A scenically spectacular cross-country journey from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga Harbour, Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail serves up an irresistible mix of relaxing riding with some seriously significant heritage sites and stories.
Glittering coast, a tranquil harbour, wetlands, native forest and rolling farmland can all be enjoyed on this ride across the Far North, which passes through towns rich in history and manaakitanga (hospitality).
Following a smooth rail trail, cycle paths, wetland boardwalk, suspension bridges and country roads, it can be ridden in either direction or broken into smaller day trips. It is both relaxing and highly rewarding, with opportunities to visit various cultural sites and attractions while enjoying the sub-tropical climate for which the ‘winterless’ north is famous.
- stunning coastal & cross-country scenery
- rich Māori & colonial history – stories, places, people
- evocative bi-lingual information panels
- authentic Northland hospitality
- Bay of Islands’ seaside holiday vibe
- pretty, peaceful Hokianga Harbour
- close to Waitangi, Russell, Kerikeri & more
- New Zealand’s only coast-to-coast cycle trail
- easy riding, all-year round
The trail is split into four sections, an easy ride almost the entire way with the exception of the short intermediate section between Okaihau and Horeke.
Although it can be ridden in either direction, the most popular route is east to west (as described below), or downhill in either direction from Kaikohe near the centre of the trail.
11km, Grade 1/easiest, 1–1.5 hours
TEMPORARY ALTERNATIVE ROUTE: the trail between Taumarere and Te Ake Ake is closed to cyclists and walkers until further notice. This section can now be traversed by either jumping aboard the Bay of Island Vintage Railway (with bikes), or cycling the alternative backroad route (18km) between Opua and Kawakawa, known as the Opua Whangae Road Trail.
A fun family outing is cycling (or walking) from Opua to Te Ake Ake before catching the vintage train to Taumarere Station then cycling/walking the remaining 3.5 km to Kawakawa, or vice versa. Alternatively, start your Twin Coast adventure at Kawakawa.
Opua is centred around a pretty marina and the car ferry port for the boat trip to and from historic Russell – a must visit for history lovers.
The trail begins alongside the marina and follows a pretty estuary edged with mangroves – a classic sight along New Zealand’s northern coasts.
The trail then runs beside the tracks of the Bay of Islands Vintage Steam Railway and crosses the beautifully restored bridge to reach cute little Taumarere Station, a nice photo op and good place to pause for a snack. NOTE: this section is closed to riders and walkers (see above).
This section ends all too soon at the bustling rural town of Kawakawa where you will find one of Northland’s looniest tourism attractions – the Huntervasser toilets adorned with mosaic tiles, sculptures, cobblestone floors and a grassy roof. Cafes, shops, a museum and local Māori artists can also be found in the town.
34km, Grade 1–2/easiest–easy; 2–3 hours
After Kawakawa, the trail passes the sleepy rural town of Moerewa with its old disused wood mill before climbing gently for the next 25km through rolling farmland and forest to Kaikohe – Northland’s largest inland town.
Highlights of this section include beautiful waterfalls, graceful suspensions bridges and the Kaikohe Pioneer Village – a lively museum with complimentary tea, coffee and water for thirsty cyclists.
Kaikohe is a handy place to stop with plenty of accommodation, eateries and a couple of supermarkets. The Waiariki Hot Pools at nearby Ngawha Springs will soothe weary legs and numb butts after a day in the saddle.
14km, Grade 1–2/easiest–easy, 1–2 hours
The trail climbs gently along an old railway corridor to reach a viewpoint 280m above sea level. After passing through a spooky, curved 80m tunnel constructed in 1915, the trail descends to Lake Omapere, Northland’s largest lake and one steeped in Māori mythology.
Another trail highlight is the ford close to Okaihau. See if you can whizz through it without getting your feet wet, or just cross the adjacent walkway bridge.
This section ends at the tiny settlement of Okaihau, which serves the surrounding rural community with a cafe, takeaways, small supermarket and public toilets.
28km, Grade 2–3/easy–intermediate, 2–3 hours
Beyond Okaihau, the trail parallels the road passing churches and the war memorial gates, with information panels adding flavour to the ride.
Continuing through farmland riders are greeted by a fabulous view down the Utakura River valley where the trail follows a series of switchbacks. Further on is another highlight – the 1200m-long boardwalk section that snakes through the mangrove estuary connecting to the Hokianga Harbour.
Quaint Horeke, on the shores of the harbour, is a town with history in spades. The tavern, a contender for New Zealand’s oldest, is well worth a visit, as is the nearby Wesleyan Mission House (1838–39) at Māngungu sitting pretty above the harbour.
While some riders complete the whole Twin Coast trail in one day, it’s a big undertaking – especially in the heat of summer. Fortunately, the various sections can easily be enjoyed as shorter return rides, or one-way trips with the assistance of local shuttles.
Opua—Ake Ake Tunnel (return)
8km, easy, 1–2 hours
A short and sweet return ride from Opua where there’s bike hire and a cafe, this is a good option for visitors without their own bikes; easy terrain makes it suitable for children and inexperienced riders. Highlights include pretty estuary views, the historic Ake Ake train tunnel and the salty sights of Opua marina.
45km, easy, 3–5 hours
This pleasant downhill ride features beautiful waterfalls, the twin suspension bridges at Tuhipa, rolling farmland and cafes in Kawakawa and Moerewa. It also passes cute Taumarere Station and the restored railway bridge before following the mangrove-lined estuary to Opua marina.
42km, easy–intermediate, 3–5 hours
Heading west from around the trail’s centrepoint, this fabulous ride follows the rail trail through a tunnel, along meandering rivers, through native bush, and along a boardwalk to stunning Horeke Harbour. Take a packed lunch and picnic at any of the beautiful riverside spots, and leave time to wander around the Māngungu Mission Station before rounding off your adventure with refreshments at the Horeke Hotel. There are bike hire and transport operators at both ends of the trail.
TRAIL STATUS & ALERTS
FITNESS & SKILLS
The Twin Coast follows wide, smooth cycle paths (Graded 1–2) for most of the way, with a few short road sections. It’s particularly well suited to younger, older, and less experienced riders, with the security of small towns never far away.
TYPE OF BIKE
The trail can be ridden on a hybrid bike, although a mountain bike will ensure maximum comfort and safety, especially on the Grade 3 section from Okaihau to Horeke.
E-bikes are also permitted and available through most bike-hire companies. E-bikers should ensure that batteries have sufficient capacity and charge for the day's riding and, if staying in local accommodation, check that they can be recharged there.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
The trail is well signposted and frequently passes through small towns and settlements. Carrying the official map, however, will enhance the experience by pinpointing landmarks, local businesses, and assist with ride timings. The map can be downloaded from the trail website.
You can also download the awesome Great Rides App to see where you are on the trail. It's free, works offline and has heaps of useful information, including trail descriptions and photos, trail services, food and accommodation.
WEATHER & RIDING SEASON
Northland’s sub-tropical climate makes for great cycling any time of the year, although riders should check the forecast and prepare accordingly. Note that, as the trail runs from one coast to the other, the weather can vary wildly in the same day. The trail can also get a bit sticky in places after heavy rain.
FOOD & DRINK
There’s food and drink in the towns and settlements along the trail, with relaxed lunches at cafes and pubs a wonderful bonus of the adventure. With good planning, you can hit the best spots at the best time, but be aware that some businesses run on limited hours or even close during the low season. Make sure you have sufficient snacks and drinks to see you through your ride.
Water bottles can be filled at various settlements; be sure to carry plenty on hot summer days.
Cellphone coverage is good around larger towns and settlements but patchy between Kawakawa and Kaikohe, and Okaihau to Horeke.
Public toilets are located in all towns and around the mid points on all sections except Kaikohe and Okaihau.
DOGS & HORSES
Dogs are not permitted on the following trail sections:
- The 12.5km section from Macadamia Orchard (Horeke Rd) through to Harrison and Mangataraire Roads.
- Parcels of land adjacent to Horeke Road managed by Utukura No. 7 Inc. (horses are also prohibited on this land).
- The section of trail that comes off Ngapipito and runs to the suspension bridge.
Elsewhere along the trail, where dogs are permitted, they must be kept on leads.
Horses are not permitted on the trail without a council consent.
The Twin Coast Trail is well set up for visitors, particularly around the ever-popular Bay of Islands (eastern) side of Northland. Accommodation and other services thin out as the trail heads west, but you’re never far away from towns where these can be found.
The popularity of the far north means it will pay to book your trip well in advance for the busy summer season, January–March. In the winter months – which is still a great time to ride – smaller towns wind down, with some businesses running on limited hours.
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The trail’s start and end towns are Kaikohe and Opua, but a Twin Coast adventure can be launched from anywhere along the trail including the towns of Kawakawa, Okaihau and Horeke; or nearby in Paihia, Russell, Kerikeri and other locations in the popular Bay of Islands.
Auckland International Airport is around 3.5 hours drive away; Kerikeri regional airport is 45 minutes away.
Northland is terrific for a road trip, with most visitors making a loop of it via the Twin Coast Discovery Highway that takes in major sights including Te Reinga Wairua (Cape Reinga), Ninety Mile Beach, Waitangi and the Bay of Islands.
Nationwide Intercity buses service Paihia and Kaikohe, while local shuttle operators service smaller destinations throughout the region.
BIKE HIRE, TRANSPORT & TOURS
This trail is well served by local companies offering everything from bike hire to guided tours; casual bike hire is available at both ends of the trail (Opua and Kaikohe). However, to avoid disappointment – particularly during the busy peak season (January–March) and in winter when some services wind down, it is recommended that you make all bookings for hire, transport and tours in advance.
Several national tour companies offer customised tours of popular North Island biking and hiking trails including the Twin Coast, with Auckland the primary departure point.
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The greatest concentration of visitor accommodation is clustered around Paihia and the wider Bay of Islands, but there are plenty of options actually on or close to the trail in Opua, Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Õkaihau, Horeke and surrounding countryside. The Bay of Islands’ popularity makes it sensible to book your accommodation well in advance for peak season (January–March).
Great Rides of New Zealand National partner Heritage Hotels has two awesome properties in Paihia – the Sea Spray Suites and Waterfront Suites. Use the code 'NZCYCLE' when you book and get a 10% discount.
Group stays in marae (Māori community centres) are also possible; enquire via the official Twin Coast website.