The Hauraki Rail Trail is one of the easiest cycle trails in New Zealand. Divided into 5 Sections, the Trail allows for a range of manageable scenic day rides, or 4 to 5 day touring. As a Grade One cycle trail, the Trail is suitable for all ages, fitness levels, and skills.
The Trail's 5 Sections each vary in length from 23km to 55km. Riders can comfortably traverse one Section each day, or select a shorter route for a relaxed morning or afternoon of sightseeing and leisurely biking.
The Rail Trail is perfect for all kinds of adventures, so if you’re keen to ride and need some help, begin your research and planning on the Hauraki Rail Trail website. Our basic Ride Planning Guide is a good resource to get you started.
Kaiaua to Bird Hide: (20 km Return)
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. The picturesque seaside town boasts a stunning coastline, beautiful parks, a Pirate Ship playground, local monthly market, and expansive views of the Firth and the dramatic Coromandel Ranges.
At the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre you can learn about the area’s precious birdlife and incredible feats of the Godwits annual migration. At the Centre, you’ll find information, birding tips, environmental education, accommodation and the most comprehensive natural history bookshop in New Zealand. The varied selection of postcards, magnets, and tea towels make great souvenirs or gifts to take home to friends and family.
Stretch your legs with a walk to one of the nearby bird hides to see the amazing aviators up close. At the Shorebird Centre there are bike racks where you can secure your bike before you go. Take your camera to capture the expansive wetlands and shorebirds. The best time to view the birds is within two hours either side of the high tide, as once the tide drops, the birds go far out on the mudflats to feed.
Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre Bird Hides
Thames - Kopu: (14km Return)
This richly historic area was once only accessible via the two rivers, Waihou and Hikutaia. If you’re short for time or don’t want to ride far, the easy ride from Thames to Kopu is just 7km one way. The section of trail begins at first following the old railway line out of Thames town and through lush farmland. As you leave the town centre, stop and enjoy the many sculptures along the community’s Arts Trail.
Photo credit: Nikki Scott - Jandel on The Mandel by Artist Ricks Terstappen
Thames - Matatoki (24km return)
With more time to spare, head from Thames to the Matatoki Cheese Barn. This relaxed 60 minute ride is ideal for a bite to eat, and is suitable for the whole family. The ride flows through beautiful countryside to the Cheese Factory & Farm.
If you love cheese, Matatoki is a must. The range includes Traditional Dutch Gouda, Feta, Camembert, Brie, Halloumi, Blue, Mozzarella, Natural Liquid Yoghurt, Lactose Free Yoghurt, Kefir Yoghurt, Buttermilk, Greek Yoghurt, Quark, Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream & Ghee.
There is also a BYO Cafe, cheese tastings, and a fabulous animal farm. The family of alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, budgies, quails, canaries and Cookie the spotty sheep offer great entertainment for the whole family.
Photo: The Cheese Barn at Matatoki
Waihi - Karangahake Gorge (24km return)
The diverse topography of the Waihi region provides a rich playground for all to enjoy. The spectacular native bush, Karangahake Gorge and nearby Waihi Beach are wonderful places to explore and enjoy.
This popular and manageable ride starts in the historic town of Waihi, with a gentle downhill into Karangahake Gorge staying close to the river. Hop off your bike and stretch your legs to enjoy the Victoria Battery and Owharoa Falls.
Photo credit: Nikki Scott - Victoria Battery
To shorten the ride, relax and take the train to Waikino and enjoy a coffee to get you going at the Waikino Station Cafe. From Waikino it's a short ride to get away from the hustle and bustle. Book ahead and indulge in a variety of dining experiences at the stunning Falls Retreat. You can learn more and view the dining options here. Alternatively, relax with a cold beer or award winning Gin at the Waikino Hotel.
For a unique experience stop off at the Aviator Experience & Café which is situated just off the Hauraki Rail Trail, and directly across from the Windows Walk reserve carpark. Here you'll find great food and coffee from the military style themed Café, and the pièce de résistance... check out the award winning flight simulators.
Photo credit: @edemo89 on Instagram - Karangahake Gorge Tunnel
For an extra adventure, factor time for a visit to Bullswool Farm Heritage Park. Whilst the Farm is not accessible from the Hauraki Rail Trail, it ’s just a short 10 minute drive from Paeroa, or 20 minutes from Waihi.
Home to three generations of the Howse family, the farm has a diverse and interesting array of rare breed farm animals, several working farm museums, outdoor displays, and an award-winning Native Bird Reserve.
Photo: Bullswool Farm Heritage Park
Matamata to Stanley Landing - 32km Return
This gentle section passes through fertile plains, horse studs, and has lots to offer both on and off the Trail. Cross over the main trunk line that links the busy port of Tauranga to the greater Waikato. Trains are regular and quite a sight.
Not to be be missed are the impressive Wairere Falls, which can be found along a short detour. You'll need to secure your bike and stretch your legs as this is a walking track only. Or factor extra time to return after your ride.
Photo credit: Nikki Scott - Wairere Falls
Take a picnic as Stanley Landing is the perfect spot to refresh before heading back to Firth Tower. Firth Tower is well worth a visit with its peaceful grounds and antique displays. Built in 1882 the Tower commands an extensive view of the surrounding countryside. Visitors can enjoy the gardens, picnic under venerable oaks and explore the museum displays housed across 13 buildings.
Photo credit: East Auckland Seniors Cycling Club enjoy a visit to Firth Tower
Also on the grounds are Matamata's 1912 Methodist church, and brought in from around the District and all in working order are a Victorian post office, schoolroom, jail, barn, stables and woolshed as well as several other vintage farm buildings. All the old communications equipment is in the Post Office as well as a tiny second hand bookstore.
Matamata is a rural town nestled at the base of the scenic Kaimai Ranges. It offers a range of walking options, golf courses, and an extensive selection of Cafés and Accommodation, making it a great place to unwind or stay after riding the Trail.
Before or after your ride, a visit to the enchanting village of Hobbiton Movie Set is a Must Do. Explore the lush pastures of the Shire with a guided tour of Hobbiton, as featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.
Visitors can choose from the Movie Set Tour and experience the real Middle-earth with a fully guided tour around the 12 acre set; past Hobbit Holes, the Mill and into the world-famous Green Dragon Inn. Alternatively end the day with the Evening Banquet Tour and experience the Movie Set at dusk with a guided tour of the Shire and a banquet feast fit for a Hobbit served inside The Green Dragon Inn.
Photo credit: Craig Oakley - Hobbiton Movie Set
Half day rides offer a taste of the Rail Trail. If you arrange your own trip, check entry/exit points and car parks, and organise any transport you might need. Most Tour Operators or the local i-site or Information Centre can arrange to transport you and a bicycle to and from popular sections. If you intend to ride self-supported, it’s a good idea to leave the car at the end of your ride and book a shuttle back to the start. You can find shuttle support options here.
The beauty of a day ride is you can travel light, but it’s still worth carrying all the essentials, some of which can be shared amongst your group. Wherever you’re headed, give yourself a little peace of mind and Plan, Prepare and Pack to get the most from your ride.
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