The Heretaunga Plains are known in Maori lore as the ‘Land of a Hundred Pathways’ and thanks to the development of the ‘Hawke’s Bay Trails’ so this is once again proving to be true!
Originally born out of the vision of the then Mayor of Napier, Barbara Arnott, to create a seaside pathway for Napier, The Rotary Pathway Trust was formed in 2002. The first section of pathway was constructed from Bay View to the Esplanade in Westshore and was immediately a ‘hit’ with the public. More ambitious plans immediately began to build a pathway along Marine Parade and the coast to Awatoto.
In 2009, Prime Minister John Key – as the 21st ‘surprise’ item of the national Job Summit held by the New Zealand Government – proposed the idea of building a cycling route to run the length of New Zealand ‘from Kaitaia to Bluff’. Although the original idea of a direct route was abandoned in favour of linking a network of existing paths and new sections, the project has been outstandingly popular. Termed the ‘Great Rides’, to sit alongside the ‘Great Walks’ system of famous tramping tracks, the individual routes are to be connected into a New Zealand-wide network forming Nga-Harenga, the N.Z. Cycle Trail.
The Hawke’s Bay Trails comprise three fully completed ‘Great Rides’ being the Water Ride, the Wineries Ride and the Landscapes Ride. Together they total 200kms of mostly off-road trails that crisscross the region and link most of the attractions in Napier, Hastings and Havelock North. Each route is unique in its own way. From luscious, green grapevines and orchards to low-lying wetlands where cyclists can pause to view rare wading birds and wildlife. Sweeping coastal paths give way to river trails atop Dutch style stopbanks giving an elevated view of the surrounding scene. Then there’s the lightly forested sections of the Puketapu Loop where the air is full of the scent of wild thyme and fennel. An ever-changing view!
Cycling expert Jonathan Kennett describes the Hawke’s Bay Trails as affording ‘the closest you can get to a European cycling holiday in N.Z.’ The trails are wide, smooth and mostly flat, perfect for enjoying the stunning countryside fuelled by some the finest food and wine to be found anywhere in the country……all well earned, guilt-free calories!