Opotiki & Motu
The Opotiki and Motu gem offers diverse mountain biking trails, the best known of which form the Motu Trails national cycleway a network including the beginner level Dunes Trail, the more demanding old Motu road, and the stunning Pakihi track. Other riding in this gem includes the Otipi Rd and Te Waiti track in remote backcountry, Tauranga Bridge loop in the Waioeka Gorge and along the stopbanks in Opotiki township. For those who prefer a bit of tarmac under their tyres, consider an out and back stretch eastward along SH35 or a run through the picturesque Waioeka Gorge from the SH2 summit at Traffords back towards Opotiki. A swimming hole at The Monument is worth stopping for on a hot summer day.
Effectively three separate but linked rides, the Motu Trails offers you everything from the beachside fun of the Dunes Trail, to the wilderness of the Old Motu Coach Rd and the adventure of the Pakihi Track.
The Dunes Trail is 10km of easy grade two-direction trail running east of Opotiki. There are many places to join the trail but the official start is in Memorial Park at the end of St John St in Opotiki. Cross the Pakowhai ki Otuaopuku bridge over the Otara river, and follow the signs. There are toilets at the start and at Hukuwai Beach.
Motu Road Trail is an intermediate trail following the historic Old Motu Coach Rd through remote bush country wilderness. It it two-way and open to vehicles. Riding inland from the coast, the first few kilometres are flat and on tarmac before the surface turns to gravel ahead of three big climbs. Roadside shelters and interpretation panels provide good reason to take a breather along the way. Motu is 54km up the road with Matawai being a further 14km on along flattish tarmac. Toilets are provided at the 37km mark which is also the start of the Pakihi Track.
Pakihi Track is suitable for confident riders, with its sometime rock-strewn surface and significant drops off the sides of the track being reason for caution. It is downhill only, following the Pakihi Stream along an historic stock route. A hut approximately half way down the 20km track offers a good stopping point with water and toilets available, as well as shelter in adverse weather and a landing point for helicopters. There is no cellphone coverage. Numbers on each of the 25 bridges provide useful reference points for emergency services should they be needed. The track starts 37km inland where there is a toilet and shelter on the Old Motu Coach Rd and ends 24km from Opotiki at the end of Pakihi Rd where there is another shelter and toilet. This is a good pick-up point for those who don’t want to ride the mainly flat and mostly sealed road back to Opotiki.
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Otipi Road Trail
Otipi road is a 4WD track which climbs steeply through bush to 960m altitude, follows the ridgeline, then descends steeply to the Motu Road at about 250m. It’s a 20km trip and you return the same way.
Riders generally drive 30km from Opotiki to Whitikau (via Old Motu Coach Rd to Toatoa, then Takaputahi Rd) where there is a DOC campsite. If you want to ride from Opotiki, plan for more than one day. The riding is not especially technical, but fitness is essential, and year round, you must prepare for the extremes of mountain weather. Cellphone coverage is available at the summit.
Te Waiti Track
Te Waiti Track is a 13km hiking trail that has been opened to mountain bikers and is suited to intermediate riders. The track is around 18km from Opotiki following Otara Rd then Te Waiti Rd which has a stream to ford. The ride starts from the Hastings Pole Bridge on Te Waiti Valley Rd and follows a benched track upstream to Te Waiti Hut. The gradient is mostly easy but there are some sections that are very narrow with steep drop-offs. The ride includes a stream crossing in a grassy clearing. The stream should not be crossed in high flow periods. A return trip takes 1-2 hours.
Opotiki Stop Bank Ride
The stopbanks which protect Opotiki town offer family-friendly riding with peaceful views of river and estuary, with the chance to spot wetland birdlife. The best place to start is Memorial Park at the end of St John St, where there’s parking, and toilets. Unless you want to ride or walk the Dunes Trail, don’t cross the Pakowhai ki Otuaopuku bridge over the Otara river. Instead, from the bridge, head either southeast up the Otara or southwest to the Opotiki Wharf and Waioeka River.
Tauranga Bridge Track
Tauranga Bridge Track is a 6km loop starting at the car park in the Waioeka Gorge 26km south of Opotiki on SH2. Once across the harp suspension bridge the loop track begins and can be ridden in either direction. Travelling clockwise, turn left and ride through regenerating farmland on the southern side of the track. The track then crosses over the stream to the northern bank and doubles back along the bush edge to the Waioeka River. There is a second stream-crossing at the mouth of the Tauranga Stream to get back to the Tauranga Bridge. Do not attempt to cross the river when it is flooded. The track is mostly rideable by skilled mountain bikers but in places, extreme care is required.