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…

102 thoughts on “The Waikato River trail – New Zealand

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

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

  11. 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!

    1. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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™‚

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!


  18. 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!

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