As summer fades and autumn fills our lungs with cooler air, there’s never been a better time to explore New Zealand with fresh eyes. The Hauraki Rail Trail is one of 22 Great Rides which form part of The New Zealand Cycle Trail – known in Māori as Ngā Haerenga (The Journeys). The 197km trail showcases some of the region’s best scenery, and although the trail can be enjoyed as manageable day rides, the versatile trail lends itself to multi-day adventures.
Photography: @kjbnz on Instagram (Sir Edmund Hilary Mural on the Eastern side of The Refinery Cafe, Paeroa)
With multiple access points from Kaiaua, Thames, Paeroa, Waihi, Te Aroha, Waikino, Karangahake Gorge and Matamata, all options are within a two-hour drive from Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. The Coromandel’s temperate climate also means the trail can be enjoyed all year round.
Choose from day or multi-day rides taking in the Shorebird Coast, quaint historic Waikato towns, lush farmlands, and the historic railway corridor through the Karangahake Gorge. Factor in a little extra time too, for interesting detours to enjoy walking, arts, culture, local hospitality and the wealth of attractions along the way.
Take the morning to explore the gold-mining heritage of Thames before heading east, travelling through verdant farmlands to Paeroa. Fascinating Māori, industrial, education and geological history converge at the Thames School of Mines, one of New Zealand’s largest and best-preserved mining schools in the heart of the Hauraki gold fields. Guided tours bring this special Heritage New Zealand site to life with captivating stories about the area’s people and places. Thames School of Mines is an ideal venue for school or group tours, and an interesting place to start your adventure.
If you’re a lover of all things artistic, keep an eye out as you approach the Kopu Bridge, as riders are greeted by an array of sculptures. Part of an ongoing initiative, the sculptures are intended to 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.
We’ve put together a 34km day ride from Thames to Paeroa on the Hauraki Rail Trail. This leisurely section of trail is suitable for everything from children’s bikes and uprights, to touring bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes. With some great options for eateries, accommodation and things to see and do, you can make the most of the trail’s official partner businesses who work hard to enrich the Rail Trail experience.
Plan, Research & Book
The Hauraki Rail Trail showcases the best of New Zealand’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage. No matter how fast or far you want to ride, if you’re ready for an adventure there’s a great option for everyone.
For help with planning your adventure, you can find information about the trail and its support services for bike hire, supported tours, shuttle services, luggage transfers, accommodation, cafes and restaurants, and things to see and do on the Hauraki Rail Trail website. haurakirailtrail.co.nz
Jandal on the Mandel by artist Ricks Terstappen is situated between Kopu and Thames, just past the airport entrance heading south. The jandal was the first of 10 sculptures to be installed. It’s a positive, fun piece that captures the laid-back summer spirit of Thames and The Coromandel.
The Cheese Barn at Matatoki is a must-do if you love cheese. There is a licensed cafe, cheese tastings, store, and a fabulous animal farm. The family of alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, budgies, quails, canaries and Cookie the spotty sheep offer great entertainment for the whole family. Complementing the delicious array of food, homemade gelato and sorbet have been added to the mix to keep you cool on your ride.
Paeroa’s Historical Maritime Park was once New Zealand’s most inland port, and the museum has significant links dating back to pre-European settlement and the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1769 aboard HMS Endeavour.
The port was the main catalyst in the expansion of the Waihi gold mines prior to the introduction of the railway in 1905. This important collection of Maritime history relates to the role Paeroa played as a port for unloading mining machinery and equipment in the late 19th century. There are three new pontoons along with a refurbished riverboat, which transports visitors and their bikes from the Park along the Ohinemuri River into Paeroa.
Make sure you 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 refuel or overnight.
A good option before leaving Paeroa is The Refinery Cafe. Firmly set in the history of the area, the building was originally commissioned as the National Bank Gold Refinery in 1914. Massive concrete walls, double height stud capped with huge timber beams and rimu roof structure certainly fitted the grandeur of purpose. The large, light filled space is cosy and welcoming, with armchairs and a roaring fire over winter and rustic outdoor tables and ivy covered walls in summer. It’s a great place to enjoy a coffee and reflect on your adventure, or plan the next one.
Make sure you arrive into Paeroa early enough to fossick through the many antiques and collectables shops.