Are you wondering what it would be like to cycle the Hauraki Trail with two kids aged 6 and 9? Here are some of my observations, shared on Facebook, as we travelled the Hauraki Rail Trail in the last days of 2015.
For information about planning and logistics for this ride, see Hauraki Trail Part 1.
Pre-Departure – Thames
We explored Thames and visited an old gold mine and battery in Thames (The Goldmine Experience). The guides were knowledgeable and their stories and demonstrations gave us an idea of what the mining life had been like. It was a good way to start the trip, as the mining heritage of the area weaves its way through the Hauraki Trail, and it breathed life into the history we saw along the way.
Day One: Thames – Hikutaia: 22 km
Our first days cycling on the Hauraki Rail Trail. 22 sunny kilometers. Started in Thames and overnighting in Hikutaia. Kids did well. Hard to get them asleep with the bovines bellowing -city kids! Enjoying a lovely sunset. The kids have decided not to smile in photos because it “looks cooler that way”.
The first day out on the trail is a time to find your pace, your riding legs and relax into the sense of adventure, exploration and freedom of having a destination and two wheels. Crossing cattlegrids were a new skill to acquire, and most of us were more comfortable dismounting and walking our bikes through the narrow bumpy gateways.
Day Two: Hikutaia – Waikino: 24 km*
Beautiful scenery, exciting tunnels and bridges plus a train ride. We cycled to Waikino and then took the train to Wahi (Goldfields Railway). Great effort from the kids. Miss6 has done ten km each day unhitched. Learning: kids need a carbs hit every two km.
*Not taking the train would add 8 km to the day’s riding.
This days riding took us through Paeroa. We didn’t linger long, knowing we’d be back there the following night, and because we had a train to catch! The GoldFields railway journey from Waikino to Wahi was a fun experience. It was easy to load our bikes on board the bike wagon, and then relax and enjoy the scenery. The conductor was friendly and knowledgable, keen to point out the interesting sights and share stories along the way. The open viewing carriage was a good place to spend part of the journey and try and spot the cycle trail we’d be riding the next day.
Day Three: Waihi – Paeroa: 22km
(plus one hour for the Windows Walk)
Miss6 did so well in cycling the whole 16 km from Waihi to Karangahake herself. She was justifiably pleased with herself, and Mr9 seemed to find it easier going too. We were joined by fabulous relatives for the Windows Walk, which was incredible. Definitely the best day of the Hauraki Trail.
The section from Waihi to Waikino doesn’t strictly follow the old railway line (which is still used for the Goldfields Railway). However it’s route is close enough to spot the train, and incredibly scenic. The terrain is varied with small ups and downs, twists and turns, and it is nice to have a day off from cattlegrid crossings. Scenery wise, it is a stunner: with views of the gorge and the river along the way.
The Windows Walk is a must-do. It is as attractive as it is fascinating. The trails proximity to Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland make the Windows Walk and the Waihi-Paeroa section of the trail a great way to meet up with non-cycling friends and relatives; or a day trip option for cycling families. In addition to the Windows Walk, there are interesting remnants of past mining operations, plus tunnel and bridge excitement. Lights on your bike or a torch will make the tunnel easier.
Tip: If you only have one day in which to explore part of the Hauraki Trail, then this is the section to do.
Day Four: Paeroa – Te Aroha: 21 km
Our final day on the Hauraki cycle trail. We started in Paeroa where the big L&P bottle got an excited hug from its young fans. Then off along the trail, 21 km to Te Aroha. Master9 was most perplexed that the sign at the end of the trail (for us) pronounces it to be the start.
This is probably the least interesting part of the trail, and a stark contrast to the variety of the previous days riding. There are lots of cattle grids and minor road crossings: but by then we had our mojo and could navigate them without dismounting and walking our bikes through.
End of Trip Sight-Seeing: Waihi
The day after we’d finished riding, I drove the kids back through the stunning Karangahake Gorge to visit the Gold Discovery Centre in Waihi. It was well worth a visit: fascinating, interactive, educational and enjoyable. My partner explored the MTB tracks in Te Aroha – he was very impressed. Then we all enjoyed a well earned soak in the hot mineral pools. We had been lucky with the weather: a storm hit after we’d finished riding!