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Great Lake Trail

Riders meet their transport – the Chris Jolly Outdoors water shuttle on the Waihora section of the Great Lake Trail, Taupo. Photo: DGLT

The Great Lake Trail is a scenic 71km Grade 3 trail that follows the northeastern shoreline of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. The all-weather, all-season trail traverses through native forest providing stunning views across Lake Taupo to the majestic volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. With three distinct sections, the trail has something to suit all fitness levels.

One of the best Grade 3 New Zealand Cycle Trails in the country.

Jonathan Kennett, New Zealand trail guide book writer Share

Watch: The Great Lake Trail Experience

Stretching from Waihaha to Whakaipo Bay, you have the option to ride the Great Lake Trail in one full day, or take your time and enjoy the scenery over two or three shorter days. Riders that choose to complete the entire Great Lake Trail should expect to ride for at least six hours, with a 30-minute water taxi connecting the two ends of the trail. For riders taking part in the shorter, standalone rides, the water taxi provides access to the trail from four separate points for your convenience. The water taxi is run by Chris Jolly Outdoors and you can make your booking right here.

Waihaha to Kotukutuku Stream: 31km

The Waihaha Bridge to Kotukutuku Stream section of trail begins 54km from Taupo, from the south side of the Waihaha River Bridge on the Western Bays Road (State Highway 32). The fun and flowing trail offers magnificent views with great lookout sites for relaxation and photos … and a chance to catch your breath. You’ll find some public toilets 14km into your ride. The trail continues to meander over small hills until it reaches the 30km mark where the trail descends rapidly, passing across several bridges and boardwalks. Riders will travel over bridges above the Kotukutuku Waterfall (a great photo opportunity) before arriving at the end of the trail on the shores of Lake Taupo at Waihora Bay. There are toilets and a shelter here. From the beautiful Waihora Bay riders can choose to turn around and ride back to the road, or take the recommended water taxi (requires pre-booking) and continue the trail from Kawakawa Bay.

Watch: Kawakawa Bay with Sarah Ulmer

Whangamata Road to Kawakawa Bay and Kinloch: 18km

This section begins from Whangamata Road and winds its way down into native bush to the picturesque Kawakawa Bay. For riders that are completing the full Great Lake Trail, the trail from Kotukutuku Stream recommences at the water taxi drop-off point at Kawakawa Bay with an immediate graded climb to Rocky Lookout. After passing some scenic rest areas, the trail continues downhill to Kinloch. Once in Kinloch you’ll find some great cafés, picnic areas and public toilets. 

Watch: W2K with Sarah Ulmer

W2K (Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay) and Headland Loop: 14km with additional 10km option

From Kinloch, the final section of the Great Lake Trail climbs gently over The Headland to Whakaipo Bay. There is an additional 10km signposted Headland Loop for those riders needing an extra challenge or just curious to see the views. You’ll find a shelter and public toilets at the second junction of the Headland Loop and main W2K track. From this junction onwards, riders will enjoy a downhill section to Whakaipo Bay, which is the official finish of the Great Lake Trail. Whakaipo Bay is 13km from Taupo via Acacia Bay Road. It’s a straightforward road ride … if you’ve still got energy to burn, otherwise you can arrange for shuttle collection from Whakaipo Bay. Either way you will be grinning. 

Watch: K2K with Sarah Ulmer

Insider Tips

  • Book your water taxi in advance to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Take your camera and a little extra time to explore the waterfalls and bays.
  • Make sure to take enough water in the summer months – especially on the first section from Waihaha to Kotukutuku Stream as there isn't much en route and it can get hot.

Getting There 

The Great Lake Trail is best accessed from Taupo. Taupo is a three-and-a-half hour drive from Auckland Airport (264km) and an hour drive from Rotorua (81km). Taupo is a two-hour drive from Hamilton (153km). The trailhead start point is 54km from Taupo. 

Tell Me More

The Great Lake Trail forms part of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail, for information on the trails we recommend visiting NZCycleTrail.

For more adventures to explore around Taupo visit Destination Great Lake Taupo.

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