Hamilton to Waitara
Hamilton to Te Kuiti (82k)
Tent sites and camping huts are available 2 km from Hamilton town centre at the quiet and well-equipped Hamilton
City Holiday Park. The impressive Hamilton Gardens, featuring examples of typical gardens from a dozen or so
countries world-wide, are well worth a visit, even if you're not usually interested in horticulture. The Waikato
Museum in the town centre has interesting displays, and next door is the Museum's art gallery, housed in the old
Post Office and featuring a good selection of quality artworks, many for sale.
The road shoulder between Hamilton and Te Kuiti is good for most of the way, but occasionally rather narrow. The
road passes through attractive, rolling farming country, with moderate rolls and undulations all the way but no
real hills. There are two sizeable towns along the route, Te Awamutu and Otorohanga. The latter describes itself
as NZ's Kiwiana Capital, being home to NZ's first Kiwi house and having more recently expanded its scope to
include all things typically Kiwi - a good place to explore during an extended lunch break.
About 10 km before Te Kuiti is the turnoff to Waitomo and its famous glow-worm caves (14 kms return diversion).
Waitomo is situated in a pretty, limestone area that is riddled with caves and underground rivers. Several
operators offer underground caving and rafting trips of varying durations, but reckon with at least half a day
if you decide to be so adventurous. For the less ambitious, there are several options for walking dry-foot in
caves with spectacular displays of stalactites and stalagmites. Inquire at the
Waitomo Caves Museum, which has an informative display and sells
various packages of tours. The glow-worm caves are situated about 500 m away from the museum and the very
popular tour takes 45 minutes or so. The other caves are further away, accessed by road or a very pleasant
If you intend to visit only the glow-worm caves, the side-trip and cave tour can probably be done on the way to
Ke Tuiti. If you're tempted to do other tours in addition, you'll need more time and may prefer to stay at the
friendly, well-equipped but rather expensive Waitomo Top Ten camp site opposite the Museum. It offers both tent
sites and cabins.
Te Kuiti to Mokau (78k)
There's a small but friendly and well-equipped council-run campsite at the north-east corner of the Te Kuiti
domain. It has tent sites but no cabins. There are supermarkets, shops and cafés/take-aways a few hundred
meters away on Rora St.
The road to Mokau starts with a fairly steep, 150 m climb, and then settles down to moderate undulations that
increase in severity between Piopio and Mahoenui. The scenery is predominately rolling farmland. After Mahoenui,
the cycling becomes easy, as the road follows the Awakino River all the way to the sea. There are fine views
along the way, particularly through the scenic Awakino Gorge.
There's a café/pub at tiny Awakino, but you'll probably want to continue the final 3 km to the
well-situated, moderate-standard sea-side camp site 2 km north of Mokau, or to Mokau itself, where there's
another, rather small camp site which also houses the village's only, poorly-stocked shop. There's a small café/take-away
offering good-value, typical road-side meals about 100 m north of the shop, along the main road.
Mokau to Waitara (70k)
SH3 between Mokau and New Plymouth is heavily trafficked, often narrow and with many blind
corners. Keep yourself highly visible and ride defensively!
After undulating along the coast for 10 km or so, the road to Waitara turns inland. Except for Mount Messenger,
with its fairly-steep climb on the north face and its definitely-steep descent on the south, the road stays
almost flat as it twists and turns through the valleys, until it nears the coast again at Mimi. From there, the
gentle undulations change into rolls and the height differences increase somewhat as the road continues to
Waitara is a slight detour off the SH3, and has both shopping centre and camp site, the latter next to Marine
Park at the mouth of the Waitara River (west side). The large, reasonably-priced camp site is of moderate
standard but unfortunately lacks an indoor kitchen table or lounge area. There are tent sites but no cabins.
From Waitara one can continue along the SH3 to New Plymouth and the SH45 "Surf Highway", or along the SH3A
towards Stratford or the NZ Cycle Trail Forgotten World