Pipiroa to Kopu CLOSED - Click here for more info

Kaiaua to Thames
Thames to Paeroa
Paeroa to Waihi
Paeroa to Te Aroha
Te Aroha to Matamata
Photo credit: Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Wildlife & Nature Along The Hauraki Rail Trail

The Hauraki Rail Trail travels through some of New Zealand's oldest railway corridors, beautiful countryside and townships steeped in history dating back to 1898. The varied Trail offers visitors a memorable journey across 160km of trails comprising of five distinctive and manageable Sections.  

The diverse trails are Grade 1 (Easiest) and offer rides for all abilities, interests and itineraries.  Cycle between the heritage towns to take in the many contrasting landscapes.  All of the trails make the most of the spectacular coastline and countryside.

With options to explore the Coromandel further, it’s the perfect getaway for a relaxed 4-5 day holiday.  If you’re hungry for adventure, and want to experience the wild and natural essence of the region, we’ve got you covered.


Section A - Kaiaua to Thames (55km, 5-6 hours)

Download and print the map 


Shorebird Coast & Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre

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 the Ramsar 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.


Photo Credit: Jason Mills


The Kaiaua to Kopu section of the Trail is unique, offering 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.

Native birds that spend part of their year on the Thames coast before flying to the Arctic now have a safer place to refuel as their main pit stop, the Yellow Sea, has been given World Heritage site status.

Please note at present the section of trail between Kopu and Pipiroa is closed. You can find more information here.


Photo Credit: Jason Mills


Section B - Thames to Paeroa (34 kms, 3-4 hours)

Download and print the map  


The Kaimai Ranges & Hauraki Plains

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. The flat, fertile plains have been enriched by alluvial muds, sands and gravels deposited up to 20,000 years ago by the Waikato River, and more recently by the Piako and Waihou rivers, once the major trade route to the inland towns of Paeroa, and Te Aroha to Stanley Landing..

Riders can also enjoy the Kaimai Range which lay west of Tauranga and separate the Bay of Plenty from Waikato. Of volcanic origin, it has many valleys and is mostly forested, with summits between about 550 and 950 metres.

Hop on the riverboat into the township of Paeroa, via the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers. This journey provides an opportunity to make the most of this special habitat and learn about maritime history at the Historical Maritime Park.


Photo Credit: Historical Maritime Park


Section C - Paeroa to Waihi (24 kms, 6 - 8 hours Return)

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Karangahake Gorge

The most popular section of the Rail Trail follows the Ohinemuri River through the dramatic Karangahake Gorge.  A deep canyon cut through the Kaimai Ranges.  Home to a spectacular regenerating forest and wildlife paradise, it is an absolute must for any nature enthusiast. 

The Karangahake Tunnel Loop Walk is not to be missed, taking you along the Ohinemuri River and over the lower Waitawheta River, fully immersing hikers in New Zealand native flora.

The stunning staircase Owharoa Falls are nestled in the heart of the Karangahake Gorge.  The Falls make an ideal picnic spot while riding the Trail.  If it’s warm enough cool off with a swim in the crystal-clear fresh water.  A second lesser known falls can be found upstream for those willing to climb and get their feet wet.


Photo Credit: Craig Oakley


Bullswool Farm Heritage Park

A short drive by car, and up in the hills behind the village of Karangahake at Bullswool Farm Park, is the Bush Discovery Trail. The Trail is part of the Farm’s Bush Reserve.  Visitors can learn about native New Zealand birds, trees and aquatic life.  Fascinating history of the Karangahake Gorge’s first miners and kauri bushmen is also a feature at their museum.

Bullswool Farm Park is minutes from the Karangahake Gorge Walkway, and a unique slice of rural paradise.  The working farm has a variety of animals in their natural flocks and herds, ranging from miniature horses and cattle to deer and donkeys.  Family Passes are available.

You can read more about the Park and what's on offer when you visit here.


Waihi Waterlily Gardens

A meander through the Waterlily Gardens is a lovely way to spend the afternoon.  Planted in 1950, The Waterlily Gardens span fifteen acres of mature trees, lawns, lily ponds and a lake. Mature trees including giant Oaks, Liriodendrons, Maples, Liquid Ambers, Meta Sequoias and Swamp Cyprus stand tall alongside New Zealand Rimu, Kahikatea, Lancewood, Miro and Kauri. Whilst the gardens aren't on the Trail, they are definitely worth exploring. Phone ahead of your visit as the venue sometimes host weddings. 



Section D - Paeroa to Te Aroha - (23 kms, 2-3 hours)

Download and print the map   


Section D promises a leisurely ride through serene country landscapes beside the Kaimai Ranges.  The magnificent Ranges separate the Waikato in the West from the Bay of Plenty in the East. The Range terrain is rough, and only two roads pass over it. 

The journey from Paeroa to Te Aroha is a perfect family ride with farm animals to see along the way.  Whether your day departs from Waihi, Waikino, Karangahake or Paeroa, it’s an easy journey to the township of Te Aroha. 

Heading south, this leisurely section passes through lush Waikato farmland dotted with dairy cows and farm animals.  The Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges and Mt Te Aroha (952m The Mountain of Love), and expansive views over the Hauraki Plains are a feast for the eyes.


Photo Credit: @x.escape.reality.x on Instagram


Section E - Te Aroha to Matamata - (37 kms, 2-4 hours)

Download and print the map  


This gentle section of trail passes by fertile plains, significant horse studs, goat farms, groves of scented trees. The scenic Wairere Falls and ravines are close by. 

Forget going from A to B, and make time for a detour or two. The mesmerising Wairere Falls can be found nearby the trail just before reaching Matamata.  It’s a perfect picnic stop with views of the bush clad Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park. 

The Falls are the highest waterfall in the North Island and has a popular walking track.  The return walk to the viewing platform at the base of the Falls takes about an hour and a half. It is an attractive walk along a well-maintained track.  

The sight from the viewing platform is spectacular as water plunges 153 metres over the falls, before forming streamlets that flow through moss covered rocks and ferns. Please note the track isn't suitable for bikes.

The Department of Conservation will be upgrading multiple structures along the Wairere Falls Track from the 30th January 2024 for about 18 weeks. You can find more information about the closure and when the track is open during this period here


Photo Credit: @x.escape.reality.x on Instagram


Keeping the Trail pest free

Keeping the Trail pest free is essential for the survival of our native plants and animals. Every fortnight traps are baited with eggs, salmon or peanut oil and a mince paste. The trap line extends from Kopu to Waitakaruru with a total of 120 traps.

Since trapping began there has been an increase in bird life. A flock of Spoonbills have taken up residence and bred. There are more wading birds, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers,  Blue Herons, White Herons, and Black swans have nested on one of the lagoons. The Trail has also given easy access to the Department of Conservation to manage the wildlife here, which is a great bonus.

As one of New Zealand’s six biodiversity hot spots, the Hauraki Coromandel is a safe haven for many threatened or at-risk species surviving in a broad range of habitats. Community conservation groups play a vital role in the preservation of the natural environment.

From Moehau at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula to Te Aroha in the south, this vast conservation project has a goal of becoming predator free by 2030.  Each year thousands of volunteer hours are spent suppressing predators, undertaking weed control, and planting native plants in areas of bush, wetlands, and coast.


Supporters of the Hauraki Rail Trail


HELP Waihi

Habitat Enhancement and Landcare Partnership Waihi Inc., also known as HELP Waihi, is an incorporated society originally established by people representing the local section of Forest & Bird, Newmont Waihi Gold, and local schools. Established in 1997, the society located its base and native plant nursery in the Waihi College Farm Unit.

Projects undertaken by the society aim to improve the local natural environment of the Waihi Ecological area, and also across the Hauraki district, particularly along riverbanks, and use the help of community volunteers and schools.

Over time the society has evolved, and now has its own work team, and undertakes or supports other projects with the help of volunteers. The introduction of a permanent paid work force in recent years now sees work undertaken for a variety of Regional and District Councils.

A partnership has developed between HELP and the Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust. Since 2019 HELP have raised $177,000 in their efforts to support ecological improvements on the Trail.

You can learn more about their efforts in our interview with one of the society's members, Warwick Buckman, here.


Photo: Photo: Children from Hikutaia School planting on the Trail.


Thames Valley Deerstalkers

Thames Valley Deerstalkers (TVDA) has been a very strong club in the region since 1965, and currently have a membership in excess of 500 members.

A strong focus is the conservation work which complements other outdoor and recreational activities and pursuits. For many years this focus has seen the club undertake a wide range of conservation and restoration work for DOC. Since 2009 they have been monitoring and maintaining trap lines across the wider Thames Valley region. 

The more recent development of the Hauraki Rail Trail provided an opportunity to assist with installing and monitoring trap lines, to help foster the increase in native fauna in particular for everyone to enjoy. This work is currently undertaken across 7 different sites, with several more in the pipeline. 

You can read more about the Thames Valley Deerstalkers work here.


Photo: Maureen prepares a trap


Trees for Survival

Trees for Survival is a charitable trust which works with over 150 schools and local communities across New Zealand to grow and plant native trees along waterways and environmentally at-risk sites.

Their environmental education programme provides a hands-on opportunity for schoolchildren to make a practical difference to their environment. They also learn about conservation, revegetation, wetland restoration, protecting stream water quality and creating habitat for our native wildlife.

You can find out more about the programme here.


Photo: Trees for Survival planting with children on the Trail.


Visitors to the Hauraki Rail Trail can research and arrange their own experience, or enlist the help of a tour operator to look after every need.  Local knowledge of the Trail and region will enrich your experience, so you can relax and make the most of your adventure.

Bike hire, shuttles, luggage transfers, self guided tours, fully supported tours and accommodation are available from operators based on and around the trail, with Thames, Waihi and Paeroa the major hubs.

The Hauraki Rail Trail showcases the best of New Zealand’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage.  No matter how far you want to ride, if you’re ready to immerse yourself in wildlife and nature there’s a great option for every rider.


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