Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

Beginner mountain biking in the Whakarewarewa forest

The Whakarewarewa forest in Rotorua is one of our favourite places to ride, and it has so many happy memories including being the place that my kids well and truly took their training wheels off.

One of the things I get asked ALOT is what trails we like to ride, so I thought a good place to start would be beginner trails.

First up, lets discuss the different places there are to access the forest. This can be important if you are meeting friends there and want to make sure you are all heading for the same place. Also important to know where the trails I am talking about are best accessed from. There is;

🚵‍♀️ Redwoods visitor centre off Tarawera road on the way to Lake Tikitapu.

🚵‍♀️Black house, a carpark that is currently being developed further to include toilets  about 4km along the road to Lake Tikitapu and so named as there is an old house painted black opposite the carpark.

🚵‍♀️The main mountain bike carpark which is on Waipa State Mill Rd ( about 1km after the roundabout by Te Puia along SH5 on the road to Taupo). There are showers, toilets and a container café but there is development of a café complex and a spa complex. We call this Waipa carpark.

🚵‍♀️And finally, 8 mile gate carpark, about 2km further up Waipa State Mill road from the Waipa carpark and the best place to ride to the shuttle bus stop.

Now we can get to the rides…If you or your child dont have much experience riding, the Mokupuna loop is a lovely flat, wide, smooth 3km loop. Great for younger children. Accessed from the Redwoods visitor centre carpark area. The trail starts not far off the main road.

We started with our kids ( aged 4 and ½ and 8 with no experience of mountain biking ) on kids loop, Tahi and Dipper. These trails have more gradual slopes but still lovely wide, smooth trails. Accessed from the Waipa carpark.

While the trails are relatively well sign posted it does pay to have a map; you can take a photo of the map board, buy a map from the bike shop at Waipa carpark or download the Trailmapps app.

You could also check out my tips for riding with kids called Mud, Sweat and Tears.

Other things to do in Rotorua

 

The Tamaki Path on the shores of the Tamaki Estuary

Tamaki Drive is rightly famous, but if you want stunning water views without the crowds, look a little further afield and discover the Tamaki Path for your next family bike adventure

Completed in mid-2019, the Tamaki Path is a fabulous greenway that runs for about 4km along the western side of the Tamaki Estuary, from the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club to Point England Reserve, with a further northern section mooted in the near future that would make for a full 5km route all the way to Wai-o-Taiki Bay.

Not only is this a spacious, smooth and uncrowded pathway, it takes you through green spaces with very little traffic and few houses nearby, so at times it feels like you’re not in the city at all.

The path begins at the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club on Kings Rd, and runs northward to Kiano Place, off Taniwha Rd in Glen Innes. There’s also easy access near the middle of the path at the Point England Reserve, which is at the end of Point England Rd.

Heads-up: if your kids are the kind who see a playground and suddenly decide they don’t want to do anything else, be warned there is a great new playground at the Panmure end of the path (in the Mt Wellington Reserve), which handily has new toilets too. That said, you don’t ride directly past the playground, so with a bit of luck and some careful steering, you can work things out so they’ll only spot the playground on the way back.

There’s also a playground (and more toilets) at the Point England Reserve in the middle, if you need a handy carrot to motivate little riders.

The path is lovely and wide and flat the whole way – a great ride for little legs or big. Although it runs alongside the river, in most places there are metres of grass between the path and the estuary, so there’s no need to worry about little kids ending up taking an unplanned swim.

In the one section where the path is right alongside a steep drop to the estuary, a wooden barrier curb has been added to keep small wheels from veering of.

The path has stunning views of the Tamaki estuary, and you’re also rewarded with great views of Maungarei (Mt Wellington) along the way.

The estuary itself is mostly mudflats at low tide, and there are some steps down to the water in places. If you have older children, you might find they see a stream on the mudflats and scramble down the bank to explore, like mine did.

There is a lovely little white sand beach at the Point England Reserve..

Also around the Point England area are lots of picnic tables with views of the water. On one of the days we visited there was a chilly breeze, but with tables in such a variety of spots, you should be able to find at least one that’s sheltered from the wind.

Pack your picnic and BYO thermos of coffee, as this is an old school adventure and you wont find a café near this path. But you will find lovely green spaces, playgrounds, and wide open views of the water.

A bonus longer ride for more confident adventurers…

If you’re looking for a longer ride, you can join the Tamaki Path to the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path and ride up and down both sides of the estuary. My husband and I have done this to train for riding the Heaphy Track.

Note: this involves a 1km on-road section in the middle, so use your judgement about what your children can handle if you’re thinking of doing this as a family.

Starting at the south end of the Tamaki Path, head out of Mt Wellington Reserve past the playground, and turn left onto Dunkirk Road, then right onto Kings Rd, left onto Riverview Rd, left again onto Queens Rd, then veer right onto Bridge Rd. This sounds complicated, but is straightforward in practice – you’re basically aiming to stay as close to the river as you can. These are relatively quiet streets.

This brings you to the Pakuranga Highway, where you ride across the famously skinny path on the north side of the Panmure Bridge. Watch for oncoming bike traffic! (Good to know: this will be much improved as part of the AMETI Eastern Busway project, which will add a proper cycleway to the highway, and a whole new bridge at this crossing).

Then once you’re on the eastern side of the estuary, look for signs for the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path. Access via the boatyards close to the bridge is under construction at the time of writing (July 2019), so we continued to Kerswill Drive and joined the path that way.

The Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path is a wide, flat 9km long path that runs up the eastern side of the Tamaki Estuary and continues to Prince Regent Drive.

(If you’re feeling even more adventurous and are confident with riding on the road, you can continue onward to the ferry terminal at Half Moon Bay Marina, about 1.6km further on. Note: this involves on-road riding, so use your judgement.)

A nice bit of boardwalk along the Pakuranga Rotary Shared Path.

 

This blog was originally written for Bike Auckland – you can check out more of their great content and all things biking in Auckland here.

There is also a kids ride section.

 

Looking for Kiwi…and finding them

We had just been to the South Island and visited Stewart Island hoping to see Kiwi but while we heard them we weren’t lucky enough to see them.

However, on a camping trip to Tawharanui we were lucky enough to see two and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so I wanted to share some Kiwi spotting tips so everyone can experience the wonder of seeing New Zealand’s national bird in the wild.

Of course you will have to wait till its dark , darker than the image I have used above for this post , I just didnt have any night time shots to use.

 

 

Exploring a volcano in my own neighbourhood

I’ve always enjoyed the Auckland landscape with its stunning harbour and dormant volcanoes dotted across the horizon. Growing up in East Auckland my local volcano was Mt Wellington/Maungarei and seeing this mountain always connected me with coming home. I am now lucky enough to raise my family in a suburb that has views of that same volcano.

Maungarei is a 135m volcanic peak, and is one of Auckland’s many dormant volcanoes, formed by an eruption around 10,000 years ago.

Not only is Maungarei a dormant volcano with the largest scoria cone of any volcano in Auckland, it was also a significant pa in the Tamaki area and still has examples of early Maori life including terraces, middens and pits.

In March 2019, the pine trees that have grown for over 100 years on the mountain were removed and over 10,000 native trees are going to be planted over the next few years.

And all of this right in the heart of Auckland and in my neighbourhood. We have enjoyed many walks from our house up Maungarei, from the whole family training for Tongariro Crossing to my daughter and I training for Abel Tasman and when we just want an urban adventure. The summit of Maungarei is the perfect spot to enjoy the stunning views of Auckland city and the harbour.

In fact walking is the only way to enjoy this culturally and historically significant site in East Auckland as the road has recently been closed to vehicles.

Its nice to see an old favourite landmark getting the love and appreciation is deserves and I have a new appreciation for the mountain that links to my childhood.

Ways to enjoy Maungarei:

  • You can park at Mountain Rd, Mt Wellington and walk up the road which is now more of pedestrian path seeing as its closed to traffic.
  • The ‘road’ up the mountain is still open to cyclists and those with impaired mobility wanting to enjoy all that Maungarei has to offer can contact the Auckland Council to obtain a code for the gate at the bottom of the road.
  • Park near the Hollywood Bakery on Lunn Ave and walk along the Stonefields Heritage trail and up the mountain from there.
  • Park in Stonefields, near Papango St and Tihi St and walk up the Stonefields Heritage trail and then up the mountain.
  • Once you are at the top you can chose to enjoy the views or walk right around the crater which takes about half an hour

Other things to do in the area:

  • Enjoy the wetland area in Stonefields – you can walk there via the Stonefields Heritage Trail.
  • Check out some of the playgrounds in the Stonefields area
  • Explore the Stonefields Heritage trail which runs from Golan Rd ( close to the carpark at the bottom of Maungarei ) to Magma Crescent and goes passed cafes and restaurants in Lunn Ave.

Exploring auckland by bike and train

As West Auckland seems to have more than its fair share of shared paths we decided to combine our love of cycling with my son’s love of public transport and explore the Waterview shared path.

After a rather disorganised effort getting out of the house ( see below for the list I am using next time and when I say ‘I’ I mean me and the kids ), we caught the train in to Britomart on the Eastern line but you could use any train line to get you to Britomart and then get on to the Western line. 

If you haven’t taken your bike on the train before ( and to be honest neither had I but I had an expert guide in my mother as she has done it a number of times before );

  • Head for the train carriage that has the bike symbol on it

  • You will see the seats on the train that flip up have spaces for bikes ( indicated by a sticker ). There is even a strap to secure bikes – two bikes. We had 4 so two were unsecured and I had to stand and hold them.

From Avondale train station head towards Rosebank Rd down Layard Rd. Turn right on to Rosebank Rd. At the traffic lights go straight ahead to Trent St, this brings you out in the middle of the path. You can head towards Waterview or Onehunga.

Of course you could always drive to the start of the shared path. A great spot to park would be at the Waterview reserve which has a great playground, BMX track and skate park and is close to the historic ruins of bye-gone years.

The path itself is an easy gradient with wide concrete paths. We were there on a weekday so there weren’t many people using it but I can imagine it could be popular in the weekend.

We rode from the Trent St entrance down to Waterview and had a wee break at the playground in the Waterview Reserve. Be sure to check out the historic remains between the Reserve and the motorway.

We when headed back passed the Trent St entrance to explore the path in the other direction for a few kilometres before turning around and heading back to the train.

We definitely plan to come back and ride the path all the way to Onehunga.

All in all a fun day out.

To find out more about the trail have a read of Auckland Transport overview and map.

Getting ready check list

  • Bikes
  • Helmets
  • Gloves
  • Appropriate clothing
  • AT Hop card
  • Drink bottle
  • Snacks

Explore more:

 Auckland Adventures

Mountain biking with kids

Reconnecting with yourself and the outdoors after having kids