For the final adventure ride of our “Top of the South” trip we wanted to explore more of the Tasman Great Taste Trail. Previously we had ridden from Kaiteriteri to Motueka and both really enjoyed it, so we wanted to try another section. We had been recommended to check out Spooners Tunnel (thanks Lee) and we figured we should be able to manage to get to Mapua in a single ride (around 55kms).
Logistically, because we were staying in Kaiteriteri, we needed to use a shuttle service to drop us at the trail head. A quick Google search suggested we should check out Kiwi Journeys who offered several different shuttle options for various sections of the trails. Along with with the shuttle service they have a range of rental bikes and equipment (like lights) and they gave us a really well designed and detailed trail map plus a ferry ticket. We were really impressed with their service and can highly recommend them.
Starting near the entrance to Spooners tunnel, this section of the trail had toilets available which was a welcome sight for some of the riders.
After a short climb from the trail head we arrived at the tunnel entrance, we switched on and turned up our headlights and headed in. At nearly 1.4kms long, you will definitely need a torch or headlights on your bike as from the entrance you cannot see the exit. When we rode through it was really quite cold (make sure you bring layers) and it was also quite foggy in the tunnel which made it a little eerie. The tunnel history is really interesting as is the significance to the region.
Once through the tunnel, we rolled down the valley a few kms to Belgrove and the former Belgrove Tavern. The trail follows the road for a while, be wary as cars ands trucks roll through here at 100km/h. Soon you will come across the Wai-iti domain and the only notable climb of the ride, don’t worry though, it was only a half a dozen uphill switchbacks before you are back to a flat roll through the picturesque domain.
Past the chicken farm and a bit further down the road you will come across your first swing bridge across Wai-iti river among the hop gardens. Follow the river a little further and you will make your way through Wakefield, a great place to stop and refuel with plenty of cafes & shops etc.
Carry on down the road… Further down the road… And then a little further down the road and you will come across a worthy diversion at the Lord Rutherford Memorial before you head into Brightwater. We stopped here for lunch at one of the cafes, I noticed out on the footpath was a bike tool station and a pump, a nice touch to look after the riders and their rides.
After a nice lunch we headed out of town and along the river to a large swing bridge over the Wairoa River. Following the road a few extra kms then a pathway towards Richmond, we missed a turn but still managed to find our way to the waterfront trail and headed towards Rabbit Island.
Along the waterfront section we rolled across another swing bridge, this one over the Waimea River. Teresa didn’t like this bridge so much as it seemed to be more swing than bridge, so for those of you less inclined to laugh it off like me, you may want to walk this one.
The trail continues along the waterfront for a few kms and then once you ride past the old abandoned radio navigation building you will turn right to ride over Rabbit Island. Rabbit Island is beautiful and features a MTB park, take your time and check the trails out. At the far end of the Island is the ferry landing which runs every 15 minutes or so to take you across to and from Mapua.
Teresa loves Mapua with its great shopping in the old cool stores plus an interesting variety of cafes bars and takeaways on the waterfront, it’s definitely a place worth spending some time.
This ride was a pretty big day out for us, we covered about 55kms and it took us around 5 hours including stops. The trail surface was mostly flat, easy riding and well graded, a pathway bike would ride these trails easily enough but you might want an eBike to help with the distance.