Top attractions on the Twin Coast

Published 2019-11-25

Northland’s Great Ride is so much more than a scenic trip from coast to coast. It’s also an opportunity to dig into history, dip a toe in the water, get arty, and max-out the X-factor with bucket-list side trips.

Here are just a few memorable attractions, heading east to west along the Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Get out on the water in the Bay of Islands

Before you start pedalling away from Opua, be sure to make the most of the sea, surf and sunshine in the beautiful Bay of Islands. It’s a mecca for boating and watersports, offering everything from wildlife cruises and sailing trips, to active adventures such as kayaking and parasailing. Landlubber cyclists will love the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park’s 40+ km of community-built trails.

Flying Kiwi Parasailing credit bennettandslater.co.nz

Taking to the skies above the Bay of Islands (credit bennettandslater.co.nz).

Revisit history at Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Essential viewing for anyone visiting the Far North, Waitangi is way more than just the place where Māori and Pāhekā signed the country’s founding document. Look, learn and understand biculturalism through excellent museum displays, historic architecture and beautifully carved waka (canoes), spectacular visual arts and performance. A café, gift shop and expansive gardens complete the picture.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds Meeting House credit David Kirkland

Te Whare Rūnanga at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (David Kirkland).

Take a trip on the Vintage Railway

Hop aboard an old-fashioned open-air carriage for the short but sweet train journey between super-cute Taumarere station and colourful Kawakawa on the same railway line the Twin Coast Cycle trail follows. The 8km return trip takes just under an hour, so is easily added to your itinerary. Runs Fri, Sat & Sun, and daily during school holidays.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail 138 credit Ruth Lawton Photography

Racing the vintage train on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail between Opua and Kawakawa (Ruth Lawton Photography).

Linger a wee while in Kawakawa

No visit to Kawakawa would be complete without a tinkle in the totally-over-the-top Hundertwasser toilets. Out front, the exciting new Te Hononga community centre and park is taking shape. Once complete, it'll be the perfect place to take a break off of the bike while soaking up the colourful, multi-cultural buzz of this cool little town. Speaking of which, don’t miss Kings Theatre Creative a little further along the high street. It's an excellent art gallery full of local art to admire and buy.

Hundertwasser Toilets Kawakawa credit Northland Inc

Spend a penny at Kawakawa's remarkable Hundertwasser toilets (Northland Inc).

Experience manaakitanga at Te Rito Marae

The Twin Coast journey is rich in Māori culture, encounters with which take many forms. On the trail around 10km west of Kawakawa, the people of Te Rito offer marae stays and visits featuring a whakatau (a welcome and storytelling), accommodation, and home-cooked kai (food). Te Rito caters for groups of ten or more but welcome enquiries from manuhiri (visitors). Nau mai Haere mai!

Twin Coast Cycle Trail Te Rito marae image 3 credit bennettandslater.co.nz

Manuhiri (visitors) outside the Te Rito marae's wharenui (bennettandslater.co.nz).

Soak your bones at Ngawha Springs

Close to Kaikohe in an unpretentious outdoor setting, these hot mineral baths will soothe your biking body. A warm welcome awaits, with the Māori-owned complex yet another way to connect with tāngata whenua (local people) and hear of Ngawha’s place in history. To avoid giving yourself heatstroke, time your visit outside of summer or on cooler evenings.

Ngawha Springs crdit Ngawha Springs Resort

The therapeutic waters of the aptly named 'Doctor' hot pool (Ngawha Springs).

Get to know Kaikohe

Your journey through history continues in Kaikohe, a classic Kiwi town with culture in spades. Poke your nose into the Pioneer Village museum for a coffee and to see how the early settlers lived, check out the Northland Firehouse Museum, and head to the Left Bank hotel for drinks or dinner amidst architectural grandeur. A short walk or ride from there, Tokareireia/Kaikohe Hill (282m) is topped with charming hilltop gardens and affords a glorious view of Kaikohe and surrounding countryside.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail Kaikohe Pioneer Village image 4 credit bennettandslater.co.nz

Discover Kaikohe's fascinating past at the Pioneer Village (bennettandslater.co.nz).

Rock hop at Wairere Boulders

Just a short ride from Horeke at the end of the cycle trail, this neat nature park is a one-stop shop for camping, coffee & cake, kayaking and swimming, plus the seriously odd geological wonders known as Wairere Boulders. A series of loop trails leads through this magical rock garden, complete with a dragon cave, fairy doors and surprises we dare not spoil!

Twin Coast Cycle Trail Wairere Boulders image 1 credit bennettandslater.co.nz

Crazy geological forms abound at the Wairere Boulders (bennettandslater.co.nz).

Admire the Māngungu Mission

Also close to Horeke, Māngungu is a Wesleyan mission established in 1828. It’s worth going for the view alone, its hillside grounds affording a magnificent view over the inner Hokianga Harbour. Wander the grounds at will, but try to visit when the mission house is open (Sat, Sun & Mon; Dec–June) for a trip through time taking in early mission life, colonial architecture, and another chapter in the tale of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail Mangungu Mission Station credit Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Māngungu Mission marks the western end of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail.

Cruise, paddle & zip way out west

Horeke lies a good 40km inland from the mouth of the Hokianga Harbour, which makes further exploration a must. The historic launch Ranui runs terrific tours around the harbour, as well as transfers for you and your bike, calling into the peaceful waterside settlements of Kohukohu and Rawene. From Rawene you can hook up with Lenny of Awesome Adventures to explore otherworldly Opononi and the west coast by jet ski, kayak and 4WD.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail Ranui at Horeke credit bennettandslater.co.nz

The handsome and historic launch Ranui plies the waters of Hokianga Harbour (bennettandslater.co.nz).

 

Useful links:

Twin Coast Cycle Trail on the New Zealand Cycle Trail website. 
Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail – official trail website.
Northland New Zealand – official tourism website.

Words by Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater (bennettandslater.co.nz).