It was a beautiful crisp day in Christchurch for my flight to Tauranga. A typical blue bird day – blue skies, cold and perfect for views of the mountains after their first winter dump of snow the day before. I will never get bored of the views flying around NZ – over the Southern Alps, passed Mt Taranaki, and over the North Island central plains volcanos, one of which we flew directly over and down into Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty (the BOP in the title of this blog).
It was a quick 10 minute taxi ride to my motel just across the beach in the world famous (or perhaps world famous New Zealand lol) Mt Maunganui (or ‘the mount’ as it affectionately referred to). I had met my roommate for the trip in the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge at Christchurch airport and we settled into our motel room before I took a quick walk across to the beach to see the lovely colours of sunset. (We are on the east coast so just colours, no actually sunset, but I was excited for the sunrise.)
We decided to have an early dinner so walked the short distance to Maunganui Road where there were plenty of takeaway options and a lovely view of the Mt – despite it being cold, the town really had a tropical feel to it. We had a busy few days ahead so we were grateful for an early night to top up the energy.
This trip was a group trip arranged by Debbie from Women’s Adventures NZ (www.womensadventuresnz.com). She specialises in active, small group trips around New Zealand, a number of which, like this one, are focused around cycling. I was the only person in the group who had not been on one of her tours before, most of the others had been on multiple trips and were already booked on others in the future!
I was up early and excited for my sunrise walk up the mount, which sadly didn’t happen 🤦🏻♀️. I ran the 1.8 km from the motel to the base of the mount in the dark, only to be told that it was closed for the day 🥴. Apparently, they were ‘spraying’ I could not go up or around it! So, I ran back and then walked along the beach as the sun rose which was still beautiful – oh so beautiful.
I was back to the motel in time for coffee before our pickup at 8.30am for our ride up the coast to Waihi where we would meet the rest of the group and collect our rental bikes. From Waihi, we drove to Paeroa where after getting our bikes set up, we headed off on the Hauraki Rail Trail.
The Hauraki Rail Trail has a total of 197km of trails in 5 segments and we were going to do the small part from Paeroa and Waihi – only around 25km). It was a beautiful, easy trail through farmland, bush, over bridges and through tunnels. Although I had an ebike, but the trail was so easy I didn’t actually need to use the ‘e’ part of the ebike very often.
We actually cycled right past where I had stayed in November last year (near Waikino) and stopped at Owharoa Fall and then again at the remains of Victoria Battery. Built in 1897, the battery was built to process the ore from Martha Mine in Waihi (something else I saw in my November visit). When built, it was the largest industrial complex in the country and the largest crushing plant in Australasia. Although there is still a lot to see, it is hard to image how big it was in its prime.
Our next stop was for a well earned lunch at the lovely Waikino Railway café. Did you know you can still catch the Goldfields Heritage train from Waihi to Waikino? It would make a lovely day trip into the gorge if you don’t fancy the cycle.
The last 8 km of our cycle took us back to Waihi along a beautiful part of the track – passed lush green fields, fat cows, babbling rivers (do rivers babble or just brooks 🤔), small patches of bush and great tracks. Despite only a doing a small part of the rail trail, it was so worth it. From Waihi we drove back to Mt Maunganui, annoyingly get stuck in the Friday afternoon Tauranga city traffic but made it back in time to freshen up before we headed out for an early dinner in the city and another early night before another energetic day.
Day 2 and I had a lie in as I knew it was forecast for rain so no plan for early morning exercise. That said, the rain had actually stopped by the time we got up and it was much warmer than the day before!
After a communal breakfast, we headed off for today’s activities … though we had a bit of a false start! We had walked down to the local backpackers to get the rental bikes for the day and turned out they did not have the ones we booked 🤦🏻♀️. It was also quite windy, so it was decided to change plans and do a walk today rather than cycling. So, it was back to the motel for people to change from cycling to walking gear (all the same gear for me 😂) and then more discussion about what we would do before finally hitting the road to the Summerhill Recreation Park for a walk. As it turned out, it was lucky we changed plan, as the area where were going to walk was to be closed the next day for a trail run!
It was a lovely walk through farmland with a great view out to the coast and back to Mt Maunganui. I was especially excited to see Kaka fly past – it is just amazing to see our beautiful native birds in the wild. From the farmland, it was a cruisy stroll to the trig point though it was pretty windy at the top and we had to take care not to be blown!
It was all a bit disorganised trying to work out a different route back through the forest, but we finally found it and it made a nice change from the easy farm trails we took up. Back at the car park we had the sandwiches we had made for lunch in the lovely sheltered picnic area, with an even better view.
Our next step was at Kaiate (Te Rekekawau) Falls – where we had another beautiful walk to see the amazing full waterfalls. The walk was all down hill to the bottom of the Falls, so it was a bit of a hike back up but not too bad and it was a good excuse to stop and take in the lovely view back to Mt Maunganui from the track (it seems that everywhere we go, there is a view back to the Mount).
The final stop for the day was at McLaren Falls Park – 190 hectares of park land, just 10 minutes’ drive from Tauranga. We arrived just in time to grab a quick coffee (and the most amazing coconut cake) at the Falls Café before they closed and then had some time to walk some of the lovely tracks around the lake admiring the remaining autumn colours in the surrounding trees.
Although I love the organised parts of a group trip and all the things that would be hard to do on my own, I sometimes really dislike the ‘faffing’ that goes along with group travel. I had hoped to join a fun run in the late afternoon and the schedule had plenty of time for it – but all the faffing that went on meant we were back too late for me to do it!! I tend to travel in two modes – organised and on a mission to see as much as I can, or no plan and chill and see where the day takes me. I seem to need something in between for trips like this!
On the way out of the park we stopped for a few minutes at the actual McLearn Falls, just outside the park. The sun was setting already, and it was getting colder so it really was a quick stop this time!
After all the faffing of the day, I decided to miss the ‘fine dining’ dinner and have so time I my own (and save some money) – winning all round lol.
Finally, on Sunday morning I got up the Mt – and all my hill training certainly paid off. I think it was easier than the Bridal Path (my regular Christchurch walk), although the stairs were a bit of a killer as I was not used to them 😂. It was a lovely walk through bush, with the birds waking up and views back down the coast as the sky lightened. Sun rise was precisely on time – 7.09 👍🏻. There were beautiful views from the top back down to Papamoa and on the other side over the mouth to Matakana. It was well worth the early start.
This morning was our second attempt to do one of our planned cycling trails, so we walked back down to the local backpackers to the get bikes. As it turned out we ended up on the same old school bikes we saw the day before 🤦🏻♀️ – 3 gears, back pedal brake – thankfully the route was supposed to be mostly flat, so we decided to go ahead anyway. Finally, after lots more faffing we finally hit the road.
The route started with 5km through Mt Maunganui and over the Harbour bridge and onwards to cycle around the Waikareao Estuary. This was an off road track with some boardwalks that took us through (or should I say over) wetland and mangroves, through bush and along the edge of the estuary.
After a refueling break (ok – coffee and cake) at Sulphur Point, we then took the seafront trail along to Matua. Another lovely, easy track and in the sunshine, I almost worked up a sweat. It really was a beautiful ride and a lovely day all around. We had our sandwich lunch in the park at the end of trail before tackling the ride back to the Mt.
Because I had not done enough exercise for the day (lol) I decided to walk around the Mt when we’d dropped off the bikes. It was another beautiful walk and a different perspective on the surrounding area, just as the sun had started to go down.
After such a busy day, I was definitely ready for a soak in the Mount Hot Salt Water Pools. The hot pools are a bit of an institution in the area since the 1950s when the hot salt water springs were discovered by a water diviner who was trying to find fresh water for the rapidly growing town. The pool development was built in the 60s and has had significant refurbishment since then – it was a great way to end the day as the sun went down.
Monday morning dawned, my last morning at the Mt, and despite the rain forecast it had not started and the sea was so loud – it was clearly calling me, so I headed out for a final beach walk. It was overcast and moody but not cold and still beautiful in its own way. After a quick breakfast, I packed up my bag and we headed off just as the rain started 😬
The plan for the morning was to do some more cycling and we drove through the city and over the Wairoa River Bridge, where we were going to pick up our rented bikes. By this point the rain was coming down – hard!!! The rain radar looked like a big front coming was coming in and it was only going to get worst, so it was decided that we would cancel the bikes.
Plan B was to drive to Omokoroa Point (where we were going to cycle to) and as it was still pouring with rain when we got there, we quickly ran in to the cafe for more coffee and food … lol
After about 45 minutes the rain had cleared up some so went for a walk on part of the track we would have cycled – I must admit the cycling has been fun but I enjoyed the walking so you can take in more of the surroundings and take more photos 👍🏻. And it turned in to a beautiful morning and there were wonderful little things along the walk – a mussel library, a dog library (full of dog toys to borrow), little fairy houses in the tree, swings from trees – all things we would have missed if we had whizzed past on the bikes.
I think I have said this too many times – but it was just beautiful and a great way to finish the trip. Sadly, it was over too soon, and I was back at the airport for my trip home.