One of New Zealand's greatest rides: Remutaka Cycle Trail
Actor, travel writer and cycling fan Elisabeth Easther tells us why Remutaka Cycle Trail is one of her favourite rides in Aotearoa
I’m an enthusiastic fan of Aotearoa’s many fabulous cycleways, and I consider myself very fortunate to have tackled some of them in my role as a travel writer. This also means that from time to time, people will ask me about my favourite rides - which is my cue to wax lyrical about the scenic wonder that is Remutaka Cycle Trail.
Graded 2 - 4 (easy - advanced), it’s a decent ride and you’ll want to be fairly fit, but it’s worth every drop of sweat because this 115km marvel is bursting with spectacular natural views as it transports riders through all manner of landscapes from urban Petone to rural Wairarapa, alongside pretty rivers, lakes and windswept coastal paths.
I started my ride at the pleasant Petone foreshore but you can also start from Orongorongo. From there we navigated through Lower Hutt and along the boulder-strewn Hutt River before heading up and over the Remutaka Ranges, where the Wairarapa engulfed us in its rural charms. Two days of riding later, on the third day, it was back out towards Eastbourne and, if the weather hadn’t decided to pack right up as we were finishing, we’d have made it back to Petone where we began.
While you could probably knock the whole thing off in a day, if you’re Sarah Ulmer, I reckon three to four days is ideal - to ensure you have time to smell the roses, drink a little wine if you’re that way inclined, and read the information panels about everything from railway relics to wildlife.
Railway tunnels are one of many highlights along this trail, I counted five, the longest of which measured 480m. Between Cross Creek and Wairarapa Moana, I was especially enchanted by the bridges - New Zealand's oldest truss bridge can also be found here - and native bush with busy birds, tui and piwakawaka among them, noting our presence and presumably wondering if wheels are as much fun as wings. As for the vast sparkling lake, it seemed as big as the ocean, so beautiful and unspoilt, and seeing it up close, I fervently wished I could make time standstill.
Ride alongside the Hutt River before heading inland to travel through historical railway tunnels to explore Wairarapa wine country
Gust-buffeted Ocean Beach is another source of wonder, sturdy baches doing their level best to stay upright in the winds that whistle through this way. Thanks to the elements, the wild southern coast is utterly invigorating, and bird watchers will find much to slow them down - but do rug up, dress smart and pack a decent picnic as you’ll find few shops from Onoke Spit to Eastbourne.
The Remutaka Cycle Trail is one of those rides that, as you’re finishing it, you’ll simultaneously envisage returning to do it all over again. From end to end Remutaka Cycle Trail is totally terrific - take my word for it!
Guided rides & accommodation
With everything from all-inclusive cycle tour packages and fully supported day-trips. They offer bike and electric bike hire with all the bike-packing accessories you could ask for, shuttles and bag transfers and accommodation and food services. They're also happy to give free advice to DIY adventurers.
Whether you are just wanting to hire bikes or looking for luxury supported and guided tours, Green Jersey offer different options to explore the Remutaka Rail Trail in a day or spread your tour over a week. They offer a comprehensive service including providing shuttles and booking accommodation and a range of bikes are available for hire.
Find a comfy place to rest your tired-but-happy body at the end of a long day cycling on the trail. From motels and backpackers to hotels and farm stays and luxury cottages - there's something for everyone.