As Much Fun as You Can Have on Two Wheels!
Well, we don’t like to exaggerate too much but we stand by the above statement! Commonly, we travellers will go to a destination in New Zealand and try out some walks and hikes in the area because it’s free and, well, it’s New Zealand! But during some of your travels, try to keep some money aside to hire a bike for a day or two. Prices range from NZ$30-$60 per day or maybe it’s even free at your accommodation. With that in mind, we’ve put together a series of the best bike trails in the North Island (and in the South Island) so you can cover more ground and experience more of this breathtaking country.
The highlights of the North Island’s cycle trails are through geothermal lands, volcanic plateaus, isolated forests and historic paths. From challenging to breathtaking, each track in this guide is worth giving a shot! Remember, you don’t even have to do the entirety of these multi-day trails; day sections of these rides can be just as rewarding.
Different Grades of Cycle Trails on the North Island:
A good place to start in choosing a bike trail is picking one to suit your ability and fitness. In New Zealand, the difficulty of bike trail is marked by grades, which are as follows:
- Grade 1: Wide and smooth trail easy for all riders
- Grade 2: Same as grade 1 but add some hills
- Grade 3: It starts to get tough! Those tracks are only suitable for mountain bikes
- Grade 4: Brace yourself, these tracks are for experienced mountain bikers only.
In the meantime, also open the 10 Best Bike Trails on the South Island to give those cycle trails a go once you reach the south.
1. Motu Trails
There are three trails to enjoy in this area on the edge of Eastland and the Bay of Plenty. The Dunes Trail is an easy ride on the coast, the Motu Road offers a backcountry experience for average-level riders, while the Pakihi Trail will challenge even the most experienced bikers. Ride them individually or join them for a multi-day adventure! Check out our dedicated page to The 3 Motu Trails for more information on this epic bike trail on the North Island.
2. Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail
Passing through not one but two national parks, the longest ride on our list is a rewarding challenge. Using a mix of mountain biking trails and public roads, you will have to know how to use a map to navigate smoothly (such as those on the Great Rides App – more on that at the end of this list). Be ready for a shot of adrenaline on the way, as the trip down the Whanganui River is done by… jetboat! The true Kiwi way! Learn more about the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, as well as more on the Ruapehu and Tongariro districts, in our guide to Mountain Biking in Ruapehu and the 10 Epic Bike Trails Around Tongariro National Park.
3. The Timber Trail
Aside from riding through ancient and regenerating forest in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, the highlight of The Timber Trail is its eight swingbridges that offer mind-blowing vantage points of the surrounding landscape. The two-day adventure in the midst of the Pureora Forest Park offers an array of exciting terrain, including an old railway spiral, tunnels and more. For more information on this epic bike trail, check out our guide to Mountain Biking in Ruapehu.
Length: 85 km (53 mi), 2 days.
Grade: 2, 3. Any average-level rider will be able to take on this trail easily.
4. Great Lake Trails
A collection of two rides along Lake Taupo, the Great Lake Trails give you the most stunning views of Tongariro National Park across the lake, as well as discoveries of hidden bays, beaches and waterfalls along New Zealand’s largest lake. Highlights of the ride include native forest and a boat ride to connect both sections of the trail. Organise bike hire and transport with Taupo Kayaking Adventure. Discover more cycle trails around the lake in the 10 Best Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo.
Length: 88 km (55 mi), 1-3 days.
Grade: 3. You need a mountain bike to enjoy this ride, a road bike won’t cut it.
Location: Lake Taupo.
5. Whakarewarewa Forest Loop
One of the shorter bike trails on this North Island list, the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop offers an exciting day trail to explore Rotorua‘s mountain biking mecca known as “The Redwoods”. Ride through a mix of native and pine forest taking in astonishing views of Lake Rotorua and Tikitapu along the way. The trail grade is mostly easy with a few short intermediate sections, but there are plenty of trails leading on and off the main loop if you want to shorten your trip. Learn more about the trails and others in the area in the 10 Best Bike Trails in Rotorua.
6. Waikato River Trails
Follow New Zealand’s longest river through wetlands, dense forest and volcanic rock formations on the Waikato River Trails. Dams, boardwalks and swingbridges pave the way through lush forests and alongside tranquil lakes. The mostly smooth and gentle trails (and the occasional challenge) are not only easy to ride but easy to organise with many shuttles, accommodations, eateries and bike hire options along the way. Learn more about the Waikato River Trails and its different sections in our guide, Mountain Biking in Waikato.
Length: 106km (88 miles), 1-4 days.
Grade: 3,4. This off-road mountain bike experience is a hard grade 3.
7. Hauraki Rail Trail
A wonderfully easygoing trail in the idyllic climate of the Coromandel and the upper Bay of Plenty region, the Hauraki Rail Trail is an easy one to add to this list of the best cycle trails on the North Island. While two-thirds of the ride follows a historic railway, the last section of this trail through the Karangahake Gorge and its gold mining remnants is definitely the highlight! Find out more about the towns the trail goes through in the 5 Hauraki Rail Trail Towns You Can’t Miss.
Length: 160 km (99 mi), 1-4 days.
Grade: 1. Easy as it can be!
Location: Bay of Plenty.
8. Twin Coast Cycle Trail (Pou Herenga Tai)
One of the most historical rides on this list, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail (Pou Herenga Tai) follows ancient Maori trails from the Bay of Islands to the Hokianga Harbour. Marking the trail is a series of pou (Maori totems) hand-carved by the local iwi (tribe) as a reminder of the history and legend of the land. Ride through historic railway tunnels, suspension bridges, smooth cycle paths and quiet country roads in an enchanting part of the North Island.
Length: 87 km (54 mi), 2 days.
Grade: 1, 2. An easy ride with a few hills.
9. Remutaka Cycle Trail
This trail has it all! Starting by the Hutt River in Petone on the Wellington Harbour, climb the Hutt Valley to an old railway line. Ride across the wild and wonderful Remutaka Ranges to emerge in the middle of Wairarapa‘s wine fields and finish on the “Wild Coast”. If you don’t want to do the whole thing, check out this Remutaka Mountain Bike Package or check out part of the trail, the 18 km (11 mi) Remutaka Rail Trail on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website.
Length: 115 km (71.5 mi), 2-3 days.
Grade: 1, 2, 3, 4. The trail is a mix of all grades. Have a mountain bike ready, this trail is not road bike-friendly.
Location: Wellington Region.
10. Hawke’s Bay Trails
Trunked in three sections, the Hawke’s Bay Trails offer great panoramic views of the North Island’s east coast including the iconic Cape Kidnappers. This is an easy flat ride by the Pacific Ocean and passing by Hawke’s Bay’s award-winning vineyards. Bike hire is available with Napier City Bike Rentals & Tours. Find out more about the Hawke’s Bay Trails in Mountain Biking in Hawke’s Bay.
Length: 200 km (124 mi), 1-4 days.
Grade: 1, 2. The trails are mostly easy.
Location: Hawke’s Bay.
Stick to the Trail: Use the NZ Great Rides App
Free and made in New Zealand, the Great Rides App is specially designed for the NZ Great Rides biking trails, i.e. all of the rides featured on this list of the best bike trails on the North Island! Once you download a trail, the app works fully offline. It is GPS-enabled to help you orientate yourself along the trails and includes all the official NZ Great Rides trails plus a few extra tracks. The app is also regularly updated to include new trails and even some hiking tracks such as the Heaphy Great Walk. Additionally, check out its companion app, the Great Hikes App, for New Zealand’s hiking trails.
More About the Best Bike Trails on the North Island
That’s it for our list of the best bike trails on the North Island of New Zealand. For more cycling shenanigans, check out our other useful guides:
- 10 Great Bike Trails on the South Island
- The Best Mountain Biking Regions in New Zealand
- 10 Best Family Bike Rides in New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.