We caught up with Emma Walters, owner of The Falls Retreat to discover what she loves most about the Hauraki Rail Trail. Why her favourite section is all about the ice cream, and a top tip for parents considering an adventure with kids in tow.
Introducing kids to an established and easy ride like the Hauraki Rail Trail comes with multiple benefits. Flat, off road quality surfaces, and support available for bike hire, accommodation and transport, means you don’t need to pack the kitchen sink.
The 160km Hauraki Rail Trail is jam packed with easy trails, abandoned railways, farm animals, vintage trains, interactive museums, waterfalls, bird watching and a wealth of other attractions and activities for the whole family.
Q Who are you?
A Emma Walters, owner of The Falls Retreat and Mum to 2 kids, Jacob & Molly.
Q What was the reason behind your adventure on the Hauraki Rail Trail?
A We live adjacent to the Rail Trail in the section between Waihi and Paeroa. It’s pretty much at the bottom of our driveway!
Q Which Sections did you ride, and do you have a favourite?
A Riding from our place, opposite Owharoa Falls to Waikino Train Station for an ice cream is a regular favourite for us. The ride takes in the Victoria Battery where the kids can hop off their bikes and run loose. They love to explore the historic relics and play hide and seek. They also love traversing the bridge across the river and then heading down through the tunnel that runs under the road. It only takes us about 20 mins, and is a great short ride for younger kids. Ice cream at the end is a great motivator for those little legs!
Q What memory or experience on the Trail will stay with you most?
A We love catching the train from Waihi to Waikino (you can take your bikes on the open carriage), and then riding back along the Rail Trail to The Falls Retreat. It usually takes about an hour, but one journey was particularly memorable - for all the wrong reasons. I had 4 kids with me from ages 5-10 and it took us about 4 hours as we had multiple mishaps including a puncture and bike chain that kept falling off. The lesson learned was to be more prepared! At the end of our ride - at the bottom of our driveway - we all jumped into the Owharoa Falls for a celebratory swim for having made it back!
Q What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?
A The variety of scenery, ranging from the dramatic backdrop of the Karangahake Gorge, to the rolling river views and farmland as you head the other way to Waihi. The fact you can access the Trail at several different points, and adapt a ride to suit your level of fitness or ability makes it unique, as there’s something for everyone. Also the quality of eating establishments along the way, with The Falls Retreat high up on this list ☺
Q What advice would you give to others planning to ride the Trail?
A Carry a basic puncture/tool kit with you. Plan ahead so you can pick out your preferred eating spots / itinerary, and use this as a motivator when your legs get weary ☺
Q Where are you hoping to adventure next?
A We have pretty much only experienced this very local stretch of the trail between Waihi and Paeroa, but there is so much more to explore. With the new section up to Kaiaua opening, it’s on our list to venture a bit further afield. The thought of enjoying a Hot Pool at The Miranda Holiday Park after a bike ride is very appealing!
Showing a true understanding of fun, The Falls Retreat offer Pizza Making Parties for the kids. Junior chef aprons ensure they look the part, and they can let loose on the awesome playground while their pizzas cook in the wood fired oven.
For the big kids there’s an abundance of options to Stay, Eat and Celebrate nestled in this stunning bush setting. From cooking workshops, functions and romantic getaways, to fun packages for the girls… and the guys.
If you want to follow in Emma’s footsteps, here’s two easy rides to enjoy on Section C of the Rail Trail.
The Goldfields Historic Railway operates a daily timetable between Waihi and Waikino. Riders can take their bike on the steam engine for the 30 minute journey to Waikino Station. Re-fuel at the cafe and picnic areas in the picturesque Waikino Gorge.
Also to be found are the fascinating sites of Victoria Battery and the Victoria Battery Train and Museum. The cycle back towards Waihi follows a picturesque river. The trail is mostly flat, passing farmland before finishing back in historic Waihi township.
Starting at the Karangahake Gorge carpark, this ride takes you through the Karangahake Tunnel. The trail winds its way along the edge of the Waitewheta River. The track is flat, and the terrain easy.
Cool off at Owharoa Falls with a swim in the crystal clear fresh water. Say hello to Emma and indulge your appetite at Falls Retreat. The trail continues along Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, and through the Victoria Battery. Riders can take the steam engine from Waikino Station on to Waihi. You can view and download the map for both rides here.
The 30 minute journey between Waihi and Waikino travels along the original rail bed alongside the Ohinemuri River. With its fabulous scenery, and historical mining sites, it’s a Must Do when riding the Rail Trail.
There’s a variety of ticket options available, and children under 2 travel for free. A Family pass costs $35 one way, or $55 provides a round-trip ticket for two adults and two children.
To help plan your accommodation, bike hire, shuttle transport or guided tour, take a look at the services offered by our Official Partners. There’s a variety of options for all budgets, and with a little help to make your ride more manageable, there’s something for everyone on the Hauraki Rail Trail.
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