Cycling Great Lake Trails – New Zealand

Whangamata Road – Kawakawa Bay – Kinloch 20km

Kinloch – Whakaipo Bay 15km

These newly created mountain bike tracks can be ridden together to provide a decent amount of single-track riding. The trail itself is not technical but still has plenty of fun swoops and dips. There are a couple of headlands to climb so your legs will get a workout. The trail should take about 4-5hrs depending on stops.

Riding Notes

The trail commences at Whangamata Road, follows a watercourse down to the lake, turns left at the Kawakawa bay campsite and then climbs a headland before descending to Kinloch. At Kinloch there are a couple of cafes and shops to resupply before pushing on over the next headland to Whakaipo Bay. Completing the route in this direction gives you more downhill since Whangamata road is a high point on the trail.

Navigation is relatively simple with the trail-head well signposted. Free maps are available in Kinloch and provide details of elevation and trail direction.

The biggest hazard is cyclists riding the trail in the opposite direction so stay alert and make some noise on blind corners.

Consider bringing swimwear on a warm day since a dip in the lake is a great way to freshen up.

If you have two vehicles it is straightforward to do a car shuffle. Otherwise options include riding back to your start point or taking the shuttle for $20/pp:

Good quality bikes can also be hired for $40/pp from Great Lake Shuttles.

Official website for trail:

Map and overview of Taupo trails:

Detailed trail information:

Our Experience

Our motley bunch of riders arrived at the Whangamata entrance to the trail on a hot summers day. Those with mountain-bikes were dispatched to wait at the trail-head. The others drove the two vehicles down to Kinloch where they hired bikes and arranged a shuttle back to the trail-head.

Trail-head a number of families with young kids were riding back up from Kawakawa Bay. The kids did not look happy about the ride up the hill but it did provide a gauge of the ease of the ride.

With our crew and bikes now assembled we rode down the freshly graded trail towards the lake. The riding was easy on the relatively smooth trail and across numerous bridges. The trail hugs the stream through regenerating bush and alongside farmland. This section was at a fantastic gradient for riding and only the occasional pedal stroke was needed to keep the thrills coming. There were some stunning views of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro from the trail as we approached Kawakawa Bay. We heard people swimming and picnicking long before we saw the beach itself since the trail runs parallel to the lake edge for a distance.

At Kawakawa Bay there were a handful of campers and a classic DOC long drop that you could smell before you could see. The trail fork wasn’t signposted but we soon found we needed to head left and up over the headland. Most of our party resorted to walking on this section. Near the top of the headland we were met by stunning views from a rock outcrop. From there it was a short ride to the apex of the ridge before a long descent to Kinloch. Overall the ride had taken 2hrs compared to the 2.5hrs nominated in the brochure.

At Kinloch we enjoyed pies and smoothies at the Tipsy Trout before farewelling two of our party who returned their hire bikes before driving back to Auckland. One of our crew agreed to drive the vehicle over to Whakaipo Bay while we rode over the headland.

After skirting the inland side of the marina and crossing an arched bridge we continued east along a road parallel to the lakefront. After riding up through some single-track and through some suburbs we re-entered the bush trail proper. Our legs were in worse shape after the mornings ride and we made slow progress on the moderate incline. We didn’t complete the optional headland loop and instead continued over the ridge and down towards Whakaipo Bay.

After 2hrs of riding we arrived at Whakaipo Bay. The bay is home to a large reserve with ample space for picnics and appeared to be a great place for a post ride swim. We had a couple of close encounters with other cyclists heading in the opposite direction on the trail but otherwise it was a fun, easy ride.


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