Mostly off-road, the 197km Hauraki Rail Trail in the North Island showcases some of the region's best scenery. As a Grade One (Easiest) trail, it’s suitable for all fitness levels, cycling abilities and can be enjoyed as manageable day sections.
With the trail accessible from most towns and with support options available, you’re guaranteed a relaxed break. There’s a variety of detours to be had off the bike too, with walking, arts, culture, local hospitality and a wealth of activities to add to the fun.
Biking encourages us to slow down the pace, visit iconic attractions, and discover hidden gems often missed by car. One such feature is the growing addition of Art installations along the Trail. Riders can enjoy these works from the towns of Thames and Te Aroha.
If you’re a lover of all things artistic, Thames is a great place to start your ride. As you cross the Kopu Bridge, at the gateway to the Coromandel, riders are greeted by a fantastic array of sculptures.
The Thames Public Art Trust (TPAT) has been working on the project for more than 2 years, to bring a fresh spark to the Thames district with the series of permanent art installations. Amongst the new artworks is a giant Jandal, and a six metre tall toy train, which capture the imagination and bring a new light to the coastal town.
The enhancement of the trail with sculpture is part of an ongoing initiative to bring creative expression to the public, and enhance local and visitor experiences in the region. Michael Smither's Harmonic Assembly has been a focal point of the Thames waterfront, on the Coastal Walkway for several years.
Jandal on the Mandel by artist Ricks Terstappen is situated between Kopu and Thames, alongside the Hauraki Rail Trail just past the airport entrance heading south. The jandal was the first of ten sculptures to be installed. It’s a positive, fun piece that captures the laid-back summer spirit of Thames and The Coromandel.
The Spheres by Paeroa artist Mark Hayes have since been donated. Mark says his inspiration was a story his grandfather told him, about how miners from the Karangahake Gorge would come to Thames to visit the pubs, who would get back on their horses and fall asleep knowing the horses knew the way home. Their route would follow what is now the Hauraki Rail Trail.
Bruce Harper is the artist behind Penny Farthing at the Shortland Wharf end of the Rail Trail.
Built on the pioneering industries of gold mining and kauri logging, Thames is full of character with plenty of dining and accommodation options.
This pleasant outing takes in the Thames waterfront, with its arts trail sculptures and other interesting sights. Heading across the Kopu Bridge towards Pipiroa, this easy 44km (return) section of trail takes around 4 hours. Refreshments are available in the villages of Pipiroa, Kopu and Thames.
The section of trail begins at first following the old railway line out of Thames town and through lush farmland with memorable views across the Hauraki Plains and forested Kaimai Ranges.
The Cheese Barn at Matatoki is a highlight, as is the Historical Maritime Park, once New Zealand’s most inland port. From March 2020 there will be alternative transport for cyclists into the township of Paeroa, via the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers.
Arrive into Paeroa early enough to fossick through the many antiques and collectables shops. World famous in New Zealand for its giant L&P bottle on the main street, there’s also accommodation and places to eat for riders looking to overnight.
Alternatively take a leisurely ride from Thames to the Cheese Barn at Matatoki. This relaxed 60 minute ride through lush countryside is e-bike friendly, a great opportunity for a light lunch, and suitable for the whole family.
If you’re short for time or don’t want to ride far, the easy ride from Thames to Kopu is just 7km. As you leave the town centre, stop and enjoy the many sculptures along the community’s Arts Trail.
Sculptor Adrian Worsley designs and constructs unique and original sculptures entirely from recycled materials from his studio in Te Aroha. Works feature a clever blend of materials and finishes, breathing new life into the inanimate objects around him.
Adrian’s series of Bike Rack sculptures which combine functionality with art can be found prominently displayed in Te Aroha’s main street. Throughout the town, closer inspection reveals signs of Adrian’s artistic flair including a special fit out for the Ironique Cafe.
The latest sculpture has now been installed at the Te Aroha Railway Station. Furnishing the town with a series of sculptures functioning as bicycle racks and a drinking fountain, forms an on-going promotion of an Arts trail through Te Aroha to Te Aroha West.
Another iconic sculpture is the Dachshund Bike Stand, which can be viewed outside the Palace Hotel in the centre of Te Aroha. Each sculpture is commissioned and donated by various individuals to the town of Te Aroha. More information about Adrian and his work can be found here.
From Paeroa it’s an easy journey down to the township of Te Aroha. Heading south, this leisurely section passes through lush Waikato farmland dotted with dairy cows and farm animals.
Te Aroha is a small and rural town, with a lovely domain, and is home to some great walkways, quirky art and cafes. There are a variety of accommodation options in and around Te Aroha.
This gentle section of trail passes through fertile plains, significant horse studs, goat farms, groves of scented trees, scenic Wairere Falls, ravines, Stanley Landing and the Firth Tower.
Reaching the township of Matamata brings the opportunity to celebrate the end of your journey with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Cyclists looking for a longer ride can start their journey in Paeroa and ride 60kms across Sections D & E. There are a handful of unique accommodation options along Section E of the trail.
If you're interested to hear more about the project, you can watch part one of the documentary The Speeding Train: From Paper to Trail - Idea.
Enjoy painting, sculpture and other artworks created by the region’s talented artists and craftspeople. Take in a craft fair or a homegrown arts festival, or be delighted by one of many performing arts events happening throughout The Coromandel. You can find more information about creative people, places, groups and events in the Coromandel Region here.
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