Motu Road Trail
The Motu Trails loop
Rere Falls Trail - 'coast to coast'
Te Waiti Track
Kayak & ride
The Dunes Trail starts at the [Pakowhai ki Otutaopuku Bridge] at Memorial Park Reserve. It meanders along a spectacular 10km stretch of Pacific Ocean coast to Jackson Road and the start of the Motu Road Trail. You get many panoramic views of the sparkling sea, and to White Island (Whakaari) and the East Cape ranges.
This is an easy (grade 2) trail for cyclists, walkers and runners. Much of it is about two metres wide. It's great for children, with many places to access the beach. The trail is undulating with easy gradients. Going the full 10km you'll have a total of about 100m elevation gain and descent each way. The return journey can be comfortably ridden in 2-3hrs, with plenty of time to stop for a swim and a picnic.
You will find parking at the Pakowhai ki Otutaopuku Bridge and at [Hikuwai], Tirohanga and [Kellys Beach]. There are toilets at the start, in the pavillion in the middle of the park, and at Hikuwai Beach, the 3km point. There's a petrol station store at Tirohanga, 5.5km after the start.
To get to the Pakowhai bridge and start of the trail, get onto to SH35 in Opotiki township. At the northern end of town, there is a roundabout. Head north at the roundabout, on St John Street. From here, you can see the bridge straight ahead. Just after the roundabout, [Motu Trails Limited] is handily placed 800m from the start of the trail. They offer hire bikes, shuttles, secure parking, accommodation and more.
If you wish to add to your Dunes Trail ride, when you get back to the Pakowhai bridge, turn upriver (east) on the 4km Otara stopbank trail. It is signed. This flat trail goes up the Otara River to Te Rere Pa Road. You can also ride the Otara stopbank trail the other direction, most of the way to the Waioeka road bridge, through it's only well-surfaced for 1km to Opotiki wharf, mostly it is grass and is often grazed by horses.
The Motu Road Trail follows the [historic Coach Road] from Matawai to the coast. This was part of the first through-road between Gisborne and the Eastern Bay of Plenty, with the first car making the journey in 1915.
The Motu Road is still used by some traffic and there is currently logging traffic at the southern (Motu) end.
The riding is rated intermediate (grade 3). You're passing through remote bush country and farmland, with hills that require reasonable fitness. The trail can be ridden from either direction, with more downhill riding starting from Matawai (elevation 500m).
Starting from Matawai, it's a slightly downhill 14km ride on quiet sealed road to the settlement of Motu. On the way, stop at the 1914 railway bridge, a remnant of a railway that once stretched from Gisborne.
Motu has a shelter, toilets and cafe. It's definitely worth the 5km (10km return) side trip to the stunning Motu Falls, from where you can walk in the Kahikatea (white pine) forest of Whinray Scenic Reserve. Back in Motu, [Motu Community House] is an ideal stopover.
Riding from Motu, stop a moment at the Motu Scenic Reserve, where there's a pretty lake.
Back on the bikes, there's a solid 3km climb, but it's never too steep and the views over Motu valley are brilliant. From the summit (almost 800m), it's mostly downhill to the Pakihi track turnoff, which has toilets.
Continuing on the Motu Road Trail, you have hilly but mostly downhill riding, with [Toatoa Farm Stay] on the way, then flat for 10km to the coast. You connect with the Dunes Trail to ride back to Opotiki.
The Motu Road makes a sensational three-day journey. Day one, get a shuttle drop off at Matawai, and cruise to Motu. Leave your gear at Motu Community House, ride 5km to the Motu Falls, then stay the night at the Community House. Day two, ride up the Motu Road Trail to Toatoa, and relax at [Toatoa Farm Stay] (check out Takaputahi Road if you want more riding). Day three, ride to the sparkling Pacific Coast, and finish your journey along the Dunes Trail to Opotiki.
Matawai is on SH2, one hour's drive from both Opotiki and Gisborne. From near Matawai on SH2, you can connect with the Rere Falls Trail (more below).
Pakihi Track - ADVANCED, 44 km (21KM forest TRAIL, 9km of gravel road, 10km rural road, 4km stopbank trail)
THE PAKIHI TRACK IS ONE-WAY FOR RIDING. DO NOT RIDE UP THE TRACK FROM OPOTIKI. THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR THE SAFETY OF OTHER TRACK USERS. IF YOU ARE THINKING OF RIDING UP THE TRACK ... DON'T.
The Pakihi was first opened in the early-1900s, as part of a horse track from Motu down to the Pakihi Stream, and on to Opotiki via the Otara valley. It is a sensational wilderness ride.
The most popular way to ride the Pakihi is to get a shuttle from Opotiki up to Motu, or Matawai, or most commonly, the hill above the track start. Two companies offer this service: [Motu Trails Limited, and Motu Trails Hire & Shuttle]. Both offer a wide range of options including hire bikes.
It is a good idea to take a shuttle. The drive from Opotiki to the hill above the track start is 100km (and the same back) with close to 10km of gravel road. The road can also get rough at times, 4WD is advised if you do take your own vehicle.
The Pakihi Track starts 17km from Motu, at 600 metres altitude. You have no real uphills to tackle and the surface is generally well formed. However, in places the track is narrow with drop-offs to the side. Often, especially on the lower section, there are rockfalls and rock debris — it is a back-country track in challenging terrain. Care is required, and if in doubt, get off and walk any bits where you are unsure.
If you are a nervous rider, you're probably better riding the Motu Road, or perhaps walking the Pakihi instead. It makes a great up-and-back walk from the Pakihi Road end, go up about 5km, or even better to the hut. If you are a trail runner, the Pakihi is a superb run. Park at the Pakihi Road end and run up and back for pretty much spot-on 42.2km. Base yourself at [Bushaven] and you can do the Te Waiti the next day.
Riding the track from the Motu Road, the Pakihi Hut [video from air] comes at the half way point, 11km. Look for the steep downhill track cutting off to the left. It is signed. The hut is a great lunch spot and you can stay the night for a true bush experience. There's a toilet.
It's worth going down to see the pretty river, a one-minute side walk down from the hut.
The Pakihi suspension bridge [video from air] comes 1km after the hut. Again, take care, and don't rush. Often the area round the hut and bridge has slips or rock debris on the track. There may be short stretches you have to walk. It is technically the most tricky of the track and in many places, the drop-offs here are 6-15 metres.
At the suspension bridge, look out for the original bridge remains, built in 1913 and destroyed in 1918. There are timber uprights on both banks, and on the 'downhill' (true left) side there's a footing hole, where the cables were fastened.
The lower half of the Pakihi Track is stunning, following the stream all the way. Do take the time to stop, some of the bridges make a spectacular vantage point. This gives a good idea of what to expect: [video from air].
There is a shelter, car parking and toilet at the end of the track. If you're arranging someone to pick you up, or leaving a car here, it's a 30 minute drive from/to Opotiki.
From the end of the track, you can ride back to Opotiki via 9km of gravel road, then the quiet rural Otara Road. If you want a nice alternative route, with some gravel, take Otara East Road. Whether you go that way or stay on Otara Road, when you reach the outskirts of Opotiki, turn right onto Te Rere Pa road, and follow the Otara stopbank track for 4km back to the Pakowhai bridge and start of the Dunes Trail. For details, check [this map].
If you have shuttled with [Motu Trails Hire & Shuttle], you may be finishing at Bushaven, in which case you finish up the beautiful Te Waiti road.
Riding the loop takes in all three parts of the Motu Trails Great Ride, starting and ending your ride in Opotiki, or if you prefer, Motu.
You start off along the Dunes Trail, which links directly with the bottom of the Motu Road Trail. From here it is mostly uphill riding as you ride inland for about 40km. There are two major climbs, of approx 6km (Meremere hill) and 3km (Papamoa/Toatoa hill) length. Just at the start of the next big climb, you get to the start of the Pakihi Track, which takes you back into Opotiki.
You can do the loop in one day if you are fit, but many people take two days, staying at [Toatoa Farm Stay[, or even up at [Motu Community House]. The hills are big! Don't underestimate the distance! Start early! In one day ... is a big ride! A big ride!
Keep in mind that while the Dunes Trail and Motu Road Trail are graded easy and intermediate, the Pakihi Track section is graded advanced.
Rere Falls Trail stretches between Gisborne and Matawai, taking in mostly-quiet sealed and gravel roads. The 103km is a Heartland Ride on the New Zealand Cycle Trail. It is all on-road.
You can ride Rere Falls Trail in either direction. The following describes a ride starting from Gisborne.
A good place to stay in Gisborne is [Portside Hotel], a quality Motu Trails official partner that is in the heart of town.
You start riding through town and then across the plains, home to quality vineyards and wineries. About 10km from Gisborne, the historic [Jolly Stockman Hotel] is an official partner of Motu Trails. Stop for a meal or stay in their comfortable accommodation.
About 35km from Gisborne, [Eastwoodhill] is the National Arboretum of New Zealand and has a stunning display of exotic and native trees, across 135 hectares, with many kilometres of walking trail. Eastwoodhill is a great place to stay. They offer catering for groups on arrangement.
The route then features the iconic Rere Falls, and 2km further, Rere Rockslide, where you can slide down a 60m-long natural slope (free of charge but you need something to slide on and are responsible for your own safety).
The road is sealed all the way from Gisborne to Eastwoodhill and on to Rere. But from Eastwoodhill, the hills start. Between Eastwoodhill and the falls there are some solid climbs of about 800m long, whichever direction you are riding.
Above the rockslide comes the longest hill of the journey, Wharekopae (it's a descent, if coming from Matawai direction). This is 4km long, and gravel. It tops out at close to 500m altitude, with great views.
The 40km from Wharekopae to Matawai is rolling high country, mostly sheep farmland but pockets of forest. In both directions there are some solid climbs. All up, there is about 28km of gravel road. Seal resumes about 15km from Matawai.
From Te Wera road end to Matawai, a 7km distance, please take care as this is State Highway. There can be trucks. Ride single file.
By linking Rere Falls Trail with the Motu Road Trail, you can create a stunning 180km (approx) 'Coast to Coast' ride, Gisborne-Opotiki. There are plenty of big hills, but it is a brilliant crossing in heartland New Zealand.
The rides below are NOT the Motu Trails Great Ride, but they are a great way to extend your stay in the eastern Bay of Plenty or Eastland. For Whakaumu Track, Te Waiti Track and, most of all, Otipi Road the same safety and preparedness cautions as above apply.
Whakaumu Track makes a stunning 'new' ride from Opotiki, for more skilled riders (or walkers/runners). At present the track has only one entrance, so it is out and back. It passes through sensational forest, with soaring nikau palms, beech and rimu.
Whakaumu Track is over 130 years old but over many decades had been largely disused and become thickly overgrown. It starts at the top of Taheke Road, until recently called Block Access Road (directions below). From Opotiki, the ride to the start of Whakaumu Track is approx 18km via the Dunes Trail.
Whakaumu Track is not the Motu Trails Great Ride and you must be prepared. It starts at an altitude of 180m and climbs to over 300m. It is isolated. You need to walk some stretches, though the track conditions are getting better all the time.
The riding is currently reasonably technical, mostly due to tree roots. The track is narrow in places. [Here is a short video].
We prize all support! For more details of the project please [contact us]. Photos are periodically posted on the Motu Trails Facebook page.
We acknowledge the support of Trail Fund NZ (paying for a culvert), Ground Effect Slush Fund (paying for two small culverts), Fonterra Grass Roots Fund (paying for signage), Opotiki individuals (paying for timber), Waiotahi Contractors (donating a stack of pre-loved culverts) and heaps of other people.
Here are directions to Whakaumu Track:
[This map] will clarify.
If you’re an experienced mountain biker or hiker, and you’re very well prepared, you could check out the remarkable 4WD Otipi Road, which was built for [1950s hydroelectric exploration].
Otipi Road heads off from Takaputahi Road, 11km east of Toatoa on the Motu Road Trail. Our [main trail map] shows Takaputahi and most of Otipi Road.
The start of Otipi Road is over the river from DOC's Whitikau Forks camp site. Over 19km, Otipi Road climbs to 900m then drops to the Motu River. You return the same way.
A great place to stay is [Toatoa Farmstay]. Or, there's the DOC Whitikau Forks campsite, which is basic but a really nice spot. Ask at Opotiki i-SITE for more info.
Again, this is not the Motu Trails Great Ride. Experience, skill and preparation are vital. Otipi Road is seriously isolated terrain, but truly awesome. A three-day adventure is to ride from Opotiki to Whitikau Forks on day-one, ride Otipi Road and back to the Forks on day-two, then ride up the Motu Road and down the Pakihi Track on day-three. You won't see a shop, or have mobile reception for three days!
Te Waiti track is only 6km long, 12km out-and-back, but it's great for more skilled riders or for walking.
The track starts at the end of Te Waiti Road, which turns off the Pakihi Road. Stay at [Bushaven or Weka Wilds] or DOC's Boulders camp site, and experience weka, and even the calls of wild kiwi at night.
To get to Te Waiti from Opotiki, turn down Otara road and head south for about 11km. It's a long, straight road with one single lane bridge. The seal ends, keep on heading south. After a few kilometres, there's an intersection, where if you turn left you'll go over a bridge and up to the Pakihi Track exit. Instead, go straight ahead.
You are now on Te Waiti valley road, which is unsuitable for large vehicles and has several fords. Carry on 3km to Boulders or 4km to Bushaven.
Te Waiti Track is best known for a huge stand of nikau ferns. There's also a massive kahikatea, white pine, estimated to be 500+ years old.
NZ Walks has good maps/elevations [here]
Why not mix your biking fun with kayaking, with Motu Trails official partner KG Kayaks.
KG Kayaks have been offering guided trips for 20 years. It's a brilliant experience, with no paddle experience necessary. Details on the [KG Kayaks listing].
If you’re keen on cycle touring, the majestic SH35 Pacific Highway from Opotiki to Gisborne is a wonderful multi-day journey, from two days (super-fit) to a week (cruising).
Ride up the Motu Road Trail, stay the night at [Motu] or Matawai, then return to Opotiki via the Waioeka River Gorge on SH2. This ride is about 155km in all. You can of course also go the other way round, but Traffords Hill on SH2 is much harder riding Opotiki-Matawai. Our [main trail map] shows the whole distance.
Mander Rd MTB park is not huge but there's good riding to suit a range of skill levels. To get there, go up Waimata Valley road, then down Mander Rd — the park is 10km from town. The park is profiled in the current edition of 'Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides' with the suggestion, "The Throne and the Exit Trail are the two best tracks in the park as they both have some good, flowing descents".
You need a permit to ride Mander Rd MTB park. Get your permit and info from Avanti Maintrax, Bikeys or Motu Trails official partner Cycle Gisborne.
There are many other superb road and off-road cycling options. We're cyclists, so feel free to [contact us] to ask for info. For instance: Maraetotara and Burma Road, Ohiwa Harbour, Paerata Ridge loop, Stanley Road and loop, Hukutaia Road, Waiotahe Valley Road, Whakarau Road ... for starters!