The Waikato River is New Zealand's longest river at 425 km in length. It is punctuated by elegant dams and tranquil hydro-lakes as it flows through the North Island's rural heartland, close to State Highway 1.
The Waikato River starts its journey to the sea in the central north volcanic zone and ends by flowing in to the Tasman Sea and Port Waikato. Along the way, the river travels through picturesque scenery, birdlife, industrial architecture and other diverting sights, this journey is further enriched by ecological restoration and community spirit.
The Waikato River Trails comprise of five sections ranging from easy to expert, across terrain sometimes smooth and gently undulating, at others steeper and more rugged. Multiple access points and local shuttle services allow for rides of various lengths and levels of difficulty.
The trail sticks close to the Waikato River the whole way and can be ridden in either direction. Cyclists completing the whole trail can stop overnight in lakeside campsites and lodges or arrange shuttles to transport them to other accommodation nearby.
There are plenty of day rides. A deservedly popular option starts at Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni, where bikes can be hired for an easy 26km return ride alongside Lake Karapiro. Highlights include an historic pedestrian bridge suspended above a handsome hydropower station, plus regenerating wetlands and peaceful waterside reserves.
The two southernmost sections along the Whakamaru and Maraetai hydro-lakes combine for a memorable one-day adventure. Starting beside the imposing rocky knob known as Mt Pohaturoa, the intermediate-level trail flows through forest and open terrain offering ever-changing views of the lakes and dams.