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Waikareao Estuary Loop

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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 high tide line in this beautiful wetland environment.

The trail includes an impressive boardwalk that meanders through the tidal wetland as it skirts the estuary offering lots of encounters with the local wildlife. 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.

When RideNZ.co scoped out this trail we caught up with local resident Kristen Dunne who was out riding with her young family.

“It's just extraordinary to have such a beautiful and varied nature ride so close to the city," she explained. 

The trail is great for young families and is suitable for all ages and all riding abilities. However, there are raised boardwalks above the tidal mangroves, so very young children will need to be supervised while riding some sections of the trail. The boardwalk sections are very generous and wide enough for riders to pass each other and walkers.

Allow up to two hours to complete the full loop at a leisurely pace. Along the way you might choose to take a break at the bike-friendly cafés, overlooking the glistening estuary waters – Nautilus Restaurant and Espresso Bar is right on the trail and a good destination to refuel at. This all-weather ride is a reliable option to plan into your holiday to Tauranga and will give you a good feel for the city and its connection with the South Pacific Ocean. For riders looking for more, there are several extension rides such as the Otumoetai Foreshore Trail, Matua Saltmarsh, Welcome Bay, Matapihi Trail and rides in Gordon Carmichael Reserve.

Gallery: Waikareao Estuary Loop

Insider Tips

  • The meaning of Waikareao is: "sparkling waters of the new day", which is a nice way to look at this refreshing ride.
  • When planning your ride, you can relax knowing that car-parking is easy and accessible, with options at Maxwells Road, or Coach Drive and at the Waihi Road entrance to Takitimu Drive.
  • We recommend parking near Nautilus Restaurant and Espresso Bar at 50B Cross Road, Sulphur Point so you can enjoy a coffee and lunch before or after your ride.

Getting There

The Waikareao Estuary Ride is best accessed from Tauranga. Tauranga is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Auckland Airport (189km) and an hour drive from Rotorua (70km). Tauranga is a one-hour-twenty-minute drive from Hamilton (98km). There are several entry points to this trail. You can begin from several car-parking spots located on Chapel Street, Coach Drive or Takitimu Drive.

Tell Me More

Find extra local information from Tourism Bay of Plenty, including printable maps of the urban city rides and lots of info on the best eateries, cafés, events and accommodation in Tauranga.

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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