This touring route passes through pretty farming country and friendly little towns on its way between the neighbouring regions of Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa.
Linking Waipukurau and Masterton, this route passes through Porangahau, Wimbledon, Pongaroa, Glenross and Alfredton where food and lodging can be found in country pubs, cafes, various lodges and domain camps. The long stretches of highway riding in between will help you work up an healthy appetite.
This ride provides a link to the Hawke’s Bay Trails and nearby Gentle Annie Heartland Ride through to SH1 at Taihape, plus the Wairarapa Valley Cycleway at Masterton (in turn connecting to the Remutaka Cycle Trail), and the Tararua Traverse at Alfredton (through to Palmerston North).
From the shopping centre in Waipukurau, head south on Porangahau Road; there's a cycle lane to begin with.
After leaving town the road weaves across rolling farmland, past the Wanstead Hotel and Wallingford Rest Area before rolling into Porangahau, 45 kilometres from Waipukurau. This small village has a beautiful old hotel and a store. There are toilets at the far end of town.
From Porangahau, backtrack for 1km to head up Wimbledon Road to Wimbledon Tavern, a lovely pub with accommodation, 21km away. On the way, you will pass a signpost marking the longest place name in the world – the unassuming hill known as Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu (which translates into English as the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one). Locals simply call it Taumata Hill.
From Wimbledon, Route 52 heads west and over the biggest hill of the ride. Expect to be climbing for around 20 minutes. On the other side you will pass Waione where there is a hall with a good verandah to shelter under if necessary but not much else.
The next village is Pongaroa (45km from Wimbledon), which has a great tavern and cafe, plus a dairy cooking up basic takeaways.
About 10.5km south of Pongaroa is Glenross Lodge and Backpackers, a popular overnight destination for cyclists.
The final leg of Route 52, Glenross Lodge to Masterton, is 81km long and is also across a farming landscape of rolling hills. After 11km, you will reach Tiraumea Hall, which has public toilets. Then 35km from Glenross Lodge, you’ll reach Alfredton.
At Alfredton School, turn left to stay on Route 52. One hundred metres past the school there is a driveway on the right that leads down to the Alfredton Domain where you can find water, toilets and camping.
The last 46km from Alfredton to Masterton is a great stretch of riding, being mostly downhill.
On the edge of Masterton is the Pointon Heritage Car Collection, displaying vehicles that all have a relationship to the Wairarapa. The owners will take you through on a guided tour of the vehicles, which in turn tell the stories of the region.
River Grove Olives, Gordon Street (opposite Henley Lake) has modern accommodation overlooking the working olive grove.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Need to Know
FITNESS & SKILLS
The surface of this trail is 100% sealed road, with some climbing required. It is grade 3 (intermediate) best suited to averagely fit riders with some cycle touring experience. While the route is an excellent alternative to the busy SH2 route, riders should still have good road sense and be prepared to encounter traffic.
TYPE OF BIKE
Road bikes or touring bikes are suitable for the terrain. E-bikes, with enough battery capacity, are also suitable. Riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit and spares.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
New Zealand’s country roads are well signposted, but a map will prevent wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way.
Warm summers and mild winters make it possible to ride this trail all year round. However, heavy rain can occur any time making a good raincoat essential.
Accommodation, from camping to motels, B&Bs and holiday homes, is available in the well-spaced rural towns along this route.
FOOD & WATER
There are enough country pubs and rural towns with shops and cafes along the way that this trip is possible with the minimum amount of food and gear.
Intercity buses service Masterton, Waipukarau, Waipawa and Havelock North. You can also catch a train to Masterton from Wellington.
This route also links up at the Hawke’s Bay end with the Gentle Annie and Hawke’s Bay Trails network; with the Wairarapa Valley Cycleway at Masterton; and the Tararua Traverse at Alfredton.
Coverage is available at main towns but patchy in the more remote sections.
There are public toilets at reasonably regular intervals.