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 five 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.
At the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre you can learn about the area’s precious birdlife and incredible feats of the Godwits annual migration. Bird-hides offer the chance to view the shorebirds up close, and identify the various migratory species.
This section of the Trail is unique, and offers great natural attractions which can be enjoyed from the cycle trail. Visitors can find information, birding tips, environmental education, accommodation and the most comprehensive natural history bookshop in New Zealand.
Photo: Rays Rest
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.
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 light lunch, e-bikes, and is suitable for the whole family. The ride flows through lush countryside to the Cheese Factory & Farm.
If you love cheese, Matatoki is a must. There is also a licensed 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 credit: Sereena Burton - Historic Kopu Bridge Thames
Waihi - Karangahake Gorge (24km return)
This popular and manageable ride starts in the historic town of Waihi, with a gentle downhill into Karangakahe Gorge, staying close to the river. Hop of your bike and stretch your legs to enjoy the Victoria Battery, Owharoa Falls and Windows Walkway which are a must do.
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, and indulge in a delicious wine and pizza at the stunning Falls Retreat. Or relax with a glass of craft wine at the Karangahake Winery Estate.
Photo credit: @edemo89 on Instagram - Karangahake Gorge Tunnel
Matamata to Stanley Landing - 32km Return
This gentle section passes through fertile plains, horse studs, and has lots on offer both on and off the Trail. Not to be be missed are the impressive Wairere Falls, which can be found along a short detour. Hop off your bike and stretch your legs as this is a walking track only. Cross over the main trunk line that links the busy port of Tauranga to the greater Waikato. Trains are regular and quite a sight.
Take a picnic as Stanley Landing is the perfect spot to refresh before heading back to Firth Tower. Firth Tower is 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.
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.
Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Wairere Falls
Half day rides offers 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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