The Waikato River trail – New Zealand

Peering over the giant concrete block and holding onto the strong pylons I nervously look down upon the dizzying heights of the Arapuni swing bridge below.

I feel like I am about to have an Indiana Jones moment!

I have joined my sister and her family on a weekend visit to the Waikato region. The plan is to cycle the Arapuni section of the newly opened Waikato River Trail and the Arapuni swing bridge is certainly a highlight.

Resting our bicycles on the ground we test our nerves and attempt the walk over the swing bridge. The lush bush below surrounds the turquoise flow of the river. The water is busy rushing past the grand historic 1920’s power station. My niece and nephew jump up and down on the bridge making it move and sway. I stop looking at the view finding myself grab onto the rail to steady my shaking limbs.

The signs easily guide us to the trail as we pedal away from Arapuni village and its glorious swing bridge. Huge pine trees shadow our departure as our wheels crunch over a blanket of fallen pine needles. As the fresh scent of pine disappears the gravel trail snakes its way along side the flow of the liquorice strap of the mighty Waikato river.

We encounter a few steep climbs over the dusty trail and enjoy the speedy down hill races that follow. It isn’t long before we are under the spaghetti canopy of the damp native bush. Fantails follow us flitting through the tree branches while the children holler like ghosts. Pedalling through the tunnel of trees is rather magical.

The trail continues to weave up and over small mounds. I notice the effort that my sister and her partner make as they heave up the inclines with the weight of their children on the back of their bikes. The trees part to give way to a glorious view of the mighty Waikato River. We stop to enjoy the tranquil setting and to have a bite to eat. Our serenity does not last long as we are interrupted by nasty sandflies biting our legs. They quickly have us back on our bicycles hurrying on our way.

The rich greenery nestled into the river bank reflects in the still water like jewels in a crown. Next to the trail, moss-covered fences stand like soldiers in rows guiding the way to a boardwalk which winds its way over a protected wetland area.

As our wheels bump along the wooden boardwalk we try to spot frogs in the swampy marsh below, but to no avail. We eventually come to the Little Waipa Reserve and are greeted by a handful of hungry chickens who eagerly follow us around clucking for food. We end the cycle with the children splashing about in the cool waters of the river.

Our accommodation for the night is nestled comfortably in the tiny Arapuni village. It has beautiful views of the valley below and has easy access to the River trail. We are also within walking distance of the one and only popular Rhubarb cafe. It is a real gem of a place offering delicious fare.

The following day we make a side trip to the Maungatautari Ecological Island. We were fortunate to see the rare tiny Hihi bird hopping happily about the feeders. We are totally captivated by the sweet sound of constant bird song, the unfurling ponga and the enormous native trees proudly stretching towards the sky. The place is beautiful!

We all enjoyed the short visit to the Waikato and I look forward to returning again to explore more of this interesting river trail sometime…

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102 Responses to The Waikato River trail – New Zealand

  1. fence hire says:

    My husband is Australian but I’ve never been to New Zealand and I’m determined to go over there next time we’re that side of the world! πŸ™‚ Looks an amazing place.

  2. Wow! This looks amazing!

  3. Nigel says:

    I cycled through this trail myself. it sure is fun riding round it, in fact I have a scar on my knee to prove it. haha.

  4. Kiwi Annison says:

    Yay for a New Zealand post on Freshly Pressed!!
    congrats πŸ™‚
    I live in the Waikato and can vouch it’s every bit a beautiful as your pics !!

  5. Sheree says:

    I love the pictures. They’re beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of what it’s like.

  6. Great pictures, looks like a beautiful bike ride

  7. marilynn99 says:

    Love that NZ was featured on the home page πŸ™‚
    Great blog – love your pics!

  8. JW says:

    beautiful . . if this is what the photos tell us, I bet the actual experience would be so much better.
    thanks for the post.

  9. kevinmayne says:

    As a Brit married to a Kiwi your blog seems to link the places I love to ride. Great photos – puts my snapping to shame!

  10. We went to New Zealand this Christmas and stayed for a month. My daughter stayed another month to work as a volunteer with nature preservation. This is true Paradise. The rainforests became a favourite with me, and as you wrote: nothing beats a sunny summer day in NZ! Nature and all friendly people helping it to survive makes my soul fly. I will return. I really never wanted to leave…Thank you for wonderful photos and sharing.

  11. I just found your blog and want to say thank you! What an enjoyable time looking
    through so many images. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Lee Hall says:

    Love this post – so many stunning pictures! The picture of the tree is really exquisite!

  13. Gift says:

    I also want to go on a ride in this place. Beautiful! πŸ™‚

  14. Ian Webster says:

    What an awesome trip. The pics are stunning–they make it seem easy.

  15. Tech-2 says:

    Cool post…but i didn’t like it…..I love it!!

  16. Great riding and thanks for the encouragement to head across the Tasman Sea to do a bike tour!

  17. sujowy says:

    You are braver than me – I took one look at that bridge and biked back to cross the dam again! It is a lovely ride though. Recommended. Plus try a stay at the Putaruru Hotel for a time travel journey back to 1953!! Can’t beat a hotel with a Writing Room and Telephone cabinet!

  18. sushey says:

    Very nice post!
    Me and two friends went on a few bike tours here in germany, and this post made me want to grab my bike and cycle somewhere.
    Beautiful photos, too!

  19. awh787 says:


  20. Beautiful post and congratulations on being Fresh Pressed. New Zealand seems like such an incredible place to enjoy nature and you’re photos do it justice. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Really Excellent posting, the pictures shows the real things , its a master piece .

  22. Sajeevs blog says:

    You have a wonderful blog!! Beautiful coverage of NewZealand makes me want to visit some day! Thanks for sharing:)

  23. Thanks for the ride!

  24. Chitra Sivasankar says:

    I love the pics mate!!!! great post and happy to be the 200th person to like it…. πŸ™‚

  25. fromsophiesview says:

    You got me with this post….fantastic!

  26. dfmw says:

    Reblogged this on crisp clean clear and commented:
    what a fabulous ride.

  27. forum auto says:

    The views are fantastic, thanks for sharing – the Waikato River trail is my favorite.
    I do not think a Panasonic lumix take pictures so good.

  28. A. S. Ellis says:

    Golly, over a decade ago a friend and I bicycled from DePere, Wisconsin to Florence, Oregon, and then down the coast to Santa Barbara, California. It was three months sleeping under the stars, and encountering several cyclists intelligent enough to have planned their trip in the opposite direction, with the wind…

    I haven’t done anything like it since, and only just a week ago removed the baby seat from the back of my mountain bike, eager to get out and traverse a fough trail.

    I love this post becuse of the beautiful photographs, but also your concrete descriptions of the experience. Thanks for taking me on a ride, and in such a beautiful, exotic place!

    As I desire to do more cycling, but find myself not making it enough of a priority to make time for it, I had to follow tour blog. I think it’ll provide both inspiration and motivation to get myself back on the trails.

    Thanks again! I thoroughly enjoyed this!

    • lovethybike says:

      So pleased to hear that you enjoyed my blog – sounds as if you have also have adventures on bicycles! I hope you manage to make some time to get back on the bike… You know you will love it!

  29. This ride is so beautiful.

  30. Mica Musica says:

    Very cool and beautiful pics πŸ™‚

  31. There’s no place like home.

  32. Tim says:

    Love this post! great pics

  33. Jual Minyak Zaitun says:

    very beautiful natural scenery. I want to visit your place

  34. Waikato looks amazing, it’s a shame I don’t live in New Zealand.

  35. Admin says:

    Great pictures, hope to see it myself one day.

  36. starlight says:

    wonderful shots.. and I love the last one..

  37. pinangqaseh says:

    Because of these beautiful places, we have a reason to live one more day

  38. I love your photos! I have done this as a walk, brought back great memories and I can’t wait to go back with my husband, and this time, bike it!

  39. tangaroa5 says:

    I love this place πŸ™‚

  40. Really glad I saw your blog, congrats on being Pressley Freshed!! :). I’m really enjoying life on two wheels as well. I’m a professional photographer, to boot, so of course your blog hit home! πŸ™‚
    I’m taking a 5,000 mile, 2 month trip across the country, if you’d like tonfillow along I’ll give you the link. Subscribed, and looking forward to more great posts!

  41. Very cool pics! Thanks for sharing.

  42. TKbikes says:

    Wow, I wish to be There with my bike!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Looks like a very interesting bike trail!

  44. Rob Slade says:

    Ahh this blog post and all of the beautiful photos are making me miss New Zealand so much!

  45. Audrey says:

    Such a great adventure! And the photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing and congrats on getting Freshly Pressed.

  46. bercton says:

    Absolutely beautiful scenery. Great post!

  47. Harold says:

    Nice post and beautiful photos! Congrats on being FP!

  48. Anna says:

    Great pics.
    I like New Zealand….

  49. chiefmadapple says:

    Yah, I agree with Mark Armstrong up there, don’t think they are sandflies as those nasty buggers bite only in the early morning hours and at dusk. And if actually don’t know when they are biting, only after the fact when you’ve got several bites on you and are already swelling up.

    Anyway, enjoyed your post and esp the last photo, belissimo!

  50. Quite a variety of country here. The winding boardwalk must have been a relief for the child-carriers after the hills.

  51. sirarmany says:

    woooohaaaaaaaa the best bicycling blog so far. In love again with New Zealand

  52. Tracy says:

    I need to learn to ride a bicycle.

  53. Wonderful pictures indeed, especially the last one of the tree!

  54. You know, I’ve got to go back to NZ during spring/summer after seeing this. I was around in Winter last year, cycling too but around Wanaka – scenic, chilly and blue. Great experience but I’m sure a visit during spring/summer and a bike trip down the reserves (with more green and browns) will be cool. Nice photos really πŸ™‚

  55. Seasonsgirl says:

    Congrats on beign freshly pressed. I love the photos and the story. It seem you all had a wonderful time. I am so glad to see so many bloggers enjoying time outdoors.

  56. Denise says:

    Love the shot of the bike on the trail with the fantail in the foreground!

  57. says:

    Makes me wish my bicycle hadn’t been stolen… Great photos!

  58. says:

    Makes me wish my bicycle hadn’t been stolen. Great photos!

  59. E. says:

    the picture of the tree, the last one, is a really good one. to me, it sums up the feelings of the whole trip: fresh, cool and relaxing.

  60. This looks pretty cool.

  61. Great job with the layout.

  62. wendymc12 says:

    I am so envious. My dream is to move to New Zealand. The pictures are beautiful. Lovely post.

  63. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Great blog.

  64. Awesome pics of home. Beautifully written descriptive language that just makes me want to be there (but not on a bike) perhaps a gentle meander.

  65. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I’ve enjoyed your travels for some time now.

  66. What a beautiful place to bike – thanks for sharing! Congrats on being FP!

  67. I really like the vibrant greens in these photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  68. 59to60 says:

    Wow, looks amazing. The photos are spectacular. If I ever manage to ride my bike well enough I’d love to do something like this. I’ve only had it a couple of weeks after well over 40 years since my last one, I can wobble without the swing bridge!


  69. The shot up into the tree made my jaw drop: really beautiful and blows up v well. Many thanks for posting all of this πŸ˜‰

  70. VivianaAyre says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. I want to go back to New Zealand now! I’ll keep this place in mind.

  71. I’m not much of a bicyclist, but seeing these photos makes me wish I was.

  72. OK, anything called a “swing bridge” would not serve as a destination for me — though your pix are absolutely breathtaking!


  73. Carlie Chew says:

    Great pictures, looks like a beautiful bike ride!

  74. Atari says:

    More reason for me to holiday in New Zealand!

  75. Riding thru the jungle! Some difficult choices: bike helmet, or pith helmet? Or perhaps an Indiana Jones fedora made out of hard plastic?? : )

    The swing bridge sounds very cool– glad you weren’t inspired to do a Tarzan impression. Loved the light filtering thru the forest. Had never heard of fantails. Looking at the linked photo, I can see where they get there name. And hihi birds! They sound so friendly: “Hi, hi there!!”

    Spaghetti canopy, jewels in the water, moss-covered fences– you conjure up your usual rich imagery.

    Sandflies– ugh! Sound like our blackflies and mosquitos. One universal truth about insects: they certainly encourage one to remount and be on one’s way!

    I wanna get on my bike and ride over that wooden boardwalk right now! Looks fabulous. And I loved that last tree shot– a work of art. Wonderful post, thanks mucho!

  76. The views are fantastic, thanks for sharing. I must say you are a brave soul! LOL

  77. tmso says:

    We canoed this. Now we’ll have to bike it!

  78. jcreore says:

    Do you carry a big SLR for your beautiful photos? If not, what compact camera are you using?

  79. drdain16 says:

    Must have been a great ride. Especially with the fam. Lov the pics. Where is this exactly?

  80. amazingved says:

    great pictures, great post!

  81. woah!!!!!!!!!! It’s so beautiful!

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