Cycling coast to coast in New Zealand’s far North -Twin Coast Cycle Trail

October 26, 2020

Cycling coast to coast in New Zealand’s far North -Twin Coast Cycle Trail

The coast to coast bike trail is 87 kilometres

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the far North of New Zealand, but I ‘ve just had the best few days with my sister, Anne, cycling the Twin Coast Cycle Trail. The 87 kilometre trail is a coast to coast ride from Opua near Paihia to Horeke on the Hokianga Harbour. The far North is a remote part of New Zealand stretching from the top of Cape Reinga to the Bay of Islands, including Paihia, The Hokianga and the town of Kaikohe. While the area is vast, the population is less than 60,000 people. Unemployent is higher than the rest of the country and poverty is evident, however, it’s hard to find friendlier, more content people.

The ferry ride from Paihia to Russell is short, but stunning

We drove from Auckland to Paihia and had a very pleasent afternoon, lunching at Duke of Malbourgh on Russell’s foreshore before heading back to Paihia on the ferry. We later ate supper at ‘Charlotte’s Kitchen,’ again overlooking the water on Paihia’s pier. Next morning we drove to the start of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, a short distance to Opua. Adjacent to Russell’s car ferry terminal, we picked up our e-bikes and headed off around the estuary towards Kawakawa.

We started the bike ride in Opua, following the estuary for several kilometres

The old stream train travels from Kawakawa to the old historic Taumarere Railway Station

Dairy and beef farms are the mainstay of the economy in the far North

The old BNZ bank has been transformed into a delightful boutique hotel in the heart of Kaikohe

Coming into Kawakawa we were fortunate enough to see the old steam train puffing down the main street, heading out to the old historic Taumarere Railway Station, full with sightseers. After a quick stop in the town and a visit to the famous public toilets designed by Austrian, Friendenreich Hundertwasser we headed off towards Kaikohe. With a population of just over 4000 it’s a shopping and service centre for an extensive farming district and is referred to “the hub of the north.” Riding into town the poverty was again evident with unpainted houses, some derelict, and rubbish too expensive to remove.  Lush folliage, roaming chickens and dogs bathing in the sun, reminded me of many of our Pacific Island neighbours, where time stands still and nobody is in a hurry.

Our accommodation at the Left Bank Hotel in Kaikohe was superb for a small, rural town. Until recently, the hotel was the BNZ Bank, however they moved to new premises about five years ago rather than stump up with the cost of earthquake strenghening it. Doomed to fall into ruins, accountant Jack Poutsma and Di Maxwell, a former district councillor bought it and spent the next two and a half years doing it up. It has been transforming into a hotel, backpackers and cafe/restaurant.

Off in the morning we passed Lake Omapere, the ancestral home to New Zealand’s long finned eel or tuna. We followed the river, grazing cattle and a zig-zag back to sea level, having gradually climbed 200 metres the previous day. Finally a board-walk track over wetlands and tussock took us to our destination, Horeke.

Coming into Horeke we enjoyed a stunning boardwalk over the wetlands

Horeke is a settlement in the upper reaches of the Hokianga Harbour with a population of  1,000 people. The town sprang up overnight when an Australian firm established a shipyard in 1826, however, only a few ships were built here.

The Horeke Hotel was the first pub in New Zealand and while it is still charming it’s a little dilapidated

Horeke is the second oldest town in New Zealand and is the site of New Zealand’s first ever pub, the Horeke Hotel. The hotel is open for accommodation, with bookings essential, but it’s not to the general public. Surrounding the hotel is some of the finest tidal marshes in New Zealand with hundreds of wildfowl and endangered swamp birds thriving in the vast aquatic ‘wastelands’. The old buildings of Horeke were mostly built over water, because at the time there was no land for sale or available for development. Arriving a little tired our night at the hotel was fun mingling with other guests. Our room was spacious and clean with water views and ample room in the two bars, now not open to the public. A menu choices of beef, lamb and fish were offered on a first-come basis, as the hotel was full.

The bar in the pub, once bursting with locals is now used to store the bikes

The Hokianga estuary is beautiful and remote

After a leisurely breakfast we were picked up and driven back to our car at Opua. The far North is a beautiful part of New Zealand with a trove of treasures waiting to be discovered and there’s no better way to see it all than on a bike.

Planning your Twin Coast Cycle Trail journey.

Contact the Russell Booking and Information Centre they will make all the bookings for you.
Day 1 – Spend the night in Paihia
Day 2 – In the morning drive 5 minutes to Opua and collect you bikes from Twin Coast Cycle Transport and Car Hire, at 2a Baffin Street. The bike hire outfit will give you a map, but the trail it very well marked, so near impossibleto make a wrong turn. Bike to Kaikohe, 45 kilometres and stay the night at the Left Bank Hotel.
Day 3 – Bike from Kaikohe to Horeke, 42 kilometres and stay the night at the Horeke Hotel.
Day 4 – Get picked up from the Horeke Hotel and returned to your car in Paihia
Luggage and Transfers – The Twin Coast Cycle Transport and Car Hire people will look after your bike hire and transfers. We opted for e-bikes with excellent large gel seats! They transfered our luggage fron Opua to Kaikohe and then onto Horeke. After we had completed the bike ride they transported us from Horeke back to our car in Opua.
For other great New Zealand adventures, read:
2020-10-26T11:16:15+13:00October 26th, 2020|NEW ZEALAND|

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  1. Jenni October 27, 2020 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Excellent Jane, on my list!

  2. Pat Perry November 10, 2020 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Sounds a great bike ride. Think we will look at doing it. Your description of the ride very good.
    Cheers, Pat

  3. Ali Andrew April 10, 2021 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Was a great experience for our group of 5. Spiral from Horeke to Okaihau the hardest part (Grade 3) so recommend finishing that way instead of Horeke to Opua direction. Finished off with 8km Opua to Russell. Mike at Horeke – we will be back but not for chicken bbq lol.

    • Jane Jeffries April 21, 2021 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Sound slike you had a great time- what’s with the chickem BBQ?

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