Easiest - Easy
This laid-back Waikato trail traces the Shorebird Coast, quaint historic towns, lush farmlands, and a historic railway corridor through the Karangahake Gorge, then South to the home of the Hobbiton Movie Set.
One of New Zealand’s easiest Great Rides, this laid-back Waikato trail follows historic railway lines between the quaint townships of Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi and Matamata. Officially starting from Kaiaua in the North, the trail traces the Shorebird Coast along the Firth of Thames. Riders enjoy contrasting landscapes from the verdant Hauraki Plains, to the intriguing Karangahake Gorge, carved by the forces of nature. Finally there’s a gentle ride South through lush farmlands to the hometown of the Hobbiton Movie Set.
55km - Grade 1 Easiest (5-6 hours)
The 197km Hauraki Rail Trail can be completed in 4-5 days, with its five sections each allowing for excellent and manageable day rides. Starting from Kaiaua in the North, the trail follows the Firth of Thames through wetlands of international significance.
At the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre you can learn about the area’s precious birdlife, with bird-hides offering the chance to view shorebirds up close. Expansive coastal wetlands, verdant farmland, and the volcanic Coromandel Ranges provide a dramatic backdrop.
Thames is full of character with dining and accommodation options. As you approach the town centre, enjoy the many sculptures along the community’s Arts Trail.
34km - Grade 1 Easiest (3-4 hours)
This richly historic section follows the old railway out of Thames town and through lush farmland, with memorable views across the Hauraki Plains and forested Kaimai Ranges.
The Matatoki Cheese Barn is a highlight, as is the Historical Maritime Park, once New Zealand’s most inland port.
Arrive into Paeroa early enough to fossick through the many antiques and collectables shops. There’s accommodation and eateries for riders looking to overnight.
24km - Grade 1 - 2 Easiest/Easy (3 hours)
The most popular section follows the Ohinemuri River through the dramatic Karangahake Gorge canyon cut through the Kaimai Ranges. Look out for Owharoa waterfall, gold mining sites, Victoria Battery museum, and the Windows Walkway.
Pack a headlamp for the spooky 1100-metre long railway tunnel. Halfway is Waikino Station where the Goldfields Railway vintage train runs between Waikino and Waihi. Time your ride to coincide with its timetable for a special experience.
Indulge or stay at Falls Retreat, or the Karangahake Winery Estate is tucked into the hill-side with direct access from the Trail. Take a Tour of the Martha Mine, and don’t miss the interactive Gold Discovery Centre.
23km - Grade 1 Easiest (2-3 hours)
Whether you’re departing from Waihi, Waikino, Karangahake or Paeroa, it’s an easy journey to Te Aroha. Heading south, this leisurely section passes through lush Waikato farmland dotted with dairy cows and farm animals. The Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges, Mt Te Aroha (952m The Mountain of Love), and Hauraki Plains are a feast for the eyes.
Te Aroha is a small rural town with a lovely domain, great walkways, quirky art and cafes. Its historic mineral spas are a great way to soothe pedal-weary muscles.
37km - Grade 1 Easiest (2-4 hours)
Construction is nearing completion on this gentle section of trail which passes through fertile plains, horse studs, goat farms, scenic Wairere Falls, and the Firth Tower. Celebrate the end of your journey in Matamata with a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set. Book in advance for an evening experience, as nothing beats a drink at the Green Dragon Inn.
View trail map here.
Skill Level & Fitness
The Hauraki Rail Trail is Grade 1 Easiest and suitable for riders of all ages and abilities. The Trail is predominantly wide, flat and smooth, with a gentle gradient. Riders should take extra care on short road sections and crossings, and at cattle grids.
Type of Bike
Friendly Rail Trail terrain makes this Trail suitable for everything from children’s bikes and uprights, to touring bikes, mountain bikes and e-bikes.
Maps & Weather
Although well signposted and seldom far from roads and settlements (some with cafes), riders should carry a map, sufficient food and water, basic tool kit and cellphone (although coverage may be patchy within the Karangahake Gorge). Toilets are located at convenient intervals.
A temperate climate makes this an all-season trail. A lack of shade on the Plains makes sunblock essential in summer, and riders should always check the forecast and take appropriate clothing for the conditions.
Transport & tours
Bike hire, shuttles and luggage transfers are available from operators based on and around the trail, with Thames, Waihi and Paeroa the major hubs.
While casual bike hire is usually easy to arrange on the spot, it pays to book in advance during peak season (December to March). It’s essential to book shuttles in advance.
A wide range of accommodation can be found along the trail in Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi, the surrounding countryside and popular destinations nearby such as Waihi Beach, Coromandel town and Whangamata. Accommodation providers partnered with the trail are listed on the Hauraki Rail Trail website.