Starting at Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) – one of the northernmost points in the North Island – this cycle-touring route follows Northland’s beautiful west coast to read the little town of Rawene on the edge of Hokianga Harbour.
The Far North Cycleway starts from the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse that looks out over the convergence of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean. After a short road section it hits the sands of Ninety Mile Beach to reach Ahipara then heads inland across the countryside to the Hokianga Harbour.
At Hokianga, this route connects with the Twin Coast Cycle Trail Great Ride. It also connects with the Kauri Coast Cycleway and on to the Kaipara Missing Link Heartland Rides for a full west coast touring route through to Auckland.
The trail starts at Cape Reinga lighthouse, built in 1941, where you will find interpretation panels and toilets but no other facilities. Reinga is Māori for ‘underworld’ – Māori believe that the spirits of the dead depart for the underworld from Te Reinga Wairua.
From Cape Reinga, this route follows State Highway 1 for around 16km before turning west at Te Paki and following Kauaeparaoa Stream (also called Te Paki Stream) to the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach.
The beach is your ‘highway’ for 80km through to Ahipara, which is also the first and only place beside the beach that has shops.
It is a long journey along the beach, but at low tide the beach surface is hard, smooth and fast riding with a tailwind. The only soft sand occurs where streams flow across the beach.
Note that the beach is best ridden at low tide. The locals will know the tide times, but you can also check them on the Metservice website.
It’s worth stopping to wash the salt and sand off your bike at Ahipara before heading out of town on Foreshore then Roma roads.
Turn right at the Kaitaia–Awaroa Road T-intersection. At Herekino, turn left to continue following the Kaitaia–Awaroa Road. The village of Broadwood lies along this road about 35km from Ahipara. It has a general store.
From Broadwood, it is 30km, including a 2km ferry trip, to Rawene, via Broadwood then Kohukohu roads.
The ferry terminal to Rawene is 4km south along the coast from Kohukohu. The ferry runs several times a day. It charges a minimal fee for the 15-minute trip across the Hokianga Harbour to Rawene.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
The riding surface is approximately 50% sand (Ninety Mile Beach) and 50% sealed road. Ninety Mile Beach must be ridden within a few hours of low tide for the sand to be solid. There are also areas of soft sand where streams flow across the beach.
The on-road sections are relatively quiet with less than 500 vehicles per day on average. Riders should have good road sense and be prepared to encounter traffic at any times, even on Ninety Mile Beach.
FITNESS & SKILLS
The grade 3 (intermediate) route is mostly flat, with some undulations and the occasional steep climb. The ride is best suited to reasonably fit riders with some cycle touring experience.
TYPE OF BIKE
Touring bikes and mountain bikes are suitable for the terrain. E-bikes, with sufficient battery capacity, can also be ridden. Wash your bike of salt and sand at Ahipara after completing the Ninety Mile Beach section.
Riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit and spares.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
It’s impossible to get lost on Ninety Mile Beach, and the road sections are well sign-posted. However, but a map will help prevent wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way.
Warm summers and mild winters make it possible to ride this route all year round. However, the Far North can experience heavy rain at any time of the year, so a good raincoat is essential.
ACCOMMODATION, FOOD & WATER
This is a fairly remote ride, with limited services, so it will play to plan ahead for overnight and food stops.
Waitiki Landing, 21km from Cape Reinga, has the northernmost shop in the country as well as a petrol station and holiday park.
The main town of Kaitaia is 14km northeast off the trail and offers a variety of accommodation, as well as and banks, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.
Ahipara, Kohukohu and Rawene along the route offer a range of accommodation and food options, along with some interesting historic sites and galleries
Broadwood has a general store, which is closed on Sundays. Waipapakauri, a few kilometres inland from Ninety Mile Beach, provides basic food supplies and has a holiday park.
Cape Reinga is 112km from Kaitaia via State Highway 1. To bus up to Cape Reinga, contact Harrisons Cape Runner Tours.
Tourist buses travel along Ninety Mile Beach daily.
A car ferry crosses the Hokianga Harbour between Rawene and 4km south of Kohukohu. It runs every 45 minutes between 7.45am and 8pm.
Rawene is also the start of the Kauri Coast Cycleway, and near to the Hokianga Harbour end of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, which can be accessed on weekends via the Ranui passenger ferry from Kohukohu.
Coverage is available at main towns but limited along the rest of the trail.
There are public toilets at regular intervals.