Waikato River Trails

Waikato River Trails

1)Hauraki Rail Trail connection to Waikato River Trail (or Hobbiton)

Te Aroha to Horahora Road ( Please note: the Hauraki Rail Trail (HRT) will extends to Matamata late 2018 as the Paiko-Matamata council has $3million for this HRT extension)

Distance 64kms Time 1 day  Grade 4 ( advanced -due to traffic) “PS: please be very careful and keep to the left hand side on the roads and be wary of cars and large trucks ”

This route has been designed for cyclists to connect from the Hauraki  Rail Trail (HRT) to the Waikato River Trails via Hobbiton.

From the Te Aroha Railway Station, ride 200 meters to near the south corner of Terminus Street and take the walk/cycle bridge across the Waihou river to Spur street. At the end of Spur Street,turn left down Stanley street  and ride out of town past the race course and Te Aroha Holiday Park.

Stanley Road road turn right on to  Alexandra Road. Veer left down Manawaru Road cycle through Manawaru.  At the crossroad, 8kms further on, go straight on to Tower Road. From the historic Firth Tower, the last 2kms into Matamata (36kms from Te Aroha) use the cycle path beside the road. Turn right off Tower Road, and cycle 1km down Broadway to the I-Site ( on the left).

Matamata is rebranding itself as Hobbiton-as you can tell from the i-Site. There are plenty of shops and Cafes & food outlets (30 plus)

From Matamata i-Site, to Hobbiton ride south down Hetana Street, which becomes Arawa Street, right down Tainui, which turns into Farmers Road, the left down Smith Street. At the end of Smith St ,turn right into Station Road and head out of town. Five kilometers  from town, turn left at Matai Road,the 3kms later, turn right at Puketutu Road, to go to Hobbiton turn right into Bucklands Road 4.6kms up a steep hill to Hobbiton Car park on left (on way to Hobbiton you pass Bucklands B&B at approx 2kms)

After visiting Hobbiton turn right on to Bucklands Road return to the bottom of Bucklands Road down a steep hill, then turn right into Puketutu Road  after approx 2 kms you get to Highway 29 /Highway27

Hobbiton back  to Matamata:

Turn  left onto Highway 27 ( keep to the Left road option and to the  verge tow roads run parrell ) which will take you back into Matamata  distance  approx 9kms to edge of town , NB  a  B&B at #418 Highway 27,  and a further B&B ” Longridge Farm Carmellia Cottage B&B” 5km from Town. Follow Highway 27  straight into town past Matamata College then turn right onto Tainui and then right on to Arawa Street -which become Hetana St and back to I-Site .

Hobbiton to the  start of  Waikato River Trail:

Turn right  on to  Highway 29 (12kms from Matamata),  turn right and stick in the shoulder lane for the next 9km, the turn left onto highway 1. Again  stay in the shoulder lane for 1km, before crossing the highway at Horahora Road. The Waikato River Trail starts 4.4kms down this country road and is clearly signposted.



2) Cambridge to Waikato River Trail

Cambridge to Arapuni

Distance 40km time 2-3 hours Grade 3 (intermediate)

From Cambridge, a mix of cycle lanes, separate paths and county roads provides an excellent link to the Waikato River Trail. This connector glances past Lake Karapiro ( famous for rowing events and water skiing) and skirts around Maungatautari Scenic Reserve. It’s very pleasant cycling with no hills over 100m high.

From Cambridge Information centre, on the corner of Queen and Lake street, ride south on Lake Street  followed by Victoria Street. After 1.1km, cross the Waikato River on Victoria Bridge and turn east onto Cook Street. Ride down Cook Street for 500 meters before turning right onto Shakespeare Street. Follow Shakespeare street for 1.1km, then turn left onto Browning Street and ride a further 700 meters to the edge of Cambridge at the corner of Carlyle Street and Maungatautari Road. From here, there is an 8-km cycle path beside Maungatautari Road to Lake Karapiro Domain and on beside the lake to the start of the Karapiro rowing course.

From Lake Karapiro, the route jumps onto Maungatautari Road and continues along it for 13km then turn right onto Oreipunga Road. It follows Oreipunga Road for 14.4kms, then turn left onto Arapuni Road. After crossing the first of the two bridges over the Waikato River( right next to each other), turn left onto  Powerhouse Road ( there is a rest area with toilets at this intersection) This is a private raod owned by Mighty River Power. Go down Powerhouse Road for 1.4km before crossing a huge swing bridge on your right.

The  Waikato River Trail (WRT) is at the far end, and 80 meters further on is the main street of Arapuni. Left down the main street to reach the awesome Rhubard Cafe.

The small village of Arapuni is 13 km from the northern end of the Waikato River Trail.


Te Awa River Ride ” The Great River Trail”

Ngaruawahia, Hamilton and Cambridge

Distance 70kms when finished Time 1 hour-2days Glade 1 ( Very Easy)

Think Te Awa and think wide, flat paths flowing beside the lazy Waikato River. As easy as drifting in a boat down the river, this ride is perfect for everyone.

Te Awa is under construction but off to a good start, with two easy stages at Hamilton and Karapiro ready to ride right now.The trail uses the existing Hamilton City river cycleway through the city. It goes straight through Hamilton City, along the south/east side of the mighty Waikato River and provides beautiful views as it meanders through parks and  gardens. You would hardly know you were in a city, except that the path is so well used by walkers, runners and cyclists.

The second completed stage runs from south-eastern edge of Cambridge to the large public domain on Lake Karapiro, the home of s multitude of rowing regattas.


Stage 1 Ngaruawahia to Horotiu Bridge

8km, 1 hour

This stage was due for  completion 2016


Stage 2 Hamilton

15km, 1-2 hours

For convenience the best place to park and start your ride is Roose Commerce Park, Off Grantham street, Central Hamilton. There are many other access points,However from anywhere in Hamilton, you can make your way to the southwestern side of the Waikato River and you will find the trail. It is mainly a paved stone path and is wide and easy. Head either way for several kilometers and then return to starting point.

In mid 2015, the north-bound trail endedat the old Horoitu bridge, 15km from Hamilton CBD, will be closer by now??

The south-bound trail ended just south of the City’s Cobham Drive Bridge at Peacocks Road , 2.8kms from Roose Commerce Park??

Stage 3 Hamilton to Cambridge

25km, 2 hours

This stage is still to be completed??. From the Southern Edge of Hamilton, it follows the river down to, and through Cambridge

Stage 4 Cambridge to Lake Karapiro

8kmin 2015, 1-2hours ( will extend around the lake in future)

This stage starts from the corner of Raleigh and Carlyle streets by the Leamington Clubrooms. To get there from the centre of Cambridge, head south on Victoria St, across the bridge,left along Cook St,right up Shakespeare st, Left at Raleigh St, which ends opposite the clubrooms (2.7kms from the centre of town).

From Carlyle Street, a gentle, 3-metre-wide concrete path leads to Lake Karapiro Domain, 5.5km away. Absolutely anyone can give this cycle pat h a go.It’s as easy as, well, riding a bike, and the Lake Karapiro Domain is a great destination, especially if you like rowing, lakes or picnic.

From the Domain, a 2.5km section heads east to the start of the famous Karapiro Rowing Centre. It features an amazing lakeside boardwalk.

there is a 3km extension of the trail from Cambridge CBD to the Avantidrome, the “NZ Home of Cycling”-Fantastic!


Waikato River Trail

Between Cambridge and Taupo

Distance 105km Time 1 Hour to 3 days

Grades 2,3 and 4 (Easy, Intermediate and Advanced)

Nicknamed” the Hidden Trail”,  this is a little-known gem that runs beside New Zealand’s longest river. It reveals a series of hydro lakes and dramatic volcanic landscapes as it passes through forest and farmland.

The Waikato River Trail is made up of five stages, stretching from  a car park north of the settlement of Arapuni down to Atiamuri, near Lake Taupo. The trail can be ridden in either direction. Some stages flow along easy, gravelled paths suitable for all ages, while others are rough mountain bike tracks, complete with tight switchbacks and steep hills.

Cycle tourers with loaded bikes( especially trailers) should only ride the easy stages. There are on-road alternatives to all intermediate and advanced sections.

Highlights include long boardwalks across wetlands and towering swing bridges spanning beautiful forested ravines.


Each stage of the trail is named after the lake it follows ans starts, or stops, at a hydro dam. All stages can be ridden in both directions.

Stage 1 Karapiro ( Arapuni village to Pokaiwhenenua Bridge)

13km one way, 1-2 hours, Grade 2+ ( Easy)

Because of the good trail construction and the famous Rhubarb Cafe at the northern end of Arapuni village, this is the most popular stage of the trail and is normally ridden there-and-back from Arapuni. The trail is signposted from the corner of Arapuni Road and Rabone Street.

Ride 80 metres towards the river and then turn right at the track fork -make sure you check out the amazing Arapuni swing bridge (New Zealand’s longest).

Ride north for 8km, including along the 500-metre-long boardwalk through the Huihuitaha Wetlands, to reach the Little Waipa Reserve. This beautiful section offers stunning views of the river.

From the reserve, the trails runs north beside Horahora Road,After 5kms, you’ll reach a car park at the Northern tip of the Waikato River Trail ( this is 4km south of Highway 1) and just south of Pokaiwhenua Stream, Turn around here  for a fast pedal back to the good coffee at the Rhubard Cafe.

Stage 2: Arapuni ( Arapuni village to Waipapa Dam)

34Km, 4-6 hours, Grade 4 ( Advanced) MTB Bike or better with E-MTB Bike

The 5-km section of the trail from Arapuni south toJones Landing was upgraded in 2015 and is now grade 3 Jones Landing is a recreation/camping reserve.

From Jones Landing, the trail follows a sealed road for 15km. Continue south on Lake Arapuni Road for 8km, at which point the raod curves to the right and becomes Wiltsdown Road. After another few hundred meters, turn right onto Waotu South Road and follow a 600-metre-long path to Jim Barnett Reserve, a welcome distraction-the trail then heads of road througha small patche of forest for 1.5kms. It rejoins the road at the main entrance to the reserve where there is infomation on the history of the forest. You can camp here if you wish.( freedom campers).

About  22km from Arapuni, you will reach the end of the long sealed- road climb on Waotu South Road. Here the trail leaves the road and heads down the river via a series of 37(i) tight switchbacks. At the bottom, the riding improvesa lot as the trail heads through regenerating forest and across a huge swing bridge. About 2km before Waipapa Dam, at the end of the satge, is a grunty little climb followed by a flight of wooden steps.

Waipapa Dam is very impressive and a great spot to stop for a rest.


Stage 3 Waipapa ( Waipapa Dam to Mangakino Lakefront Reserve)

20km, 3-4 hours, Grade 3 (Intermediate)

From Waipapa Dam, continue south on an easy section of trail running beside Waipapa Road for almost 2km, The Trail then branches away and heads through forest, where there are a number of difficult steep climbs.

The trail rejoins Waipapa Road near Maraetai Dam, and stays on the road to Mangakino Lakefront Reserve at the end of Lake Road, where there are Toilets, a cafe and camping areas. Some of the this 3-km on-road section may be taken off road in future.

Stage 4: Maraetai (Mangakino Lakefront Reserve to Whakamaru Dam)

13km,1.5-2 hours, Grade 3-(Intermediate)

This is one of the best stages of the Waikato River Trail. The gravel surface is generally well compacted, there are very few hills and there is an amazing swing bridge with sweeping views-well worth riding both ways. When you reach Whakamaru Dam, turn right and travel a few hundred meters to reach the Dam Cafe. Alternatively turn left and cross the dam to ride the final stage.

Stage 5: Whakamaru Dam to Atiamuri

25km, 3-3 hours, Grade 3( Intermediate)

The trail starts on the northern side of the Whakamaru Dam, so if you have just ridden the Mangakino, you will need to cross the dam first. At the Dam, check out the signboard and then head onto the trail. Early on, the trail follows a gravel road  for a bit as it passes a popular camping reserve. Later, you must bypass the ‘ Stairway to Heaven’ by riding on Highway 30 for 300 metres.

The trail ends at a nondescript parking area beside Ongaroto Road, only 100 metres from Highway 1. A bridge and cycle path was built here in 2013, and trail will safely cross the highway and continue to Atiamuri Village, 1km away. Unfortunately no accommodation or food is currently available at Atiamuri.

WRT Fact File:  Overview

This trail started out in 2004 as a walking track. That’s why some stages did not ride well when it was officially opened in 2011.However the WRT is being steadily improved. Sections are being re-routed, and thousands of trees are being planted along the trail.

Furthermore downstream, another trust is constructing Te Awa, the Great River Trail this will be 70-km trail Lake Karapiro, Cambridge, Hamilton and Ngarauawahia. Most people drive to and from the various stages of the trail or arrange shuttle transport with the Waikato River Trails Trust.



Atiamuri to Te Kopia Road

Distance 25km  Time 2 hours  Grade 3 (Intermediate)

This  scenic corner of the country that hardly anyone would ever think of exploring… unless they wanted to pedal between the two Great Rides.

The Waikato River Trail ends on the side of Highway 30, only 100 meters from Highway 1. At the highway, turn right and ride across the Waikato River on the new Highway 1 bridge clip-on. Ride down Highway1 for 4km ( the shoulder is good) and then turn onto Ohakuri Road. Follow Ohakuri Road for 4km and cross the Lake Ohakuri dam.

Just 1km after the dam,turn right onto Maleme Road and follow it 8km to Galatos Road. Turn right at Galatos and veer right at Poutakataka Road to descend to Lake Ohakuri. Turn right to follow Whirinaki Valley Road for 1km, the turn left at Mangatete Road, After another 4km later, turn right onto Waikite Valley Road and ride 11km to Waikite Hot Springs- the end of the Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail.

Note: There are several kilometres of gravel road on this connector route.



Rent MTB  Bikes/ Electric  Bikes “daily or weekly basis”  call  0800 400 900 or email :

or go to to book a rental

For accommodation  Te Aroha, Matamata, Cambridge  Hamilton or Taupo  go to www, ( PS from 1 March 2018)




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