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Opua – Kawakawa Trail (11km)
The trail between Kawakawa and Opua follows the old rail line. It is located right beside the Opua Harbour and follows the Waikare estuary. The ride is flat, easy to ride and perfect for families. It provides views of the estuary connecting to the Kawakawa River. The first 7 kilometers are cycle trail with the remaining 4 kilometres a vintage railway experience.
In 1868 a bush tramway opened between Kawakawa and Taumarere to carry coal for export. It was converted into a metal rail track in 1870. The disused track runs right through to Opua. The Bay of Islands Vintage Railway has restored the track as far at Taumarere and at 11.5 kilometers, it is one of the longest heritage railway lines in New Zealand.
A ride on Gabriel, the vintage steam train, is a great outing for all the family. It departs from the Kawakawa Rail Station at the western end of the town and runs through the countryside to Taumarere and back. The station in Kawakawa was built 1911 to replace the first one that was destroyed by fire, and is recognised by the Rail Heritage Trust and Far North District Council as being of heritage significance.
The cycle trail runs over fourteen bridges, through a tunnel and alongside the mangroves on the shores of the upper reaches of the Kawakawa River.
The ride into Opua gives you views across the protected waters of the inner reaches of the Bay of Islands and the Opua Marina. There is a cafe, toilets and car parking right where you start (or end) your ride. Be sure to stop and visit the 100 year old Opua General store perched out over the water on piles. Take a stroll out on the Opua Wharf. Opua is a bustling commercial port with a large marina and boatyard. It is a major port of entry for overseas yachts and a popular destination with its sheltered, deep water anchorages, yacht club and facilities for boaties. From Opua you can take the car ferry across the estuary to link up with the road to Russell.
There is a delightful walkway from Opua along the shore to Paihia, and if you pop over on the ferry the walkway takes you all the way to Russell. On the Russell side of the estuary is Okiato Point, the site of New Zealand’s first capital from 1840-1841. The well on the point is the only visible remnant of the old capital.