One-day itinerary for Bay of Islands: Rural Cycle and Mineral Pools
Cycling through gorgeous Bay of Islands countryside – followed by a soak in hot springs – what’s not to love about this combination? Rather than the full 87 kilometres of Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail many beginner cyclists or families ride the piece between Kaikohe and Okaihau and back. It has a relatively flat gradient, a railway tunnel and cafes at each end. Afterwards, the dreamy mineral pools of Ngawha Hot Springs are just a short drive away. Read on for your day’s itinerary in the Bay of Islands.
Breakfast in Kaikohe
To kick off the day, have breakfast at one of Kaikohe’s vibrant cafes. Breaking Bread has an amazing selection of beautiful baked goods and sweet treats, as well as great salads and coffees. Café Malaahi has friendly service and sandwiches, hot food such as lasagne, and coffee. Mint restaurant inside the Left Bank Hotel is a novel chance to dine in a heritage bank building.
Prepping for the ride
You’ll be away from town conveniences for the next 1.5-2 hours, so make sure you grab supplies of sandwiches and sweet treats for the trail – try the Kaikohe Bakehouse and Café. Fill up your drink bottles too.
Dress in layers: Northland weather can change from sun to rain in an instant.
Take a light source for cycling the rail tunnel.
Mobile coverage on the trails is patchy, but there are plenty of farmhouses along the way if you need to call emergency services. If you download the Great Rides App, you’ll be able to navigate offline – it also has great trail descriptions.
On the trail
Set off on your adventure – on the Twin Coast Cycle Way you’ll be following a disused railway corridor, which climbs gently (with mild ups and downs) to a high point of 280m above the coast.
Just outside Kaikohe you will pass the historic Aperahama Church – a beautiful Gothic revival church built on the site of another church visited by Samuel Marsden.
Along the entire trail, there are interpretation panels detailing historic sites, flora, and fauna – in English and Te Reo. Highlights include Monument Hill where you’ll learn the story of how Kaikohe got its name: where a young Hone Heke and his mother fled from invading warriors and hid in the vicinity of the cycle trail, surviving on kohekohe berries.
Look out for Lake Omapere, the largest lake in the Northland region – and a taonga to the Ngāpuhi people – where restoration efforts are being carried out to bring the lake back to health.
When you get to the 80-metre-long historic rail tunnel, dismount if you prefer, or ride through with a headlamp or torch to light the way. Because the tunnel is curved it does get dark and damp in the middle.
Okaihau rest stop
Once you reach Okaihau, grab lunch at Sapphire Café or Kiwi Kai – alternatively, get supplies from the Four Square and have a picnic. The Village Fruit and Vege shop sells berry ice creams and smoothies which are a hit with cyclists in the summer. This store is also a craft shop, selling all sorts of books, trinkets and preserves.
Once you’re refreshed and rested, hop back on your bikes and make your way back to Kaikohe.
Hot Pool soak
The perfect activity after a few hours on the bike trail is to head to the Ngawha Springs, a geothermal hot pool complex of 16 mineral baths – just 8 minutes drive from Kaikohe. It has recently had an impressive refurbishment, but thankfully retains its authenticity that makes it a gem in Northland.
Back to Auckland
If you’re heading to Auckland after your day in the Bay of Islands, take the scenic SH12 route for a stop at the Manea Footprints of Kupe is well worth it. This is a 75-minute guided journey into Te Ao Māori, through art, taonga, film, performance, and digital interaction in the beautiful Hokianga.