Walking and cycling the Waikato River

The Hamilton & Waikato region is one of the best walking, cycling and mountain biking destinations in New Zealand. And regardless of age and fitness level, there is something for everyone. There are hundreds of kilometres of walking and cycling trails to choose from, whether it’s a personal challenge you’re undertaking, or a leisurely family excursion.

The mighty Waikato River provides some of the region’s top shared walking and cycling trails, with tranquil views to match. 

Te Araroa Trail

Approximately 350 kilometres of the 3,000 kilometre Te Araroa trail passes through the Waikato region. The trail follows the Waikato River for most of its 80-kilometre length and crosses farmland, bush and forest.

The Waikato section of Te Araroa features highly among New Zealand natural attractions. It takes in mythological taniwha (water monsters) lairs, historic Maori settlements, battlements and monuments and sculptures, characteristic Waikato farmland and spectacular scenery. It offers tracks suitable for all fitness and experience levels, from short city walks to more challenging mountain ascents.

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The Waikato River Trails

Waikato River Trails, South Waikato, New Zealand

The off-road Waikato River Trails opened in 2011. The 103 kilometre journey, which follows the banks of the Waikato River, ranks among the top Waikato tourist attractions and Waikato river activities. It features some of the best scenery the region has to offer, taking in five lakes, hydro dams, a wetland boardwalk, and several small towns and villages.

In the south, cyclists of intermediate riding ability might want to ride the 23.5 kilometre Whakamaru section, which includes a variety of landscapes and vistas, from stunning views of Lake Whakamaru and a boardwalk over wetland to two picturesque lakes.

More experienced riders also have plenty to choose from. The 36-kilometre long Lake Arapuni section of the river trail includes challenging downhill rides, off-road experiences through spectacular native bush, varied birdlife and the 80-metre long Mangawera suspension bridge, 42 metres above the water.

The trail provides access to some unique and wonderful scenery, with lots of variation, from native bush to pine forest, all while following New Zealand’s longest river.

The trail is also a great way to get off the beaten track and visit some of the smaller communities of New Zealand along the way

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Te Awa - The Great New Zealand River Ride

Te Awa River Ride, Lake Karapiro, New Zealand

Family groups will love Te Awa, also known as the Great New Zealand River Ride. The ride is due for completion in 2017 but several sections of the track are already open to riders and walkers.

Once complete, the Te Awa River Ride will start in Ngaruawahia and pass through Waikato towns Horotiu, Hamilton city, Cambridge and Karapiro before reaching Horahora. It will travel past some of New Zealand’s top producing farms, as well as exotic and native forests. As you pass through Hamilton, keep an eye out for the Waikato river explorer, a Waikato river cruise that offers scenic trips on the Waikato River or stop in to Hamilton Gardens and explore the many themed garden collections.

The trail is wide and travels along gentle terrain, making it suitable for all ages and riding abilities. There is accommodation along the way for visitors wanting to stop overnight before continuing their journey, as well as plenty of food and drink options. The track also includes interactive pieces of art, sculptures, storyboards and scenic look-outs, as well as plenty of facilities such as park benches and bike racks.

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