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Outdoors

Waikato River Trail, attractions, things to do and places to visit

  • 3 minutes

Discover the mighty Waikato; New Zealand’s longest river flowing 425 km to the sea from Lake Taupo. Historically a vital transport route, now leafy urban walkways link parks, Hamilton and surrounding towns in a network of shared pathways. The Waikato River Trails offers views of the Waikato, New Zealand’s longest river as it carves its way past original forest, planted timber plantations, rolling farmland and wetlands. There are suspension bridges, streams and boardwalks to explore.

Hamilton Wellington St inland Waikato River beach, New Zealand
Waikato River

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL

The Waikato River Trails is mapped by New Zealand’s longest river with suspension bridges, streams and boardwalks to explore. There are 5 WAIKATO RIVER SECTIONS. The trail is a shared cycle and walking pathway.

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL SECTIONS

Made up of five trails that follow the Waikato River there are five lakes, four hydro dams and three suspension bridges and boardwalks over regenerating wetlands.

The trail length is 100km and follows the river from Lake Karapiro to Atiamuri. To complete all five sections between 2 – 5 days depending on stops and cycling speed. For cycling grades check Waikato Rivers trails for up to date information. Tour operators can manage drop-offs, pick-ups and accommodation. The Waikato River Trails are managed by the Waikato River Trails Charitable Trust.

Waikato river trail, Arapuni swing bridge, Waikato, New Zealand
Waikato river trail, Arapuni swing bridge
New Zealand North-Island, Lake Karapiro. trees reflecting on water surface. misty scenery, Waikato, New Zealand
Lake Karapiro

KARAPIRO SECTION – NORTHERN SECTION OF THE WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL

14 km to the picturesque hydro town on Arapuni

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Huihuitaha Wetland 500m boardwalk
  • View of the Arapuni Dam & swingbridge
  • Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni

This section is very popular with the charms of Lake Karapiro and the promise of the Rhubarb Cafe in Arapuni Village at the finish.

Half-Day Bike Tour

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – ARAPUNI – WAIPAPA DAM SECTION

36 km, advanced grade

Highlights

  • Jim Barnetts Reserve with its 1000 year old totara tree
  • The thrill of riding 42 metres above the creek on Managarewa suspension bridge
  • Waipapa Dam lookout

Arapuni (Arapuni to Waipapa Dam) includes some road riding from Jones Landing to the end of Waotu South Road. Jim Barnetts Reserve is full of birdlife and there is a 1000-year-old totara and well signposted easy walking trails.

Waikato river trail, Arapuni WWII dam story, signage, Waikato, New Zealand
Waikato river trail, Arapuni WWII dam story, signage
View of lighthouse on hill at Waipapa Point on New Zealand's South Island on a cloudy day
Waipapa Point

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – WAIPAPA SECTION

19 km grade moderate

Highlights

  • Views of native and exotic (pine) forest
  • 70 m suspension bridge 12 metres height
  • Contrast between massive concrete dams and surrounding natural landscape

This section links Lake Maraetai dam and Waipapa dam. It is an advanced trail due to switch backs and over 600 m of climbing. It is considered to be a beautiful remote trail.

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – MARAETAI SECTION

12.3 km grade intermediate

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 70m long Mangakino stream suspension bridge 12 metres height
  • Bus Stop and Hui Hut Cafes in Mangakino
  • Mangakino lakefront views is known for its wakeboarding and water sport activities.

TIP

Check out Mangakino: Things To Do and See in a Travel Guide – Best Bits

Mangakino, New Zealand @LoveTaupo
Mangakino @LoveTaupo
Pohaturoa @motowalknz
Pohaturoa @motowalknz

WAIKATO RIVER TRAIL – WHAKAMARU

23.5 km grade intermediate

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stunning Pohuturoa rock, a magnificent historic marker for river navigation
  • Whakamaru Dam
  • Lake Whakamaru
  • Wetlands and boardwalk of Dunhams Creek Reserve
  • Ongaroto Steps

Along the way cyclists pass one of the Waikato’s top destinations Sanctuary Mountain with its predator free fencing. At Mangakino, consider a round of golf at a picturesque golf course. The mighty Waikato River witnessed many battles in the 19th century New Zealand Land Wars and is the location for several urupa (burial sites) for pre-European Maori who had a thread of pa (villages) along the river banks.

Kaka, Sanctuary Mountain, New Zealand
Kakapo, Sanctuary Mountain
Waikato river trails bike sculpture quietly aging among autumn leaves, Mightly River Domain, Waikato, New Zealand
Waikato river trails bike sculpture quietly aging among autumn leaves, Mightly River Domain

When you donate to the Waikato River Trails Charitable Trust, not only do you assist us with maintaining the trail, but also help with ensuring the trail is accessible for all users.

Waikato River Trails. If you require an acknowledgement and tax receipt, please email info@waikatorivertrails.com.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

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