The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail involves three to five days of riding through remote areas of native bush. The Grade 2-4 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 Tasman Sea in Whanganui.
Including all its options the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail totals 317km in length. Riders will traverse two national parks: Tongariro National Park and Whanganui National Park, both rich in natural and cultural heritage. Experts recommend starting your ride from the Tongariro National Park end. Trail maps and information brochures are available from all Ruapehu i-Sites and various accommodation providers. The trail is well signposted with detailed signage at key locations along the way.
One of the best trails in the Ruapehu area is the Ohakune Old Coach Road – it offers a variety of terrain from open farmland, well constructed track to the original cobbles from the horse and cart days.Jane Gamble, Mountain Bike Station owner, Ohakune Share
Ohakune Old Coach Road to Mangapurua Trig (71km)
From the Ohakune Railway Station, the trail follows the historic Ohakune Old Coach Road to Horopito. This is a cobbled route once used by horse-drawn coaches to transport passengers between the two railheads of the unfinished main trunk railway line (completed in 1909). This section of trail is Grade 2 and provides a great day out for families. The Hapuawhenua Viaduct is a highlight of the Mountains to Sea. The viaduct, built in 1908, is a rare curved lattice structure with 13 concrete piers and four steel towers. From Horopito, the trail follows rural roads for 44km to the start of the Grade 3 Mangapurua Track.
“The nearest, and one of the best trails in the Ruapehu area, is the Ohakune Old Coach Road," explains local owner of Mountain Bike Station, Jane Gamble. "It offers a variety of terrain from open farmland, well constructed track to the original cobbles from the horse and cart days. The trail offers you spectacular scenery – from a view of Mt Ruapehu at the start of the ride, to the lush native bush sections, followed by the impressive structure of the original Hapuawhenua Viaduct, 284m long and 45m above the stream below.”
Mangapurua Trig to Whanganui (143km)
The National Park Village and Ohakune sections of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail meet at the junction of the Kaiwhakauka and Mangapurua tracks just before the Mangapurua Trig. From here, the trail continues along the Mangapurua track, dropping down into the valley. It follows historic roads that 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.
From here, it is 3km to the Mangapurua Landing, where you will start your pre-booked jet-boat ride down the mighty Whanganui River to Pipiriki. We highly recommend exploring the options to kayak or canoe this section. Following the jet-boat ride (or kayak/canoe), you will hop back on your bike at Pipiriki and continue to follow the Whanganui River Road to Upokongaro.
The final 9km of this Great Ride will take you from the southern end of River Road down State Highway 4 to Whanganui. There is an information station and shelter at the end of River Road where it meets the highway.
Alternative Start Point – National Park Village to Mangapurua Trig (66km)
An alternative start point for the Mountains to Sea Great Ride is to begin on Fishers Track from National Park. Starting at the National Park Railway Station the cycle trail follows the Grade 2 Fishers Track, descending through native bush into the Retaruke Valley and along gravel roads to the War Memorial Monument. This section of trail is an intermediate downhill sloping Grade 2 ride offering spectacular views.
From here, continue along Oio Road to Whakahoro and the start of the Kaiwhakauka Track. You will travel through farmland and native bush, before connecting with the Mangapurua Track (and the cycle trail link from Ohakune). Note that some sections of this track are Grade 4.
If you are after a shorter ride you can opt out here, riding to the Mangapurua car park and following Ruatiti Road out of the valley to Raetihi or Ohakune.
- Take some time to explore the Bridge to Nowhere ... a true relic of another era.
- Sections of the ride can be done as day rides from the comfort of a base in one of the local towns.
- Always check with the local i-Site before embarking on these trails as they can suffer storm damage.
The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail is best accessed from Ohakune or National Park, which falls approximately half-way between Auckland and Wellington. Ohakune is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Auckland Airport (352km) and National Park is a four-hour drive from Auckland Airport (316km). National Park is a 90-minute drive from Taupo (100km). Ohakune is a 90-minute drive from Whanganui (98km).
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To explore all that this region has to offer, we recommend the Visit Ruapehu website.
The Mountains to Sea Trail forms part of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail, for information on the trails we recommend visiting NZCycleTrail.