New Zealand Travel

A Hauraki Rail Trail ride

A perfect day trip from Auckland, and a great family excursion.

If you’re looking for a day trip from Auckland that includes a little exercise, stunning views, a touch of history, and a whole lot of fun, then you should check out this Hauraki Rail Trail ride guide.

Most New Zealanders will have heard of the Otago Rail Trail – it was the first of its kind in NZ, and is probably on most kiwis ‘to do’ lists. And not without reason. (In fact, I’m in the process of planning it for us right now! 🙂 )

But, many have not heard of the Hauraki Rail Trail, or considered it, which is crazy, because it’s so accessible to Auckland (where the bulk of NZ’s population lives). And because it’s so close, you can consider shorter options – so don’t feel like you have to do the whole thing. It’s just a 2 hour drive from Auckland, which with the beautiful scenery you pass as you’re driving, will go in the blink of an eye.

The Hauraki Rail Trail – riding options

There are 5 sections that you can ride – all Grade One – which in laymans terms means it’s flat! Seriously flat! It was honestly an easy cruise the whole way. Grade One is suitable for everyone.

As a day trip, we chose a lovely short section, that also happens to pack the most punch in terms of scenery. I’d highly recommend doing the same itinerary. We rode ‘Section C’ from Paeroa to Waikino. (Actually, that section is supposed to go to Waihi, but we felt that Waikino was enough). I’m not sure exactly how far that was, but I’m figuring it’s probably around 15km one way (it’s 24km if you go all the way to Waihi).

Hiring Bikes

This is a seriously beautiful ride. We picked up bikes at the info centre at Paeroa. You should book these ahead of time, as they do get booked out. (I do find it a little ironic that at $50 a day for a bike, when you have 4 of you, we could have hired a car for less. But that’s not the point!). The Information Centre can also provide you with full information on other operators in the area.

On the trail

The trail entrance at Paeroa
The entrance to the Rail Trail from Paeroa

You do a little cycling to get out of the town, and then boom, you’re on the trail.

Crossing one of the many bridges on the trail.
There are lots of little bridges to cross

Because the riding is not at all strenuous, you’re able to enjoy the scenery – which is spectacular.

A lot of your rail trail ride is alongside waterways, including the Karangahake Gorge.

The Karangahake Gorge
The Karangahake Gorge

Yep – I said it was spectacular. This is the kind of view you’ll have alongside you.

Riding the path
The path is an easy ride

You’ll also go through some little dappled bush areas.


We felt that we’d worked up an appetite, and had heard great things about the bistro The Falls Retreat. Their wood fired pizzas are legendary. The setting is relaxed, rustic and just lovely. And the food was delicious – I highly recommend it as a great place to reward yourself.

A delicious tasting platter at The Falls Retreat.
Lunch – nom nom

The bistro is named The Falls Retreat, because it’s on the same road as the Owharoa Falls. The falls are the best place to have a quick dip on a hot day (yes, pack togs and a towel in your daypack).

Owharoa Falls
Owharoa Falls

But wait – there’s more stunning scenery to come and a whole lot more history! I told you this rail trail ride packed a punch!

Historical remnants

Victoria Battery Waikino
Victoria Battery Waikino

From the Falls you’ll then cycle through the Victoria Battery. This has a fascinating history (read more about it here) . At the time this was the largest quartz crushing plant for gold extraction in Australasia. Alongside the Battery, there was also a sawmill, blacksmiths and a foundry. The foundations of these buildings now make for great photo backdrops!

The historic rail road bridge
The historic rail road bridge

You’ll then travel over the old historic rail-road bridge and through the 1km Rail Tunnel (tip – it’s handy to take a torch!). We were riding on a beautiful hot summers day, but it’s incredible how cool the air in the tunnel was.

The 1km tunnel
The very cool 1km tunnel – take a torch (flashlight)

Then voila, you’re at the historic Waikino train station. Today there’s a tourist train that travels on the old track, from Waikino to Waihi. You can jump on board with your bikes, or carry on riding on the rail trail track to Waihi. If you’re wanting to do the train trip, you can access costs and a timetable here.

Waikino Train Station
Waikino Train Station

We enjoyed ice creams at the station shop. There’s also a full cafe here, so if you are feeling a bit peckish, it’s another great option for food.

This rail trail ride is a winner on so many fronts, but the best part for me, was that it was a great family activity. It can be difficult to find things to do with teenagers – and when I say that, I mean things that they’ll willingly do with you! We ALL loved the ride, and doing it together as a family just made it even better.

To finish off the day, as we were all hot and sticky, we found a great spot in the river for a swim. The fresh water was divine, and the perfect way to cool off, before heading back into the car for the drive home.

If you’re looking for more day trip options from Auckland, check out this post for another great escape.

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