History and culture along NZ's cycle trails

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Most of New Zealand’s Great Rides are steeped in history and offer cyclists a chance to immerse themselves into the local culture.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

The Twin Coast Cycle Trail or Pou Herenga Tai spans 84km from Opua to Hokianga Harbour in the Bay of Islands. A unique feature of this trail is the series of pou (carved posts) erected along the route. The pou are hand-carved by local iwi (Māori tribes) recalling the history and stories of both Maori and Pakeha settlements in and around the area.

A visit to the brand new Waitangi Museum before starting the ride is a great way to get a better understanding of the New Zealand story and the journey ahead. Waitangi was the location for the signing of New Zealand’s founding document.

Hauraki Rail Trail

The Hauraki Rail Trail follows two historic rail lines and gives a glimpse into the region’s rich gold mining past. On the leg from Paeroa to Waikino, the trail winds through the Karangahake Gorge, where the relics of gold mining are most evident. You can see old mining buildings and machinery. 

The Timber Trail

Nestled in Pureora Forest, about an hour’s drive from Lake Taupo, The Timber Trail boasts some of the highest and longest suspension bridges in New Zealand. The route follows old bush tramlines, logging roads and native forest saved from loggers by conservationists in the 1970s.

West Coast Wilderness Trail

The West Coast is a region with more than its fair share of tales to tell and the Wilderness Trail shares some unique stories of the land and its people. The four-day ride from Greymouth to Ross has many historical stops including the majestic Awatuna Homestead at the end of day one. This villa style homestead is country charm and luxury at its finest. The pioneering spirit of the South Island’s West Coast is evident on the trail with remnants of the Māori pounamu (greenstone) gatherers and the glittering gold rush era to be spotted along the way.

Old Ghost Road

New Zealand’s longest single-track, The Old Ghost Road resurrects an old gold miners’ route between the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast. The single track backcountry trail takes you through four ghost towns, left behind by several mining operations. Historical artefacts and information panels explaining the significance of the area dot the trail, giving you a feel of life as a miner in the 1880s. You will require advanced level of fitness and skill to conquer this trail.

Otago Central Rail Trail

New Zealand’s original Great Ride, the Otago Central Rail Trail presents a grand tour of Central Otago and a glimpse into the region’s fascinating history and pioneering founders. Tracing the route of the old railway between Clyde and Middlemarch, the trail gently meanders through ever-changing scenes featuring viaducts, eerie tunnels, abandoned gold diggings and art deco buildings in quaint, country towns.

Clutha Gold Trail

The 73km Clutha Gold Trail showcases the Clutha’s history of early Maori moa hunters, Chinese gold miners, European pastoral farming, mining and railways. Following the mighty Clutha Mata-au River, the trail is dotted with towns that were established during the gold rushes. The trail ends at Lawrence, Otago’s first gold-rush town. Mining relics are evident all along this trail.

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Where to Next

Cycling Itineraries →

Rejuvenate on NZ's Great Rides →

Food & Wine on NZ's Cycle Trails →