Gisborne to Wairoa
Often it can be confusing trying to find the best way out of a large town or city. Leaving Gisborne is simplicity itself - follow the main drag, Gladstone Road, out of town for about 10 km, eventually crossing the Waipaoa River. Directly after the bridge you come to a round-about. Turning left takes you south to Mōrere & Nūhaka via SH2; right takes you through back country roads via Rere to Matawai and the start of the Motu Trails; straight ahead takes you through Tiniroto to Wairoa.
Whichever way you decide to head out of Gisborne there is one thing you cannot avoid: hills...
Tinitoto Road is well known to Gisborne cyclists, being the return stage of the annual Gwaloop Cycle Challenge. There is certainly much to recommend this ride: it is very scenic with mature trees lining much of the road and providing good shade; there are great views; and opportunities for river swimming. But perhaps the best thing about this ride is that you will have the road almost entirely to yourself.
This day starts out flat enough through farmland and vineyards but after about 15 km you begin to climb the first of several hills - the somewhat inappropriately named Gentle Annie, arriving at Waerenga O Kuri (no services - the old store here is now closed) soon after the summit.
Another 20 or so kilometres brings you to Donneraille Park, a freedom camping area provided by the Gisborne District Council. This is a nice spot to stop for lunch and perhaps a swim in the Hangaroa River. Camping here is not really an option for cyclists though, since all campers are required to have their own chemical toilet.
Soon after, and conveniently situated at about the half way point, you arrive at Tiniroto where there is a great pub (meals, showers, and camping for a nominal fee).
Beyond Tiniroto there's one more small hill with the remainder of the way a generally downhill ride through Marumaru to Wairoa, a mid-sized town with supermakets and cafés, but no cycle shop.
Many cyclists choose to continue through to Wairoa along SH2. The drawcard here is a stopover at Mōrere (campground, store/tearooms) and the wonderful Mōrere Hot Springs. This is a natural thermal spa set in a conservation reserve. The perfect way to unwind after a day tackling the 507m Wharerata Hill.
Day two takes you through Nūhaka (store, service station) and onward along generally flat roads through Whakaki to Wairoa.
There is one further option which takes you through a little-known forestry road to Mahia Peninsula. This route follows highway 2 as far as the summit of Wharerata Hill. But now, rather than continue along the highway, turn left into Paritu Road, which winds its way down through forestry and farmland to Mahanga Bay. Often rough and occasionally little more than a track it is none-the-less rideable, though muddy and best avoided if wet. There are several gates to go through before the road once more returns to gravel as it winds into Mahanga Bay.
Mahanga Bay (toilets) is a broad and beautiful swimming/surfing beach. A lovely place to stop, but with no shops, no campground and no fresh water supply, camping is not an option.
Follow the now flat, sealed road out of Mahanga and after crossing the bridge turn left into Kaiwaitau Road, riding along the picturesque Maungawhio Lagoon to Mahia Beach where there is a campground, store and pub. It was at Mahia Beach that Moko the dolphin first made his appearance, where he would seek out and swim with people in the bay. For my money, though, the best beaches are found further round the peninsula along Mahia East Coast Rd (café just past Mahia). A great day-trip if you have the time.
Day 2 takes you out along the beach through Opoutama, eventually turning inland to rejoin highway 2 at Nūhaka.