers. The thermal hot spots are rich in Maori history, folklore, and geothermal flora and fauna. We suggest you take the shuttle out to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland and ride the mostly downhill trail back to Rotorua.

Watch: Taste the Hawke's Bay Trails experience

4: Hawke’s Bay Trails

Our fourth recommendation is the culinary and viticulture experience of the Hawke's Bay Trails. This trail network boasts over 200km of cycling tracks that meander between Napier and Hastings. The trails provide a flat network stretching over the Heretaunga Plains. The trails provide year-round cycling and will suit most cycling levels. There are three distinct sections with unique cycling features, such as expansive ocean views, world-class wineries, and beautiful New Zealand countryside. Pick your own pace here and make a weekend of it.


Ride from Taupo and take the Great Lake Walkway at your own pace. Photo: DGLT

5: Great Lake Walkway

Number five on our favourite family list is the Taupo Great Lake Walkway (aka Lion’s Walk). Rent some bikes from the many rental shops in downtown Taupo before setting off along the shores of the lake. Take your time and enjoy a swim, ice cream or lunch as you soak in the spectacular surrounds – you may even catch a glimpse of the big three: Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe.

The cycle trails of the Central North Island provide a safe yet unique opportunity to experience some of the very best character of New Zealand. Traverse around stunning lakes, through native forest and across quiet farmland. With more than 1000km of trails in the region, you are spoilt for choice – there is always a trail waiting to be ridden. Give your family an experience that will be remembered for years to come.

Take Me There

We've preloaded these trails into an itinerary ready for you to plan your bike hire, guides and accommodation. Start planning your family cycling holiday here.

  • Victoria Battery .jpg
    One of New Zealand’s easiest Great Rides, this laid-back Waikato trail follows historic railway lines between the quaint townships of Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi and Matamata. Officially starting from Kaiaua in the North, the start of the trail traces the Shorebird Coast along the Firth of Thames. Riders enjoy contrasting landscapes from the verdant Hauraki Plains, to the intriguing Karangahake Gorge, carved by the forces of nature. Finally, there’s a gentle ride South through lush farmlands to the hometown of the Hobbiton Movie Set. 
  • 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. 
  • A couple stop to soak in the experience of a fire on the beach along the Hawkes Bay Trails, Napier. Photo: Tourism Hawkes Bay
    Boasting more than 180km of trails the easy grade Hawke's Bay Trails feature a clover leaf of superb cycling between and around Napier and Hastings. The Grade 1-3 trails offer year-round cycling that will suit most skill and fitness levels. The network is mostly flat as it sprawls out across the Heretaunga Plains, waterways and beachfront. You can plan a trip for 1-4 days on the three distinct sections of trail, which each feature a unique part of the Hawke's Bay experience: expansive ocean views, world-class wineries and beautiful New Zealand countryside. 
  • A family enjoys the Lion's Walk Trail on the shores of Lake Taupo. Photo: DGLT
    The Great Lake Walkway, or Lion’s Walk, is a 10km, Grade 1 paved ride that travels along the shoreline of Lake Taupo. The trail offers majestic views across the lake to the snow-capped peaks of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. The trail is perfectly suited to young families and more experienced riders looking for a scenic 1-2 hours of stress-free riding. This uncomplicated and easy to ride trail begins at Taupo’s Boat Harbour, however you can choose your start location anywhere along the lake edge from Taupo. Take a picnic and enjoy a day beside New Zealand's largest lake. 
  • 20150724_Oropi_0309.jpg
    The Waikareao Estuary Loop is one of the best urban rides in Tauranga, providing 9km of well-marked trail complete with boardwalks, bridges and plenty of cycle-friendly cafés along the way. The trail is multi-use and can be ridden in both directions as it winds around the Waikareao Estuary, just above the tide line in the beautiful wetland environment. 

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  • 20150218_CoroWalkway_CR_0005.jpg ... where the trails live ... A collection of some of New Zealand's best all-season cycling trails. From eight of the New Zealand Cycle Trail's Great Rides to some of the best mountain biking networks in the country, has something for everyone. Start your cycling holiday here ...