Towns Along the Way
The towns and settlements along the trail each have their own unique character. From the second oldest town in New Zealand, Horeke, on the Hokianga Harbour, to the rural communities of Okaihau and Kaikohe, and from Kawakawa, famous for its railway and art toilet, to Port Opua in the Bay of Islands.
At the eastern end (or beginning) of the Cycle Trail on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Islands is Opua, a bustling port and marina. The cycle trail follows the old railway line right through to Opua. Take a break here to watch the boats come and go. Visit the 100 year old general store perched over the water on stilts. This is the eastern end of the cycle trail.
Kawakawa is a vibrant town that has two world famous attractions: the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway and the Hundertwasser toilets – public toilets designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who was a resident of the town from 1975 until his death in 2000.
The railway, which runs down the middle of the main street, was re-established in the late 1980’s (after its early life hauling coal from nearby mines) to operate a scenic tourist railway between Kawakawa and Opua (currently the track stops at Taumarere). At 11.5 kilometres, it is one of the longest heritage railway lines in New Zealand and is unique in the world as it is the only working railway where the trains travel down the middle of a State Highway.
Otiria is presently the northernmost operational point of the national railway network. One freight train runs every weekday each way between Otiria and Whangarei. The cycle trail takes you past the small town of Moerewa.
Kaikohe is located on the slopes of a prominent volcanic cone. It is Northland’s largest inland town and mainly services the mid-north’s farming, horticulture and forestry industries. Steeped in Māori history, Kaikohe owes its pioneering growth to the kauri gum trade. The town boasts the largest grass airfield in the southern hemisphere.
The Kaikohe district endured several conflicts during the 19th century land wars. The famous chief Hone Heke settled in Kaikohe at the end of the land wars and died here in 1850. The first Māori Member of Parliament was his nephew who was named after him. A tribute to Hone Heke is located at Monument Hill close to the Taheke Road entranceway to the Trail.
This small settlement services its nearby rural community. It’s name means “feast of the winds”. This refers to Okaihau’s location on a 200m ridge overlooking the upper reaches of the Hokianga Harbour. Take time to enjoy the spectacular view of the Waihou Valley.
Look out for the huge remnant of puriri trees in the local school grounds. These confirm that this locality was originally densely forested. The entire area is also rich in pioneer and Māori cultural history. Take a look at the interesting fire service museum.
Many of the cycle trail shuttles use Okaihau as a pick-up and drop-off point. Pause at the Okaihau Memorial Gates in honour of our fallen WW1 soldiers.
Situated on the upper reaches of the Hokianga Harbour, where the Twin Coast Cycle Trail ends (or starts). You will be able to ride alongside the mangroves fringing the harbour and pass by Horeke houses perched out over the water’s edge. Horeke is the second oldest town in New Zealand and is the site of New Zealand’s first ever pub, the Horeke Hotel. Mangungu Mission House overlooking the harbour is the western start (or end) of the trail.
Horeke sprang up overnight when an Australian firm established a shipyard in 1826. Only a few ships were built here but Horeke became the Heart of the Hokianga for the next decade. New Zealand’s first murder trial took place at the nearby Methodist Mission. The dark bluff across the Hokianga River further east is called Marmon’s Point, the home of Cannibal Jack, Hokianga’s first white settler. He lived as a Māori and is believed to have ‘joined the Māoris in their cannibal feasts’.
Between Horeke and State Highway 1 at Rangiahua are some of the finest tidal marshes in New Zealand. Hundreds of wildfowl and endangered swamp birds thrive in these vast aquatic ‘wastelands’.
The old buildings of Horeke were mostly built over water, because at the time there was no land for sale or available for development.