Easy to Advanced
Rolling along Pacific Coast dunes and into the valleys and mountains beyond, these trails explore a serene corner of the Bay of Plenty/Tairawhiti.
Accessed from Ōpōtiki – gateway to New Zealand’s legendary Pacific Coast Highway – the Motu Trails comprise three distinct routes traversing the coast and penetrating deep into remote backcountry. Rides range from family-friendly to challenging single track, so there’s something for everyone as well as being close to many must-see visitor attractions in Tairawhiti and the Bay of Plenty.
The easiest and most accessible ride is the Dunes Trail, a family friendly and fun 11km (22km return) roll along the coast from Ōpōtiki where there’s bike hire and shuttles. Following a firm, smooth path across undulating dune land, it offers the opportunity for swimming and picnicking, and an ice cream treat at Tirohanga Beach Store.
Adjoining the Dunes Trail, the Motu Road Trail is an intermediate, backcountry ride with some challenging hill climbs. It follows the original coach road between the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, meandering as far as Matawai, 67km inland. Along the way it rolls up hill and down dale, through farmland and native forest, affording impressive views from well-earned summits. Starting from Matawai provides more downhill riding.
These two trails link up with the 44km Pakihi Track. Suitable only for advanced mountain bikers due to its remoteness, occasional narrows and steep drop-offs, the Pakihi is an awesome journey along a century-old byway twisting and turning through magical forest.
All three trails can be combined for an epic 91km loop best divided over two days by stopping overnight in rural accommodation as detailed on the Motu Trails website. Also listed there are other suggested rides mixing and extending the trails to suit visitor itineraries and riding ability.
View trail map here.
Riders of all abilities will enjoy the grade 2 (easy) Dunes Trail, but from there things get more challenging. Reasonably fit riders with granny gears should grind cheerfully up the grade 3 (intermediate) Motu Road hills, while the grade 4 (advanced) Pakihi is best left to those who can handle tricky stuff and possess basic mechanical skills. The Dunes Trail can be completed on a hybrid bike, while a ship-shape mountain bike is essential for the other two trails.
The trail is well signposted, but on the inland legs riders should carry a map, as well as plenty of water and food and a cellphone (although coverage is patchy). Riders should let some one know their intentions, and consider hiring a personal locator beacon (PLB) from either the Ōpōtiki or Gisborne i-SITE. There are toilets at convenient intervals.
The Motu Trails offer all-season cycling, but checking the weather forecast is essential. The inland section reaches elevations up to 800 metres above sea level, making warm, wet-weather clothing strongly advisable.
Conveniently located close to the trail in Ōpōtiki, Motu Cycle Trails (opens in new window)offers bike hire, shuttles and bunkhouse accommodation. Ōpōtiki Helicopters(opens in new window) offers an easy up to the start of the Pakihi Track, with the bonus of aerial sightseeing.
There is accommodation on and around the trail, with Ōpōtiki having the widest range close to cafes, a supermarket and other visitor services. There are plenty of other atmospheric options in the surrounds, from seaside holiday parks to lodges and farm stays. Motu Community House, inland on the trail, offers self-catering accommodation in the restored village post office. Accommodation providers partnered with the trail are listed on the Motu Trails website.