Incredible cycling adventures in the back country on the Motu Trails

We’re surrounded by unique landscape here in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. From oceanside dunes, to lush native bush and distant rolling hills, the region is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. It’s this quality that sparked the creation of the Motu Trails, three free access cycle trails that have allowed us to get up close and personal with some of the area’s stunning back country.

With tracks ranging from easy to advanced, the Motu Trails has earned a reputation as one of New Zealand’s 22 Great Rides.

Jim Robinson, Executive Officer of the Motu Trails and a keen cyclist himself, has shared some of his knowledge and experience regarding the trails. Jim has long had an interest in the Motu Trails and became a volunteer Trustee in 2011. When the opportunity was presented to take over as Executive Officer, Jim grasped it with both hands. He’s now been in the role for four years and has cycled each section of the Motu Trails many times.

The Motu Trails are one of the region’s greatest assets and a tremendous amount of work has gone into creating and restoring the trails. Jim says it was well worth it as the trails have enriched the area significantly.

Image: Mead Norton Photography

Image: Mead Norton Photography

Three different trails, three amazing experiences

The Motu Trails are made up of three different shared use tracks with varying difficulty and length. Whether you’re after a short, easy ride or walk or you want the full back country experience, one of the three trails will suit you perfectly.

Dunes Trail

This 10km purpose-built trail begins at Memorial Park in Opotiki and takes about two to three hours to complete. This is an easy grade with minor gradients and plenty of picnic spots. The Dunes Trail is a perfect adventure for the whole family.

As you cruise the trail, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and East Cape Ranges. There are several beach access points along the way, where you can take a break and have a swim.

Image: Jim Robinson

Image: Jim Robinson

Motu Road Trail

Motu Road is part of the first road between Gisborne and the Eastern Bay of Plenty. With the first car crossing Motu Road in 1915, it’s an amazing piece of history that has connected us with Tairawhiti (Gisborne) for over a century. Now as part of the Motu Trails Great Ride, the Motu Road Trail is 67km of varying terrain and epic back country.

The Motu Road Trail is intermediate level and due to the length of the track and some steep gradients, a reasonable level of fitness is required.

Being so familiar with the Motu Road Trail, one particular spot that stands out for Jim is the top of Meremere Hill. Reaching this point is unbelievably rewarding as it’s the point where you cross over to Toatoa Valley, a fully-secluded valley that looks like a lost world of farm and forest.

What Jim loves most about the Motu Road Trail is how the landscape has the ability to make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And with no cell phone coverage, you can truly take some much-needed time out. However, as with all back country adventure, we do recommend taking a Personal Locator Beacon to ensure your safety. These can be hired from the Opotiki i-Site.

Image: Mead Norton Photography

Image: Mead Norton Photography

Pakihi Track

The Pakihi Trail is an advanced track with 20km of single-track followed by 24km of both gravel and sealed road.

The Pakihi Track has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. Overgrowth of thick bush destroyed the track during the early 20th century and although DOC and volunteers temporarily restored the track, it was wiped out by a series of storms in the early 2000s. It took over a year and a half to restore the Pakihi Track to what it is today but it has become a favourite for many mountain biking enthusiasts, trail runners and hikers, including Jim.

The “absolutely insane, super steep, wild back country” is what Jim loves most about this track. And because it sees a lot of rainfall, the bush is lush with massive native plants like Nikau, Punga and many more. For about 8km, the Pakihi Track runs alongside a stream so you’ll hear the water rushing beside you during your ride.

There are limited areas to stop on the Pakihi Track but Jim recommends cycling down to the classic DOC hut about mid-way along the track. Stop for lunch and take a walk down to the stream where he says you’ll find a beautiful, secluded hiding place.

Jim’s top tip for tackling the Pakihi Track safely is to take your time and, if you don’t have one, hire a Personal Location Beacon as there is also no cell phone coverage on this ride. The track needs a fair amount of concentration, so stop and take it all in wherever there’s a chance.

The steep, fierce countryside makes the Pakihi Track difficult to maintain, yet it’s also what makes it so incredibly beautiful.

Image: Studio Zag

Image: Studio Zag

Community efforts go far in the upkeep of Motu Trails

The Motu Trails have brought a great sense of community pride to the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Recognising how lucky we are to have these trails in our back yard, we want to keep them in great condition so we can use them for many years to come.

Jim is often amazed by the efforts the community go to in keeping the tracks maintained, supporting the efforts of DOC and council. Whether it’s donating to the Motu Trails Charitable Trust, or simply clearing some debris while cycling one of the tracks, every bit counts in ensuring the Motu Trails are well looked after.

As official partners of the Motu Trails Charitable Trust ourselves, the trails are very close to our hearts here at Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park. These trails are an iconic attraction to our area and we would love for our visitors to tell us about their Motu Trails experiences. We are so fortunate to have such a wide range of outdoor adventures nearby that enables us to access all corners of our spectacular region.

Image: Mead Norton Photography

Image: Mead Norton Photography

So bring your bikes on your next visit to Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park and create lasting memories on the Motu Trails. We can advise where to access the tracks and offer a few handy tips for your journey.

As official partners, we can give you a certificate to mark your ride and a Motu Trails sticker. We can give you a trail brochure with a detailed map to help you get the best experience.

Call us today to book your accommodation in this unique part of New Zealand.

ActivitiesNola Morgan