Ride the river
Thanks to a great vision and over a decade of work to pull it all together, Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride offers the chance to take in magnificent waterside scenery by bike or on foot.
The longest concrete path in the country, winding its way for 65 kilometers from Ngāruawāhia to Lake Karāpiro, Te Awa River Ride is something locals can be immensely proud of.
In 2009, Simon Perry of The Perry Group had the idea of making the Waikato River more accessible and easier for the community to enjoy. That idea was a path linking towns in the Waikato together alongside the Mighty Waikato – Te Awa.
Enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, the cycle trail sees over 250,000 people using it each year, with that number expected to grow with the explosion in popularity of cycling and e-bikes.
Good for little legs
The trail can be broken up into sections that make it manageable for adults and kids alike. For the most part, it’s graded one (the easiest cycling grade), with a few sections graded two (easy).
Opening up a whole new world
The magic of this path is that it opens up parts of the Waikato that many people have never seen before. From majestic views of Lake Karāpiro and the river itself, to secret waterfalls, native groves, the route travels along bridges and elevated boardwalks.
A thriving ecosystem
One of these boardwalks takes you over one of Hamilton’s oldest gully systems, known to be a roosting area for the native long-tailed bat (pekapeka-toa-roa). You are encouraged to get off and ‘walk your wheels’ through the short section that runs through Hammond Park; this way you can also take in the richness of the ecosystem around you.
There are more than 145 different native plant species within this one hectare, making it one of the city’s most biodiverse forests. On Ngāti Wairere land, it’s also a corridor for tūī and kererū and occasionally kōmako (bellbird) and kākā travelling into the city.
There is of course an on-road detour that has been designed for those who want to stay on their bikes or scooters through this section.
Take your time
With a number of cafés on or near the trail, make sure to build in time to stop for a coffee and scone. Even better, make a full morning of it and finish with brunch at The Bikery Cafe, Podium Cafe, or Punnet Eatery, just a few of the eateries conveniently located by the path.
Explore all the local spots
Straying from the well-beaten path can produce all sorts of wonders. In this case, take the time to make short detours to explore local galleries, breweries and nature walks to make the most of what the wider region has to offer:
Inspirit Gallery is a unique destination art gallery and sculpture garden nestled in the heart of Tamahere. A hidden gem in a beautiful rural setting with panoramic rural views.
Independent breweries Hopnotic and Bootleg both produce boutique small batch beer and offer shade and a cold drink that will quench the thirst of riders on the trail.
Maungakawa Scenic Reserve offers a 30 minute (1.2km loop) through regenerating native forest, boasting plenty of birdlife and is just a 15 minute drive from Cambridge.
Hire a bike and go
For those that don’t have a bike, Riverside Adventures and River Riders both offer bike hire (including e-bikes), and can organise shuttle transportation if you are wanting to pick a section of the trail to cycle one way.
A collaborative project
The first section of Te Awa was opened in Cambridge in 2009, and piece by piece further sections were opened as the funds were found to build more, with the final section opening at the end of 2022.
The Te Awa River Ride has been generously supported by the Brian Perry Charitable Trust, local councils, Waka Kotahi, and a group of wonderful community and business partners.
Bite-sized or full steam ahead!
Whether you want to take the Te Awa a bite at a time and tick off smaller sections over weekends, or you are going to tackle the whole 65 kilmetres in one go with family and friends, don’t forget to build in plenty of time to soak in the scenery and everything the local communities and businesses along the trail have