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Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride

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Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride extends for 70km from Hamilton to Horahora alongside the Central North Island’s mighty Waikato river. The trail travels along gentle terrain at a comfortable Grade 2 pace making it suitable for all ride abilities. There are seven distinct sections of Te Awa, which can be ridden in one full ride or over several easier days. The sections begin in Ngaruawahia and pass through Horotiu, Hamilton, Cambridge and Karapiro before extending to link with the Waikato River Trail at Horahora.

Te Awa is currently under construction with several sections already open to offer a taste of what this great river ride is like. Finding your way alongside the Waikato River is easy on Te Awa thanks to an abundance of clear signage. Lots of interpretation panels offer convenient rest stops along this trail as you take in the facts and figures of the land and its people. Plenty of accommodation options are dotted along the length of the track and offer scenic stopovers. Riding through Cambridge you will pass by the AvantiDrome, which is the home of Cycling New Zealand. At the AvantiDrome, you may like to stop at the onsite Revolve Café, the onsite bike shop, or explore the world-class velodrome, which is open to the public. For kids and adults alike, there is a pump track with rollers and small jumps to play around on to warm up or sharpen your skills.

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A group of riders make their way along the Waikato River on Te Awa at Hamilton. Photo: Derek Morrison

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Trailside restaurants and cafés make Te Awa the perfect social ride. Photo: Derek Morrison

Te Awa's route is predominantly easy riding with a wide, even surface, which will appeal to a broad range of people. The trail is shared use so make room for walkers. As the trail travels beside New Zealand’s longest river, you will pass by many of the country’s top producing farms, exotic and native forests, and sandy river beaches. As you ride this trail you will experience complete immersion into some of New Zealand's rural heartland. Te Awa weaves as fluidly through farmland as it does through the urban centres en route. The urban centres offer a chance to take a breather, refuel at a trail-side restaurant or café or rest the leg at some convenient accommodation. Between the urban and rural landscapes there are plenty of interesting establishments along the trail to explore, bridges to cross, boardwalks, waterfalls, traditional Maori sites, gift shops and wineries.

Some sections of Te Awa are scheduled for completion in 2016 and 2017. The seven sections are as follows:

Section A: Ngaruawahia to Horotiu (9km) Status: Due to be completed in 2016

Section B: Horotiu to Hamilton City (4.5km) Status: Completed 

Section C: Hamilton City (15.5km) Status: Completed

Section D: Hamilton to AvantiDrome (18km) Status: Due to be completed in 2017

Section E: AvantiDrome to Cambridge (3.2km) Status: Completed

Section F: Cambridge to Mighty River Domain (15.2km) Status: Completed

Section G: Mighty River Domain to Horahora (20km) Status: Due to be completed in 2017

Insiders Tips

  • Book your accommodation in advance and enjoy two good days riding on this trail.
  • Take your camera and a little extra time to explore the waterfalls and sandy river beaches. 
  • Track cycling is really big in New Zealand and you can book in to a "Have A Go" session to try it yourself at the AvantiDrome. They'll supply you with all the gear you need to experience this Olympic sport.

Gallery: Te Awa as it passes through Hamilton

Getting There 

The trail is very easy to find with access points at all sections of the trail including Horotiu, Hamilton, AvantiDrome, Cambridge and the Mighty River Domain. Hamilton is a good base for a multi-day ride of Te Awa. Hamilton is a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Auckland Airport (124km), however Hamilton has its own airport so you can choose to fly to the city directly.

Tell More More

Local information is best sourced through Hamilton-Waikato Tourism and the Te Awa website here.

If you are planning to check out the world class velodrome in Cambridge, you can find out details directly from their website.

If you would like to hire a bike to ride Te Awa, then stop in at the AvantiDrome Bike Shop.

For the active traveler, you might like to include a section of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails into your travel schedule.

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