Cycling the Mighty Waikato

By , April 23, 2012

Waikato River Trails Large 455x1024 Cycling the Mighty WaikatoBy Barbara Cuthbert, CAA Chair

Do you have the feeling that most of our National Cycle Trails are in stunning, but isolated rural settings, well away from Auckland? Not so – the good news is that routes are opening closer to us, and are in easy reach for a weekend away.

In the past month I have ridden most of the new Waikato River Trail and the Forgotten World Highway with friends, and we are totally hooked. I hear the Hauraki Rail Trail is in the pipeline and worth waiting for.

I was lucky to have local advice for our Waikato River ride, as parts of it that are pretty raw, and currently suitable only for skilled mountain bikers. Mark Taylor from Mt Eden Cycles also gave us tips, so we had lots to go on.

We left Auckland at lunchtime on Friday and drove to ‘Out in the Styx’ where owner Lance took us and our bikes to start riding at Whakamaru, in the warm late afternoon sun. The path followed the river, with peaceful long views through trees over cool green water and across to white river cliffs on the opposite bank.

We were inspired by the beauty of the river, and quickly adjusted our Aucklander’s view of the river from its slow brown expanse at Meremere.  Our afternoon ended with a delightful riverside boardwalk ride past the Mangakino golf course to join locals in a beer and ‘burger at a quaint lakeside caravan café.

Early next morning we set off on quiet rural roads to bypass the Maraetai section of the route, as locals warned us it needed more work. We past intriguing columnar basalt rocks and joined the cycle route at Waipapa Dam. The highlights of the day’s riding were cool riverside tracks under native trees; the fun of bouncing along forestry tracks amongst punga ferns; a swim in the river at Jones Landing; the stunning beauty of pink cliffs reflecting in the river near Arapuni and the welcome of excellent coffee and delicious food at Rhubarb café in the charming settlement of Arapuni.

We were not so thrilled by having to push our bikes up a long steep hill to bypass the quarry to reach Waotu Rd, or the narrow section of track between Jones Landing and Arapuni. However, all was forgiven when Lance collected us from Rhubarb café to enjoy a night of comfort and superb dinner at Out In Styx. This fuelled us for another early rising to visit Maungatautari Mountain before breakfast, as it was very close to our accommodation place. A pest free fence around the mountain makes it a wonderland of ferns, superb native forest and birdlife, threaded with easy paths and dotted with lookouts.

After breakfast Lance left us at Arapuni to complete our ride along a combination of easy, picturesque riverside tracks and boardwalks. As we loaded our bikes into our van to return to Auckland my friends said they had loved their ride of discovery down the mighty Waikato and would now think of it as a source of wonder and delight. I was even told that the highlights were more memorable than riverside cycling in France – how’s that for praise for one of our National Cycle Trails !

(BTW – Forgotten World Highway cycletrail review coming soon.)

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6 Responses to “Cycling the Mighty Waikato”

  1. Hi Barb You might like to post a link to this ACTA web page if people would like to get a feel for what lies ahead when riding the WRT. Cheers John

    • Barb C says:

      Thanks John, I would be very happy to do this if you could tell me how. If an ACTA crew are planning to go down they could stay at Out In The Styx as Lance has really great dorm and backpacker style accomodation that is often used by Forest and Bird people when they stay to explore Maungatautari. I would certainly recommmend a trip up to the mountain as it is such a memorable experience, and so easy to do from Lance’s place.

      • I wondered too, Barb. I found that I could click on my name and it would take me there. That’s why this message comes from ACTA. It may make a more obvious link to click on.

        ACTA has been considering using Out In The Styx as a base for a weekend. It may happen later this year.

        Cheers

        John

  2. Christopher says:

    Thanks for your review Barb!

    I had the opportunity to stay at my sister’s bach in Mangakino, so took my bike with me to ride part of the Waikato River Trail. I did a small part of the bit from Mangakino down to the suspension bridge and back.

    It’s fair to say that the trail is in very early stages, and will definitely need more work. I felt that while my hybrid bike coped ok with the trail, a mountain bike would have been preferred. This was confirmed by a lovely young man who was doing a survey of people walking/cycling the Mangakino bit. He said that the bit from Whakamaru through to Atiamuri is very rough and only suitable for mountain bikes.

    I also had opportunity to ride the Dune section of the Motu Trail, which was fun. This trail again was in early stages, but already it is being well used. Improved signage in some parts of this section would help (you had to leave off the trail and ride the hard sand through a wee small river outlet before rejoining the trail, but this bit was poorly signposted).

    I am in Perth at the moment on holiday and note that there is a 1000k cycle trail near Perth, called the Munda Biddi, going from Mundaring near Perth south to Albany on the coast. This looks really interesting to do as it is completely off road. Something to think about doing at some point…

    • Barb C says:

      Hi Chris- great to hear from you, thanks for engaging! I’m interested in what you say about the Whakamaru to Atiamuru stretch as I haven’t ridden that yet, but plan to get down next week to do so if I can, as Jonathan Kennett, (part of the National Cycle Trail team, a cycling guru and terrific person) tells me it is worth riding. Also great to hear what you say about the Motu trail and the ride at Perth. Let’s keep swapping notes on this and other routes via this website, as I know many cyclists are keen to explore more of the routes. I’ll do my next blog on the Forgotten World Highway this weekend.

  3. Martyn Pearce says:

    I recently rode the Waikato river trails, did the whole lot in a day. I have to say that the highlight was the section between Mareatai and Waipapa, although it is more of a “hard out MTB track” than a tourist trail. The views, terrain, vegetaion and wildlife are spactacular.

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