Cycling NZ's North Island: Hawke's Bay Trails

With balmy summers and mild winters Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s best year-round cycling destinations.

The region is blessed with great summers and bright, mild winters, while spread across its rural landscape are a variety of visitor attractions.These are linked by the Hawkes Bay Trails, one of New Zealand’s 22 new ‘Great Rides’.

The trails comprise nearly 200 kilometres of pathway, stretching along the seafront and inland cross-country. Mostly flat, the terrain ranges from river stopbanks to quiet back roads and coastal paths, making for easy pedalling much of the way. The scenery is beautiful, and dotted with numerous villages as well Napier and Hastings, the region’s two small cities. 

Major drawcard

Art deco Napier is a major drawcard for visitors to the region, and a bicycle is an efficient way to survey its architectural landmarks. The Water Ride section of the Hawkes Bay Trails leads you further afield in an almost endless array of routes, looping around the city’s outskirts through coastal, wetland and riverside scenery.

Part of the Water Ride, the Puketapu Loop is an easy 2–3-hour (17km) adventure starting from Napier’s Pettigrew Arena. Not only is the riverside trail very pretty with extensive pastoral vistas, it offers the bonus of the Puketapu Pub’s cold beer and country cooking at the halfway mark.

It’s possible to make a day of it by setting off from central Napier, then continuing along the Tutaekuri River stopbank after completing the Puketapu Loop. The home stretch is also the most popular leg of the entire trail network – the coastal path from Clive to Napier’s Marine Parade.  

Winery trail

The Wineries Ride is a mostly off-road loop around the vineyards of Bridge Pa and Gimblett Gravels, near Hastings. It’s a great way tackle the Hawkes Bay Wine Trail, with 14 cellar doors dotted along a route that includes a picturesque stretch of riverbank and an oak-lined avenue.

Several bike hire companies service the trail, and there are plenty of access points including the Hastings Golf Club which welcomes cyclists with easy parking, a cafe and bike racks.

The dramatic landform of Cape Kidnappers dominates the view on the Landscapes Ride. Ideally started from Clive, this very easy, mostly off-road trail sets off through the East Clive Wetlands before passing through the coastal settlements of Haumoana and Te Awanga. Two wineries en route – Clearview and Elephant Hill – offer distinctly different but equally enjoyable cellar door and restaurant experiences. There’s also a pleasant cafe at Clifton, the beach settlement just shy of the Cape.

Riders can turn tail at the Cape car park for a 2 – 4-hour return ride of 28km. However, it’s also possible to visit the rowdy gannet colony, which assembles on Cape Kidnappers from mid September to late April. It’s a five-hour return walk, but a lot quicker on a tractor tour (yes, a tractor) with Gannet Beach Adventures.

Outstanding scenic route

The bucolic Tukituki River Valley makes for an outstanding scenic ride. Although the hardest of the Hawke's Bay Cycle Trails, this circuit (part of the Landscapes Ride) will be happily completed by riders with reasonable fitness and decent granny gears on their bicycle.

From Black Bridge, near Haumoana, the trail sets off along a super-smooth stopbank. The bank’s convenient elevation provides expansive views of the surrounding landscape, dominated by the 399m-high Te Mata Peak. The trail meets the road at its foot, where you’ll find Tandem Café. It’s a mere two-kilometre detour from this point to the chichi wine village of Havelock North.

As the cycle trail tracks further up the Tukituki Valley it passes Craggy Range winery, a classy spot for a tasting or lunch. Riders are advised to eat light, because having crossed the Tukituki River at Red Bridge just beyond the winery the trail hits a quiet but hilly country road.

The views are easily worth the slow but steady grind, as is the exhilarating freewheel back down to the flat-as-a-pancake stopbank. This is a 2–3 hour (24km) cycle adventure that will linger long in the memory.

There are numerous bike hire and cycle tour companies scattered throughout the Bay. The best place to find them is on the website of Hawkes Bay Tourism.

Background: New Zealand Cycle Trail

In May 2013, the New Zealand Cycle Trail was named as one of the best cycle trails in the world at the International Trails Symposium, hosted by American Trails in Arizona. 

A network rather than one single route, The New Zealand Cycle Trail is a series of multi-day off-road trails and touring routes throughout New Zealand offering 2,500km of riding through outstanding landscapes.

A complete list of the New Zealand Cycle Trails and associated accommodation and providers is available at: www.nzcycletrail.com

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