It’s winter here in New Zealand, time for a cycle ride and delicious food stops along the way. Go for a day, go for longer.
A favourite ride is close to Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga, and takes in a collection of impressive New Zealand heritage towns. A highlight is riding through one of the “14 wonders of New Zealand”. Yes, we’re in the Karangahake Gorge and taking on the Hauraki Rail Trail. And (along the way) we’re locating some delicious New Zealand food treasures. Then we find a really special spot - wood-fired pizzas, anyone?
Off for a Karangahake cycle
The Hauraki Rail Trail is one of the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. It’s been open only a few years, and is based on an abandoned railway system in the Hauraki Gulf plains and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Apparently it’s one of the easiest cycle trails around, with a range of scenery, from pōhutukawa trees on the Thames Coast, through green Waikato farmland, and onto some of New Zealand's pioneering past.
It runs from Thames, south via Paeroa, to then branch either east towards Waihi via the Karangahake Gorge or south to Te Aroha.
Some tremendous town stops, and tremendous food treats to gather. There sure are plenty of reasons to stop, and get off the bike, along the way.
Start in Thames with a fish treat down at the wharf. You’re on the doorstep of the Coromandel. Enjoy a great coffee, and soak up the gold mining heritage.
Cycle on along the trail for a cheese stop, and gather items for a picnic. You’re heading to the home of world famous in New Zealand…..
World famous in New Zealand, it sure is. Here’s the home of Lemon & Paeroa. See Paeroa, see those lemon trees, and see the bottle. How can you miss it.
Then cycle on. You could head on to Te Aroha, or directly to explore the wondrous Karangahake Gorge with all it has to offer.
On to Te Aroha
Here’s an Edwardian spa town at the base of Mount Te Aroha, the tallest peak in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park. Te Aroha has seen its share of gold fever too, although now better known for the healing properties of its mineral spas. Much appreciated after a cycle ride.
Also much appreciated is the food. Take in a special sausage making operation. Collect New Zealand made charcuterie, perfect to add to that cheese collection.
And don't forget Waihi
Then back to the gorge and an especially good rail tunnel to ride through, over a kilometre in length. There’s some lighting, but don’t forget those torches….
Karangahake was once the site of one of the country’s busiest gold strikes. And so the gorge is steeped in history, and filled with interesting relics and walks.
On through more rural scenes and you’ll end in Waihi, home to gold miners from the 1800s to today. There’s a modern gold mine still operating in the town today. And there’s a gold mine of an organic food store with more provisions for cycling, not to mention delicious fruit smoothies and ice cream….
A special treat
But the very special treat is a bistro cafe just off the trail before Waihi, not far up a little hill near a waterfall. We visited for a lunchtime treat. Tremendous wood-fired pizzas, and delicious house-made sodas.
It’s an aptly named bistro, in an enclave of trees and across the road from an impressive waterfall. Cyclists ride in, and later ride out with snacks in their cycle bags. There's outside dining for warmer days and an impressive playground. And, for cooler days, there's a delightful warming fire and smoking pizza oven.
There’s no doubt the trail’s been a big economic benefit for the area, a big asset for tourism. It’s a fantastic cycle between heritage towns and through the gorge, while sampling cheese, meats and ice cream, pizza and wine.
Our kind of cycling.
And for more...
For more on what to find and enjoy on Karangahake and Coromandel travels, explore food treasures on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. You'll find delightful cafes, artisan producers, farmers markets, speciality grocers, and more.....