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Rail Trail Tales With Outdoor Kid

Outdoorsy mum, Ceana Priest, is on a mission to get kids to ditch devices and head outdoors this summer. The former conservation ranger spent the past four years exploring the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Central Plateau regions with her seven-year-old son and has written a guidebook combining all three areas.


Photo: Outdoor Kid Guidebooks featuring the Hauraki Rail Trail


Previously she has written individual guidebooks for the Waikato and Central Plateau, but has recently added the Bay of Plenty to a bumper guidebook combining all three areas. Ceana grew up at Whakapapa Village surrounded by nature and with skiing on the school curriculum, and summers spent wandering through beech forests, she knew she wanted her son Finn to grow up with an appreciation for the outdoors.

Prior to having children, most weekends were spent adventuring, but when Finn arrived, things came to a grinding halt. Everything needed to get flatter and shorter. With cabin fever and baby blues, the new Mum desperately needed to get outdoors and soak up some fresh air.

However... Ceana struggled to find resources that showed whether walks were buggy-friendly or a maze of steep stairs. Famously ending up knee-deep in a murky lake on a supposedly buggy-friendly trail, she knew there must be a better way to share adventures! 


Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Finn looking for glowworms in the 1100m tunnel, Karangahake Gorge


In the past, she’d had to cut-short adventures when paths narrowed, or when they reached stairs. She couldn’t easily find accessible walks online, and so Outdoor Kid was created, to help other families find age-suitable adventures, and encourage kids to ditch devices and connect to nature. Aside from the health benefits, Ceana thinks there’s lots of reasons for families to head outdoors.

Ceana believes nature-based adventures build resilient kids. Whilst there’s always going to be bumps and bruises, mishaps generally result in a greater understanding of their own abilities, and a good cuddle solves most things and it becomes a fun adventure again.

The guidebook includes more than 250 free adventures throughout the three regions. From glowworm caves, thundering waterfalls to wetlands and forests, there are adventures for all ages and abilities that suit walking, buggies, biking, wheelchairs and dogs.

Not all children are fans of walking or biking, but that shouldn’t be a barrier to them getting outdoors. The book also includes playgrounds, splash pads, pump tracks, learn-to-ride parks and MTB tracks for more confident kids on two wheels.


Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Finn exploring Te Aroha Domain


We asked Ceana to share her experience of the Hauraki Rail Trail with us, and also to pass on a few tips when adventuring with kids.


How much of the Hauraki Rail Trail have you both explored on foot or bike?

The entire way!


What aspect of the journey has Finn enjoyed the most, and do you have a favourite Section?

Hands down it’s between Kangahake Hall and Waikino on the Paeroa to Waihi section – especially with younger kids who might not have enough oomph to tackle the entire section.

There’s so much to explore, especially the 1100-metre-long rail tunnel and historic engineering feats from when gold fever ran rampant through the dramatic gorge. Finn loves tearing through the tunnel and grabbing an ice cream at the Waikino Hotel.


Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Section C: Paeroa to Waihi


What would you like to see on and along the Rail Trail in the future?

Not sure! We love it as it is.


What adventure on the Trail do you love the most in Summer?

We love a quick diversion to the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre to find out if kuaka/bar-tailed godwits are roosting nearby on the wetland.

Bring the binoculars for some bird-twitching two hours on either side of high tide from the birdhides at the Findlay Wildlife Reserve.


Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Miranda Bird Hide


Ceana's Top Tips:


Stop for a bite at… take a wander around Waihi with its kid-friendly cafes or don’t miss The Old Forge Kitchen near Te Aroha West.

And if you are loitering near the trail’s northern tip at dinner time, don’t miss Kaiaua Fisheries (Fish n Chips Takeaway) – one of the best chippies in New Zealand – and take a perch beside the Firth of Thames as the sun sets. 


Take a detour to… the 6-metre-high cascading Owharoa Falls which is ideal for a snack break and a chance to jump off the bikes to stretch the legs.


Photo credit: Riverside Adventures - Owharoa Falls


Don’t miss… ducking into the imposing the Roman-style ruins of the vast Victoria Battery for an explore and taking a ride on the miniature train operated by the Victoria Battery Tramway & Museum Society (vbts.org.nz). Or, visiting Mōkena Geyser at Te Aroha Domain, the world’s only known hot soda-water geyser.


Photo: Victoria Battery Tramway & Museum


Go swimming at… after you pop out of the rail tunnel between Paeroa and Waihi, duck down beneath the bridge for a dip in the Ohinemuri River. Make this the turnaround spot for a short adventure from Karangahake Hall, or keep going for more adventures!


Remember to pack… sunscreen and plenty of fluids as the Trail can get hot mid-summer. 


Photo credit: Outdoor Kid - Finn (right) and his friend cooling off in the shade


Soothe tears and tantrums with… a cuddle and then snacks! The power of some tasty bites to get kids motivated is highly underrated. Trail mix, chocolate covered anything, and a small dose of sugar should do the trick.


Find out more about Outdoor Kid.

Read Ceana's NZ Herald story, One-day Bike Rides On The Hauraki Rail Trail.

Follow Ceana and Finn's adventures on Facebook.


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