We’re very happy to report that the auto counters the Rail Trail Trust installed on the Gorge section of the Hauraki Rail Trail recorded 12,000 cycle trips in January, making it second only to the Queenstown trail in popularity in the NZCT network.
We hear unofficially that another 15,000 were on their bikes in the Gorge in February – in addition to the many who made the trip in earlier months.
This would certainly explain why, on our recent visit, we found Paeroa buzzing with cycling groups all over the town. We were impressed by the energy and vitality, as cyclists cruised the main street on their way to the Trail and checked out local cafes and shops.
The Gorge is full of natural and historic character which makes it worthy of this patronage. Sadly, the trail sections heading out from Paeroa to Te Aroha and in the other direction to Thames leave a bit to be desired in terms of track quality (drifts of deep shingle) and bland landscape. We suggest some photos / interpretation panels are needed to tell the story of this part of the former railway line.
Until these arrive, there are still many reasons to get to Paeroa to explore and enjoy these attractions:
- One of our readers highlighted how close the Trail is to Auckland, with good accomodation: “Left Newmarket just after 6pm Friday, and were at Karangahake River Lodge well before 8pm. It’s a great place to use as a base – clean comfortable cabins and bunkrooms, and a fully functional kitchen / dining room. Good value and only 200m from the trail.”
- Te Aroha at the south end of the trail is a historic treasure with wonderful ambience, good cafes, accomodation and superbly maintained old character buildings, hot pools, flower gardens and park dating from the early 1900s. We fell for Banko cafe, which is a period delight with excellent home baking and dainty cups. The town is easily reached using SH 26, which runs parallel to the official trail. By overnighting in Te Aroha we were able to set off early for an easy 4km ride out to the Wairongomai Valley. It has good walking tracks thru’ native trees, and interpretation panels telling the story of the short-lived but large scale 1880s gold mining operation. The old settlement, tramway and incline which was established in the valley is still evident from historic remnants. We were back in Te Aroha by 10.30am for a yummy brunch at Ironique Cafe.
- Waihi is also well worth visiting. A recent trail visitor wrote: “At Waikino, the Goldfields Railway service had laid on an extra train at 9am to take us and our bikes to Waihi. The rail trail will be extended from Waikino to Waihi within the next 12 months. Until this happens the option of one way by bike, and one by train is ideal. In Waihi we cycled round the rim of the Martha Gold Mine, which was the most strenuous part of the ride, but well worth the effort. This was followed by excellent coffee at the Ti Tree Café, and then back to Karangahake.“
Every one of us who gets out on the trails, stays overnight and helps these historic towns demonstrate the financial benefits of cycle touring is helping raise the profile of cycling and its value to the NZ economy. Join the growing team of cycling ‘change agents’, and have heaps of fun at the same time.
(Thanks to Jim and Libby for providing photos and stories for this item)