It doesn’t officially open until Sunday but we couldn’t wait that long to try out Napier’s newest cycle way. A flat 7 km loop close to Marine Pde and the city centre.
We started from Marine parade and joined the iway opposite Napier boys high school. Cycling along the waterfront is always a joy and we promised the kids we would stop at the junior bike park on our way back. The iWay meanders its way through reserve land. Often we were alongside the stream and criss-crossed it a number of time on bridges. The catch-cry of “ducks!” was well used, and we enjoyed glimpsing ducklings too.
It was also tour de tyre swing. With three different tyre swings to try out along the way. The trees were also offering up some interesting seed pods to examine and collect.
Along the way the nice smooth wide path was often complemented by an alternative off road route. An opportunity to exercise route preference and see who can get to the joining point faster.
“I came to a fork in the cycle path and I rode both routes and that has made all the difference”
Naturally all this exploring made our outing a celebration of slow cycling(you can have slow food, so why not slow cycling) and it really was about the journey. Although for Miss7, ice cream was definitely a destination she had in mind. We saved our discovery of a dairy until near the end…. A strategic choice. Somehow ice cream consumed after a sunny slow explorative wee cycle adventure tastes all the sweeter!
And on the home straight we checked out the junior bike track. It makes humorous and sometimes alarming viewing to see kids interpretation of the road rules. A clear indication they are not ready for the road.
Napier and Hastings are home to an awesome network of cycle ways. You can travel near and far on safe, sealed and mostly separate shared paths. It is a great spot for a family cycling holiday as there is so much to see and do. Thumbs up Napier!
For Wellingtonians this favourite ride is right on your back doorstep. It is a great family ride and easily completed by riders of all levels. Suitable for families with one caveat: if you have a cycle trailer you’ll need to be able to lift it over the gates (two near the start).
Part of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail, the incline is a gradual ascent following the path the old railway took prior to the current tunnel through the Rimutaka’s being built. At one point you pass by an exhaust vent for the current tunnel. Along the way there are remnants of railway history to explore, and informational signs highlighting the history and points of interest.
The trail is wide with a pretty good surface. Some parts are pot holed, and you need to take care of the deeper/looser surface on either side and the middle of the track. It is quite manageable and a good place for kids to learn about riding on this type of surface, providing they can exercise some restraint on the downhill. The natural environment is pretty and varied, with some pretty spots to stop for a snack.
When we do this ride we drive to the start, which is signposted off SH2, on your right past the Kaitoke turnoff. We park and ride to the summit and then enjoy the coast downhill back to the car. We usually clock it at about 22-24 km return. For years we did it with children in tow, firstly with trailers, and then on the trailgator. The first time I ever did it not towing a child was a revelation. Not that it is all that hard – gentle gradients were required to accomodate the steam locomotives that plyed the tracks up until 1955.
A picnic lunch, plenty of water and snacks are essential, as are jackets as it is often a tad chilly at the summit. There are toilets near the start, and again at the summit. See also: What’s in the bag?
Bring a torch or bike lights – just beyond the summit is the summit tunnel. And what child can resist a tunnel, especially a good long one like this! (584 m long).
A bit chilly at the top!
Carrying the balance bike in the trailer meant #2 could tackle the tunnel under her own steam
A great ride to do with another family, as it is easy to enjoy a chat on the way.
Best of both worlds – own wheels and being towed by Mum! So time for a snooze!
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: The areas between Tunnel Gully and Cross Creek and around the south coast are remote and have little or no cellphone coverage.
DRINKING WATER: Carry enough water and food for your trip, as there is none on the way.
CHANGE OF CLOTHES: there is plenty of water nearby, including one water crossing with a choice of bridge or ford. If your kids are like mine, and magnetically drawn to water, then a change of clothes back in the car might be a handy thing to have.
WALKERS use this trail too, so mind your manners and speeds on the descent.
The incline is just part of the whole adventure available to you:
Named one of the world’s hottest travel experiences for 2015, by travel guide Lonely Planet, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides.
It’s part of Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail and starts near the coolest little capital Wellington.
Through a broad river valley to bush-clad hills and gullies; from lakeside farmland to rugged southern coastline, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail is a 115km journey through distinctive New Zealand landscapes in the Wellington and Wairarapa regions.
“Let’s do it again.” That was our kids response after we completed the Otago Central Rail Trail a few years ago. So after talking them out of taking the exact same holiday, we started scanning around for alternatives. Thanks to the growth of the NZ Cycle Trails, we were spoilt for choice.
Established trails are serviced by businesses who can make your life easier in all sorts of ways, such as: food, accomodation, luggage forwarding, shuttle buses (for bikes and riders), bike hire, accessory hire, guided rides and tours, etc
Generally speaking, the longer the trail has been established for, the better the range and experience of the businesses servicing that trail.
There may also be services such as accomodation booking services, which can make life much easier.
Riding is fun, but we all need variety in our lives and our holidays. Having a great variety of activities, sights, and point of interest along the trail and nearby add to the overall attractiveness of the destination and your enjoyment of your holiday. It really increases your chances of your holiday having ‘something for everybody’ so that everyone comes home with a special memory.
It really helps a lot if the terrain and scenery along the trail itself is interesting. Bridges, tunnels, rivers, and bits of history all help break the day into smaller goals.
An easy gradient
A Good Match
The Hauraki Trail looked like a good match for us. With the kids aged 6 and 9 it wasn’t going to be too hard for them, yet it held plenty of interest along the way. Particularly with a child interested in geology/rocks/mining (aka big holes in the ground). It had the added attraction of being able to invite friends and relatives from that part of the country to join us for some/all of the trail. However for our friends in Aussie with older kids, Hauraki looked less attractive: they were looking for bigger challenges. Fair enough too: if you’ve got older kids this might not be the trail for you, or you might want to do it in bigger chunks.
We were also happy to wait a few years after the official opening of the trail (circa 2012), reasoning that this would be enough time for the services to get going. We are reluctant to ‘wing it’ when touring with kids.
A Plan of Attack
Having made that decision it was time to get down to details. When considering Hauraki as an option I’d looked at daily distances and made sure there would be somewhere to stay each night if we did shorter than the usual suggested daily distances. So it didn’t take much more effort to convert those margin notes on the brochure into an itinerary that looked a bit like this:
Bike & Train
24 km to Waikino
8km extra if don’t take train from Waikino to Wahi
1 hour windows walk
Gold Discovery Centre in Wahi.
When making your itinerary, consider:
Daily distances (see below)
Hills and likely wind directions (this may determine which direction you head in)
Attractions and interests along the way (factor in enough time to enjoy them, perhaps planning a rest day)
Availability of accomodation and food at each ‘break point’
Tip: How far in a day?
My rule of thumb for choosing an appropriate distance for cycling with kids is to pick what a reasonable distance for an adult would be and halve it. Thus if a multi day ride suggests doing it in 50km days, change that to 25 km per day with kids (or less). Choose shorter distances to start with, and increase the distance gradually. Follow longer or hillier days with less challenging ones, or rest days.
Originally we planned to use a luggage transfer service and leave our car at one end, just as we had done when we did the Otago Central Rail Trail. In the end we scuttled that idea and chose the ‘leap frog’ option:
Leap frog for extra exercise
Leave the car at previous nights accommodation, cycle together to next overnight stop, then one person cycles back and gets the car. You won’t need a luggage transfer service, you can dry your laundry in the car, and you have a car for getting around at your destination.
Our only disagreements were over whose turn it was to go back and get the car. We both wanted to!
We made use of the accomodation booking service offered by the local trail trust. I liked the idea of just being able to give them dates and locations, along with our basic requirements and have them do the legwork. I also like supporting the trail trust in their work: they get a commission from the accomodation operators. It worked out pretty well, and we had a good variety of suitable accomodation, and the one booking botch-up was quickly and professionally rectified (thumbs up!).
When choosing accomodation we like the option of self catering; we also look for: proximity to shops (for essential provisions) or the pub (for dinner), child-friendly (whether that means swimming pools or highchairs…), laundry facilities (wash and dry), and bike friendliness (safe place to lock your bike and an attempt not to wrinkle their nose when you turn up sweaty or drenched ….. well you would expect that wouldn’t you!).
The Trail Trust found us accomodation off the beaten track
Such as Ally’s Farmstay, which had everything we needed in a lovely rural setting
In Part 2 I’ll share our experiences on the trail, including our highlights.
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.
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.
Ready to depart
A handy spot for a snack
A welcoming business just off the trail
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.
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.
The Windows Walk is incredible
Wahi – Waikino is a very scenic section of the trail
Amazing view from the ‘windows’
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.
The kids loved the ‘big bottle’
The railway ran through the heart of Paeroa
The Paeroa to Te Aroha section was probably the least interesting, but we had fun spotting rabbits.
Glad to get to Te Aroha and keen to find a celebratory ice cream or treat.
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!