NOTE: the Heaphy Track is only open to bikers from 1st May to 30th November.
This is so much more than just a link between Collingwood and the Heaphy Track, with hidden gems dotted along Golden Bay’s pretty backroads reason enough for knocking off this trail on there-and-back summer rides.
Take a dip in the dreamy swimming spot on the Aorere River near Salisbury Falls (24km south-west of Collingwood), and stop en route at the historic Langford Store and Post Office (18km south-west of Collingwood) for coffee or tea and some sweet treats. This wee photogenic slice of yesteryear has been serving the Bainham community since 1928.
This Connector Ride links with the Heaphy Track at Browns Hut, 34km from Collingwood. At the West Coast end of the Heaphy Track, riders can link to The Old Ghost Road via the Old Ghost Road to Heaphy Connector Ride. These rides also form part of the Kahurangi 500 bikepacking route, detailed in our Bikepacking New Zealand section.
Collingwood town has a range of accommodation, places to eat and a general store to stock up on supplies. The route begins on Tasman Street, before turning right onto Haven Road then right again onto Collingwood–Bainham Main Road, which heads south and west for 17km to reach Bainham and the Historic Langford Store and Post Office – the only other place to buy food and drink on this Connector Ride.
After leaving the Langford Store, veer right onto Aorere Valley Road and continue 5km south before reaching Quartz Range Road. The Salisbury Falls are just 200m from this junction on the other side of the Aorere River where there’s an enticing swimming hole, waiting to be leapt in on hot summer days.
Named after the Salisbury family who came to the area during the 1860 gold rush, these beautiful falls featured in the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the scene where Tauriel and Legolas meet.
From the falls it’s a further 10km along Aorere Valley on undulating gravel to reach Brown Hut, the start of the Heaphy Track.
This route is on quiet country roads consisting of 60% sealed road (20.5km) and 40% gravel road (13.5km). Although traffic volumes are very low, milk trucks use this route and riders should keep left and expect traffic at any time.
FITNESS & SKILLS
This ride is suitable for almost anyone comfortable riding on quiet country roads. The first 18km from Collingwood to Langford Store is on sealed roads and relatively flat. About 2.5km south of Langford Store the road turns to gravel and there are some moderate hills as you approach Brown Hut and the Heaphy Track.
TYPE OF BIKE
This connecting ride could be tackled on a touring bike or gravel bike, however if you’re continuing onto the Heaphy Track, you’ll need a ship-shape mountain bike with all necessary spares and tools, and the mechanical skills to use them.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
New Zealand’s country roads are well signposted, but a map will prevent wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way.
Golden Bay, as its name suggests enjoys plenty of sunshine and warm summers days. However, it can get very cold in the Aorere Valley during winter and heavy rain is possible at any time of year. As with any ride, check the forecast and take appropriate clothing and equipment for all possible conditions.
ACCOMMODATION, FOOD & WATER
Takaka is the main town servicing Golden Bay which has all the services you would expect including a bike store. Collingwood also has a range of accommodation options, a general store and a restaurant, cafes and takeaways. The only other place to buy food or drink along this Connector Ride is the Historic Langford Store at Bainham. Carry sufficient water for your ride.
GETTING THERE & AROUND
Collingwood is a remote town which can be reached by shuttle/public transport or riding from the Nelson/Tasman Region. Golden Bay Coachlines service between Nelson and Brown Hut at the start of the Heaphy Track, stopping at Motueka, the Canaan Downs turn-off, Takaka and Collingwood. Nelson has regular flights from most parts of the country, and from Nelson Airport it’s just over two-hours' drive to Collingwood.
If riding, it’s recommended that you follow Tasman’s Great Taste Trail from Nelson to Kaiteriteri (75km) then catch a water taxi around Abel Tasman National Park to the DOC camp at Totaranui. From here it’s a further 57km to Collingwood. This avoids riding over the Takaka Hill on SH60. Alternatively, advanced mountain bikers can bike to the top of Takaka Hill from Riwaka and cycle the Rameka Track down to Golden Bay (grade 4/advanced; 2–4 hours one way; 13.5km from Canaan Downs to Totara car park).
There is reliable cellphone coverage in Collingwood but it becomes patchy heading south into the Aorere Valley and then non-existent near Brown Hut.
There are public toilets in Collingwood and at Brown Hut and Campsite (start of Heaphy Track).
The Golden Bay Visitor Centre is located in Takaka.