The Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Trail is one of the last of the 22 NZ cycle trails to be opened so when we got the chance to ride it right through in one day (without the kids) we jumped at it.…well, actually we cycled for 87km.
The trail ride was part of our summer holiday (including 12 days of camping) so the logistics, packing and planning for the kids to be looked after by my in-laws wore me out so much I was wondering whether I could do the whole ride in one day. However after we arrived at the Horeke Hotel in the early afternoon and relaxed on the deck, had a delicious meal and a great nights sleep I was ready to go.
Before I talk about the trail the Horeke area is worth a mention. Horeke is at the tip of the Hokianga Harbour and just a 45 minute drive from Paihia. Its New Zealand’s oldest town and boasted the second oldest pub – does that mean New Zealand had a pub before it had a town? Jonny from Paihia mountain bike and shuttles drove us over and we talked about all things mountain biking. He is also very knowledgeable on the area so it was a very interesting drive.
We arrived at Horeke about 4pm. The Horeke Hotel wont be the flashest hotel you ever stay in but it could be the coolest. Its also home to an abundance of local history in the living form of the owners storytelling and old painting collection. There is even an original local Treaty signed just after the Treaty of Waitangi.
The trail officially starts at the Māngungu Mission so we decided to check it out. Its only a 3km ride down a gravel road and a very picturesque wee spot with views over the Hokianga Harbour.
And 3km down another side road is the Wairere Boulders. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit but I hear its well worth the trip to see the stunning rock formations and wander around the boulders.
So after exploring the area near Horeke we returned to the pub to enjoy the views from the expansive deck. The menu for dinner looked simple, steak or fish option, maybe a little too simple I thought but it turns out the hotelier is a whizz in the kitchen and we had the most delicious dinner as the sun set over the Hokianga. The steak and fish were great and the accompanying vegetable dishes and thrice cooked fries were amazing.
The hotel has 3 rooms, two downstairs (one with harbour views) and one upstairs with 2 double and 2 single beds and the best views. Luckily a friend of ours has stayed here before and recommended the upstairs room so we had stunning views and loads of space.
After a good nights sleep we were up early to start the trail. And this is when I wish I had known to chat to the hotelier about the history of the area the night before. Once he gets started with the maori and early settler history and NZ history too its way to amazing and interesting to leave, so our ride start may have been a little delayed but our knowledge of local history was greatly enhanced.
So we set off about 8.30am along the road and across the board walk. I always find it hard when I start off on a long ride to pace myself and this was no different especially as it was just my husband and I riding so no group shenanigans to distract me.
Thankfully after about 5km I overcame my mental block about the distance and got distracted by my surroundings which were very picturesque and varied as we cycled along streams, through native bush and through countryside.
The first half of the ride is mostly gradual climbing but it is well graded and not too tough. There is only one quite steep hill climbing out of the valley up to Okaihau and I ended up pushing my bike. We made Okaihau for a perfectly timed morning tea as the owner was about to shut up shop for a catering job. The towns on this trail are few and far between (as they are on most of the New Zealand cycle trails) so make sure you bring your own supplies or plan ahead to make sure cafes are open when you get there.
From Okaihau you more or less follow the old railway line all the way to Kawakawa then Opua across bridges and through a couple of tunnels. The highest point of the ride is just north of Kaikohe then its pretty much all down hill riding to the coast. We arrived in Opua about 4pm and were pleased that Jonny had suggested to ride from the West to East Coast. Going this way you get almost all the climbing out of the way early on. The trail is very well built and not at all technical. It has good surface conditions and the overall gradient is not tough.
Of course, if riding the whole trail in one day sounds a bit much, you can always check out the accommodation along the way.
This trail would suit older children or younger children in trailers or tag-a-longs.
There are a lot of barriers on the trail and I have read that if you have panniers you end up lifting your bike a lot. For us it just meant a lot of getting on and off.