This trail–part of Nga Haerenga–has been a long-time coming. The first sections opened in 2013, the final ones in early 2017. Wrangling over access slowed it all, but happily for us it’s all done now and quite successfully.
Let me say that I haven’t ridden this on an ebike, and you probably don’t need to either. If you go from East to West, the grade is very gentle. From West to East, there is one steep climb and the rest is gently down or flat. For research purposes, I rode the trail twice: the first as a one-day epic boys trip, the second as a two-day luxury weekend break. Both approaches had merit. I’d recommend the slower option for most, but 84km in one day was fun too.
The trail runs from Opua in the East to Horeke on the Hokianga Harbour in the West. You don’t actually get to the west coast which is a pity, though there is some talk about continuing on. I rode the trail in mid-winter and it is quite passable with the occasional muddy bits. It’s well built, the Eastern section from Opua to Okaihau (past Kaikohe) being mostly (but not all) rail trail.
There are four distinct characters of the trail, by my reckoning:
Opua to Kawakawa, where you ride alongside the Kawakawa River wetlands and upper Bay of Islands Harbour. It is a perspective that you won’t get by any other means. It’s dead-flat too. You can easily do this in two directions as it’s only 11km from Kawakawa to Opua. The Hundertwasser influence is fun and you can get good coffee and food in town.
Kawakawa to Kaikohe, which is arguably the dullest section. Riding past the town of Moerewa with its once thriving meatworks, Northland’s hopeless situation is on show. Beyond that, there are a few sections riding alongside the road which is a bit meh. So if you are going to skip a section, this is the one. There are however some nice bridges that you’d miss riding over if you did. Kaikohe itself is nothing to write home about. The Maccas is the top choice for food, sadly. There is a Countdown here too, a good place to park if you need to leave a car.
Kaikohe to Omapere, takes in some native forests, a long rail tunnel and some diverse landscapes and nice views. Stop for a pie in Okaihau. If it is dry, there are some MTB trails off to the side near Omapere. If you had time you could divert to Ngawha Springs.
Omapere to Horeke is perhaps the best bit, after riding through some farmlands you swoop down some switchbacks to the river valley below, and thereafter follow the river to the Hokianga at Horeke. Enjoy a well-earned beer at the Horeke Tavern. The keen could make a trip to the Wairere Boulders. The ‘official’ trail end is the Mission House, but between the Tavern and the Mission House is mostly on the road so it doesn’t really make sense.
But ebikes! Yes, you can use an ebike, and an ebike would make the switchbacks easily manageable on the way up from Horeke should you go in that direction. You could even go from say Omapere to Horeke and back. Don’t make the mistake of whizzing along too fast as you will miss lots of little curiosity. Rather use your speed and ease to explore along the sides of the trail.
The full trail has only been open for a few months and there isn’t much going on along the trail. I’m sure that during summer some entrepreneurs will set up food and craft stalls – imagine a traditional hangi or kai moana along the way.
Accommodation along the trail is limited too. For my one-day trip we stayed in Paihia at Paihia Place https://www.facebook.com/paihiaplace/ . For the two day luxury we stayed at Paheke Lodge in Ohaiwai. http://paheke.co.nz/ I can heartily recommend both in quite different ways. Paihia Place is so close to lots of eateries, and Juen at Paheke is a fascinating lady and a great cook. Accommodation is also available at the Horeke Tavern and Hotel, and I hear that is nice. I can’t vouch for any others, but check the various websites for options. Kaikohe, Twin Coast Trail
Another good source is Jonathan Kennett’s Cycle Trails book.