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Hauraki Rail Trail

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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.

Riding the Trail

Kaiaua - Thames

55km - Grade 1 Easiest (5-6 hours)

The 160km Hauraki Rail Trail showcases New Zealand’s rich pioneering history against a backdrop of stunning rural, coastal and mountain scenery.  The Grade 1 Easiest Trail is suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels.  It can be completed in 4-5 days, but the five sections each allow for excellent and manageable day rides. 

Starting from the seaside village of Kaiaua in the North, the trail winds around the edge of the shallow Firth of Thames, over chenier shell banks and through wetlands of international significance.

At the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre you can learn about the area’s precious birdlife and incredible feats of the Godwits annual migration.  Bird-hides offer the chance to view the shorebirds up close, and identify the various migratory species.

From Miranda Holiday Park and Hot Pools, the trail skirts around the Firth, following stop banks for much of the way.  Expansive views of coastal wetlands, verdant farmland, and the volcanic Coromandel Ranges provide a dramatic backdrop.  Refreshments are available in the villages of Waitakaruru, Pipiroa, Kopu and Thames.

From the Kopu Bridge the trail turns north to reach Thames.  Built on the pioneering industries of gold mining and kauri logging, it’s full of character with plenty of dining and accommodation options.  As you approach the town centre, stop and enjoy the many sculptures along the community’s Arts Trail.

Thames - Paeroa

34km -  Grade 1 Easiest (3-4 hours)

This richly historic area was once only accessible via the two rivers, Waihou and Hikutaia. The section of trail begins at first following the old railway line out of Thames town and through lush farmland with memorable views across the Hauraki Plains and forested Kaimai Ranges.

The Matatoki Cheese Barn is a highlight, as is the Historical Maritime Park, once New Zealand’s most inland port.  From March 2020 there will be alternative transport for cyclists into the township of Paeroa, via the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers.  Arrive into Paeroa early enough to fossick through the many antiques and collectables shops.  World famous in New Zealand for its giant L&P bottle on the main street, there’s also accommodation and places to eat for riders looking to overnight.

Paeroa - Waihi

24km - Grade 1 - 2 Easiest/Easy (3 hours)

The most popular section of the Rail Trail follows the Ohinemuri River through the dramatic Karangahake Gorge.  A deep canyon cut through the Kaimai Ranges.  This distinctly different  landscape includes the cascading Owharoa waterfall, photogenic gold mining sites, the charmingly old-fashioned Victoria Battery museum, and freaky Windows Walkway that burrows through a shadowy side-gorge.

The pièce de résistance is an amazing 1100-metre long railway tunnel, wobbled through with the aid of a torch or headlamp.  Halfway is Waikino Station where there’s a charming railway cafe . This is the terminus of the Goldfields Railway vintage train which runs between Waikino and Waihi.  Time your ride to coincide with its timetable for a special experience.

We recommend you catch the train to Waihi, and ride back to indulge or stay at Falls Retreat.  Get away from the hustle and bustle and relax in one of the quaint cottages, and enjoy amazing food from a stunning menu including gourmet wood fired pizzas.  There’s lots of great cafes, and Karangahake Winery Estate tucked into the hill-side with direct access from the Trail. 

With its variety of accommodation, eateries and proximity to glorious beaches, Waihi is a great base for your Hauraki adventures. This ‘Heart of Gold’ town still has the operational Martha Mine that can be visited on tours, plus the wonderfully interactive museum known as the Gold Discovery Centre

Paeroa - Te Aroha

23km - Grade 1 Easiest (2-3 hours)

Whether your day departs from Waihi, Waikino, Karangahake or Paeroa, it’s an easy journey down to the township of Te Aroha.  Heading south, this leisurely section passes through lush Waikato farmland dotted with dairy cows and farm animals.  The Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges and Mt Te Aroha (952m The Mountain of Love), and expansive views over the Hauraki Plains are a feast for the eyes.

Te Aroha is a small and rural town.  Its historic mineral spas are a great way to soothe pedal-weary muscles.  Te Aroha has a lovely town domain, and is home to some great walkways, quirky art and cafes.

Te Aroha - Matamata

37km -  Grade 1 Easiest (2-4 hours)

Construction is nearing completion on this gentle section of trail which passes through fertile plains, significant horse studs, goat farms, groves of scented trees, scenic Wairere Falls, ravines, Stanley Landing and the Firth Tower. 

Reaching the township of Matamata brings the opportunity to celebrate the end of your journey with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set.  Make sure you book in advance if you want an evening experience.  The gardens are beautiful in this fairytale world, and nothing beats a tipple at the Green Dragon Inn.

For inspiration, more information and detailed maps about this cycle trail visit the Hauraki Rail Trail Official Website.

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A couple of riders stop to take in a rail tunnel in the Karangahake Gorge on the Hauraki Rail Trail. Photo: Derek Morrison

Insider Tips

  • The Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre is a must do to encounter some of New Zealand’s amazing birdlife.
  • The dramatic Karangahake Gorge, its historic gold mining relics and the 1,100m long railway tunnel are not to be missed. Stop for a swim at the stunning Owharoa Falls and indulge at the tranquil Falls Retreat.
  • The Goldfields Historic Railway operates a daily timetable between Waihi and Waikino.  Riders can take their bike on the vintage steam engine for the memorable 30 minute journey between stations.
  • Nestled in the beautiful domain at the foot of Mount Te Aroha is the Te Aroha Mineral Spas.  Renowned for their healing properties, it’s the perfect way to soothe tired muscles after a days riding.
  • Rattle the drill, crank the handles and immerse yourself in interactive activities at the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre.  Visitors can also take a Tour of the Martha Mine to experience modern day gold mining up close. 

 

Getting There 

The Hauraki Rail Trail is a short drive from Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga and is accessible from Kaiaua in the north, Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi/Waikino, and Matamata in the south.

The temperate climate in this area provides a great all-year round riding experience. Official Partners of the Trail are available to offer support and advice with Bike Hire, Transport, Tours, Accommodation, Eateries, and things to See & Do, making the Hauraki Rail Trail an easy holiday option. 

The Hauraki Rail Trail is Grade 1 Easiest and suitable for riders of all ages and abilities. The Trail is predominantly wide, flat and smooth, with a gentle gradient, and suitable for everything from children’s bikes and uprights, to touring bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes.

Tell Me More

For more information and detailed maps visit the Hauraki Rail Trail Official Website. The Hauraki Rail Trail forms part of the Nga Haerenga - The New Zealand Cycle Trail, for information on the trails we recommend visiting NZCycleTrail.

Explore more of The Coromandel and Waikato regions. 

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