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... and this is not an overstatement as I have travelled to many far-flung destinations around the world to ride a bike – including Mongolia, China, USA, Taiwan, South East Asia, to name a few” – Daniel Carruthers
Part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network, the 180km Taumarunui to New Plymouth on-road Cycle Trail starts in Taumarunui, a railway town in the Central North Island and traces the Forgotten World Highway through rugged and remote bush country, before deviating through lush farmland to the Taranaki Coast and finishing on New Plymouth’s award winning Coastal Walkway.
The ride is ‘advanced’ grade due to the steep climbs (the highest point is only 300m, but there is over 2,200m of climbing) and requires a good level of fitness. It’s a tough one-day ride for the fittest of road riders, but recreational riders will enjoy it over two to three days with plenty of stops along the way.
Taumarunui to Whangamomona
The route begins in Taumarunui, an important location for New Zealand’s rail network since the pioneering era, and the hub for a number of Cycle Trail routes. Stock up on supplies – it is over 80km before you will have a chance get more.
Just out of Taumarunui Herlihy’s Bluffs showcases the area’s ancient history through 1300m thick layers of sand and mud stone, dating back 15-25 million years. 8km further on is the chance to stop for refreshments at the Lavender Farm, before reaching Nevin’s Lookout with panoramic views of the Central North Island from a vantage point a short walk from the road. Please ensure the gate is shut behind you.
A 10km (each way) diversion off the Cycle Trail at the 40km mark leads to the once-prominent town of Ohura, whose museum showcases the local history. Further south, Waro Road offers another diversion to the site of the old Tatu Mine – a 6.5km diversion up the valley.
Native bush surrounds the road as it passes through the Tangarakau Gorge. The road surface also changes to well-formed gravel for a 13km section at this point. After the Moki Road turnoff, the route passes through the single-lane 180m long 1936 Moki Tunnel – known locally as the Hobbit hole – before climbing to the Tahora Saddle.
Accommodation is available here, or it is a long descent to Whangamomona.
Whangamomona to New Plymouth
Heading south from Whangamomona, the Forgotten World Highway traverses the Whangamomona Saddle, which offers a number of short and not-so short bush walk options. Turn off to follow Junction Road at the Pohokura Saddle.
There is a period of gravel road and after 15km, Junction Road becomes Tarata Road at Purangi. Accommodation is available here. You will notice stoat traps along the roadside – this is Kiwi country, and the nearby East Taranaki Environment Trust operates a successful Kiwi and native bird sanctuary.
A further 16km on, turn right onto scenic Otaraoa Road, which leads through the Tarata Tunnel. From here it is largely downhill to the turnoff onto Tikorangi Road, 10km after the tunnel, for a flat 5km run to the historic Bertrand Road Swing Bridge across the Waitara River. Watch for the speed bumps on either side of the bridge – there to slow motorists they have an unsettling impact on cyclists!
The last major climb of the route is out of the Waitara River Valley on the western side of the bridge. From here it’s 6.5km, passing the Sentry Hill Fruit Winery to refreshments at the Lepperton Store and a further 7km to the start of the Mangati Walkway in the Bell Block industrial area.
Reaching the Sea
The Mangati Walkway passes under State Highway 3 before weaving through urban areas to link into the award winning, shared-use New Plymouth Coastal Walkway via Parklands Ave and Smeaton Road. There is a supermarket and other stores nearby.
The Coastal Walkway offers an incredibly scenic route past surf beaches, seaside cafes and other amenities to the finish of the Cycle Trail at Puke Ariki Landing and the New Plymouth i-SITE at Puke Ariki Museum and Library.
Highlights of the Walkway include the striking Te Rewa Rewa Bridge over the Waiwhakaiho River, and the towering 45m tall Wind Wand sculpture, by late Kiwi artist Len Lye. Taranaki’s main centre of New Plymouth is a vibrant and cosmopolitan hub and is one of New Zealand’s two Walking and Cycling Model Communities.
This cycling route is remote. There are only a few businesses providing accommodation along the route and no places to shop for food. Cyclists must plan in advance and go well prepared.
- Back Country Accommodation, Tahora Saddle
- Whangamomona Hotel, Whangamomona
- Purangi Orchard, Purangi (ph: 06 7565569)
70% sealed road / 25% gravel road / 5% sealed path
Best time to ride
All year round, but the best riding conditions are in summer and autumn, from November to early May.
Buses go to Taumarunui. You can also drive to both ends of the trail.
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