Eleanor Hughes discovers there’s a cycle path for all ages, stages and tastes in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay.
Hawke’s Bay Trails consists of 200km of mainly flat cycle paths. These lead to over fifty places of interest stretching from Bay View, north of Napier, southwards to Clifton and to the vineyards of Bridge Pā, west of Flaxmere. Because this area has easy terrain, good weather and some fabulous offerings, we were spoiled for choice – with so many options, how could we pick just one?
There are numerous options for cycling in the region, so whether you’re looking for a quick, relaxing couple of hours, or you’re keen to spend a few days exploring the area, there’s a trail that’ll suit you. With the city having many iWay routes (urban cycle lanes and off-road shared pathways), it’s easy to get around by bike and onto the trails; the biggest challenge can be choosing which route to take.
Setting out from Hastings
For our cycling adventure, we r0de a good mix of trails, starting with a stay in central Hastings, with close access to the Wineries Ride on Wilson Road. Almost devoid of traffic, Wilson Road traverses through urban Flaxmere, onto Portsmouth Road and into the countryside. A dedicated cycleway runs alongside pasture-lined Stock Road. Taking a right onto Maraekakaho Road takes us past the Hastings Golf Course, where Fairways Café is open for locally-roasted Hawthorne Coffee.
We took a look at our handy Hawke’s Bay Trails’ map at the intersection with Ngatarawa Road. Four wineries were marked on Maraekakaho Road further along… but given that we needed to cycle back to Ahuriri, north of Napier, where we’d hired our mountain bikes from, we decided to not add any more kilometres in. It was probably just as well; we later learned that most cellar doors don’t open until 11am, and some only on certain days, so make sure you check opening times before planning your journey. The trail map and an information board map along Maraekakaho Road shows where various wine producers, such as Babich, Villa Maria, Delegats and Mission Estate, have parcels of land, with areas ranging in size from Te Awa’s 101ha to Tasman’s 2ha.
Along the winery-rich Ngatarawa Road, rows upon rows of green-leafed grapevines stretch to the distant, brownish hills. Pioneering winemakers Alwyn Corban and Garry Glazebroke converted the 120-year-old stables into Ngatarawa Wines, beginning wine production in the area in the 1980s.
Around halfway into our ride, we stopped for a breather by an information board about Bridge Pā Triangle. An area of 2,100 hectares, roughly bordered by Ngatarawa Road, State Highway 50 and Maraekakaho Road, this area has the largest concentration of vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. With its free-draining alluvial soil, renowned terroir and ideal climate of high sunshine hours and low rainfall, the area is a mecca for vineyards; if wine is your thing, take a little time to tailor your ride so you get a taste of the many options on offer.
Shelter trees gave us a little welcome shade on the flat, white, lime-sand trail under cloudless skies. We passed the closed red barn building housing Oak Estate which offers wine tasting and artisan foods before reaching Maraekakaho Road. Ash Ridge’s pizza, platters and wine tastings advertised on a roadside board were very tempting, but it was 1km away to the left. We went right.
Along flat Maraekakaho Road, grapevines edge the cycleway. In mid-December, the grapes are large and green; nearer to harvest time, the smell and sight of plump red grapes is very tempting to many cyclists!
We arrived at the magnificent Trinity Hill Winery bang on 11am, opening time. This impressive but simple white building with its five-metre high ceilings was originally a barrel hall. I took a wander in, and found a vast selection of wines on display, with plenty of benches, barstools and armchairs providing good spots for wine tastings. Glass windows at the back allow visitors to look onto dozens of barrels and stainless steel vats fermenting the wine. Outside, rugs strewn on the grass in the shade of trees are perfect for a picnic, or a pizza from the outdoor pizza oven,
but it was a little early for us; we still had some cycling to do!
Banners gave a lot of information on the Gimblett Gravels wine growing region, the 800 hectare area we were now cycling through. The area was once a channel of the Ngaruroro River and under water, and its gravel soils were first planted in vines in the early 1980s. Of these, 90% are red wine varieties, including Merlot, which makes up 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Our trail took us past the gates of Sacred Hill and Unison Vineyards, apple orchards where red apples break the green landscape, eventually reaching the icy-blue, braided Ngaruroro River. The Wineries Ride continues eastwards alongside the river and back to Hastings, but we were heading for Napier, so continued over the bridge to find, not much further on, a quaint scene of blooming, blue agapanthus between headstones out front of the white, wooden, St John’s Anglican Church, with Omahu Marae just opposite.
Apples with spirit
Around a kilometre down rural Korokipo Road we arrived at Zeffer Cider Co. & Taproom. The company began in a small shed in Matakana in 2008, where the cider was sold at the local farmers’ market. It proved so popular, larger premises were required, so the tanks were moved to Hawke’s Bay, where the business has expanded. Under sun umbrellas, looking out to apple trees where fruit is still green, we ate picnic lunches and, from two tasting paddles, enjoyed eight ciders between us. Rosé and the cinnamon-smelling Passionfruit and Apple Crumble were my favourites. Platters that arrived for other diners looked delicious; cheeses, cold meats, relishes, crackers and breads. It was difficult to drag ourselves away and return to cycling. I wished there was room in my panniers to carry a few bottles of cider.
Out of the taproom it was time to get back on the bikes. With no cycle trail at this point, it was a little frightening when large trucks hurtled past as we continued along Korokipo Road, SH50. Passing the greens of Napier Golf club, we came across Waiohiki Creative Arts Village featuring a shop and galleries showcasing paintings, plates, jewellery, sculptures, pottery, weaving and more, I could have bought plenty.
Chocolate and Lavender
About 100 metres on, Silky Oak Chocolates’ sign pointing down Links Road made for a hard decision. It has a museum telling the history of chocolate back to Mayan times, and a chocolate shop… but time was getting on and we wanted to visit a nearby lavender farm. Continuing on Waiohiki Road for about another half kilometre we spotted the easy-to-miss sign for Nevaria Lavender on narrow, gravel Hatas Lane. Near its end, tucked behind a tall hedge, was a picturesque, blooming lavender patch. On the edge of it, beneath a sun umbrella, two women were enjoying a scrumptious-looking high tea, teapot and china sporting lavender designs. Proprietor Maria told us there were several fields here, the oldest planted nine years ago. The high tea, at $30, includes a tour of the property. Grosso lavender, flowering in December and harvested in January, is grown for its high oil content, the farm producing around six litres of oil which is used in their range of soap, shampoo, conditioner and room sprays, available in the premises’ small store. We lingered awhile, reluctant to leave such a beautiful spot.
From here, it’s possible to ride back to the Ngaruroro River crossing and rejoin the Wineries Ride back into Hastings. We continued along Waiohiki Road, crossing the bridge over Tutakaeri River, which is on the Water Ride, and arrived into Taradale. Following the Water Ride signs to Awatoto we planned to take an iWay off it, the most direct route back into Napier, but we didn’t read the signs properly, and so ended up on the coast at Awatoto.
Riding northwards alongside SH51 with industrial buildings and traffic noise on a short length of the 11km trail, still part of the Water Ride, was a not entirely welcome break from the tranquillity of the trails. Beach Domain, however, brought back peacefulness, sea views and WWII bunkers. We entered Napier parallel with Marine Parade, passing the National Aquarium of New Zealand, sunken gardens, Napier Soundshell and Tom Parker fountain. The port area further north is a little ugly, the boardwalk, at sandy Ahuriri Beach where a few swimmers enjoyed the last of the afternoon’s sun, made up for it. Eight and a half hours after setting out, we reached Tākaro Trails’ base. After three days of riding, we were happy to return our bikes but had certainly enjoyed the variety of attractions and landscapes… and covered close to all of
the 200km! There are plenty more rides we couldn’t cover in such a short amount of time – but that’s for another story, another time.
The Water Ride is a 35km Grade One trail that can be broken down into shorter sections. Here you’ll discover some of Napier’s rich history along its coastline; the wetlands are home to some rare migrating birdlife and amateur oceanographers will enjoy the historic maritime beacons. The trail is mostly concrete, with some gated lime sand sections which cross a working farm. The loop, returning to Ahuriri, is flat and varied making for a great family ride. Carrying on through Taradale includes two wineries and the Puketapu Loop, following Puketapu River, could be added but results in a long day. The Puketapu Loop itself would make a relaxing, shaded, day ride with a stop
at the Puketapu Pub for lunch.
The Landscape Ride is an incredible journey through history, heritage, art, museums and animals. We took a little detour to Gannet Beach Adventures, where we rode their vintage tractor to Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony then cycled with the Tukituki River on one side and vineyards, orchards and pasture on the other to Hastings. This takes in Clive, Clifton, follows the Tukituki River through peaceful countryside and includes a few hills offering panoramic views. If riding to Clifton and doing the Cape Kidnapper’s tour, note that it is run at low tide. It may necessitate an overnight stay there.
And then, of course, there’s the enticingly-named Wineries Ride. (After all, it’s not a real visit to Hawke’s Bay without visiting at least one winery!) This trail is a loop of around 30km from Roy’s Hill Reserve in Fernhill, that traverses the western wine-growing region of Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pā and skirts Hastings.
For more information:
- Hawke’s Bay Cycle Trails – hbtrails.nz
- Tākaro Trails – takarotrails.co.nz
- Park over properties around Hastings – nzmca.org.nz
- Hastings Top 10 Holiday Park – hastingstop10.co.nz
- Zeffer Cider Co. – zeffer.co.nz
- Waiohiki Arts Village – waiohikiartsvillage.com
- Trinity Hill Cellar Door – trinityhill.com
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