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Every year, thousands eagerly tackle the resort town’s Round the Lake Cycle Challenge and other notable bike events. However, those who don’t need a 160km lake circuit to work up an appetite should look to savvy locals who have their own favourite year-round ‘eat and ride’ routes.
These range from an hour-long, almost-flat urban amble to longer rides and more technical mountain biking. Along the way, pedallers can expect to sample a sunset pizza spot, a French bakery, a Greek breakfast, honey-based drinks and condiments, a prawn fishing spot and a café inside a shipping container. With some luck and advance booking, it is even possible to cycle to the restaurant inside one of New Zealand’s most famous luxury lodges.
Some trail charms are obvious. Scenic tracks cut through native bush, and alongside Lake Taupō, they follow the mighty Waikato River and take in spectacular Huka Falls.
Other lesser-known tracks take advantage of a disused traffic bypass or cut in behind a resort to follow a pretty stream. Or ride past a noteworthy film location. Or cross an impressive dam to reach a geothermal power station.
All promise culinary rewards.
One family favourite begins at Lake Taupō Marina, and hugs the waterfront along the Great Lake Pathway. It crosses directly in front of Northcroft Reserve where the aroma of fried chicken and rewena burgers is likely to lure bikers into the weekly Market Central Taupō on Sunday mornings. On Thursday evenings over summer, the park is also home to food trucks offering dinner on the go, at Dinner at the Lake.
Otherwise, continue along the shore to Two Mile Sailing Club for salmon breakfast bagels, summer ice creams or sunset drinks and pizza seven days a week.
Further on, Five Mile Bay is the turnaround point. Either loop back toward town or veer off alongside SH1 on a dedicated, paved bike path.
This new cycle lane begins near Taupō Airport and curves around the eastern edge of town, taking in two special food stops.
Industrie French Kitchen is a daytime café renowned for its delicious cooked breakfasts, tempting treats (think hazelnut praline pastries and chocolate custard twists) and vast array of sweet and savoury cabinet food. Next door, Paris Delice specialises in French baked treats such as oversized meringues and mille feuille, éclairs, Florentines, quiche and crispy gluten-free almond biscuits.
At the Broadland Road intersection, cyclists should head west towards central Taupō and its multitude of excellent eateries.
From here, a second bike trail, dubbed the Huka Falls Geothermal Loop, begins on the northern edge of downtown at the intersection of Spa Park and Country Avenue. Just past the Taupō Bike Park jump track, it is worth dismounting and taking a minor detour to the free geothermal swimming spot in Otumuheke Stream. This is also a handy place to grab coffee and cake at Lil Something café, inside a converted shipping container.
Rejoin the grade 3 mountain bike track to loosely follow the Waikato River past the Huka Falls lookout towards Huka Prawn Park, where visitors can fish for their supper or just tuck into pre-caught giant freshwater prawns in the riverside restaurant.
Those with energy to burn can tackle yet another loop track and enter the steamy heart of the region’s geothermal power production. This trail skirts past two power stations and crosses Aratiatia Dam, where floodgates open at regular times to provide spectators with a roiling, churning watery display.
This is also the area where a well-known fight movie fight scene was filmed. In the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation Of Smaug, combatants came to blows while riding barrels over these rapids.
Cyclists can opt to take a detour on the western riverbank where Karetoto Road leads to Huka Honey Hive and a bewildering array of honey-based edibles. Think honey-sesame cashew nuts and manuka honey toasted marshmallow, to pickled onions in rum and honey.
Just down the road, tuck into a Greek-style lamb burger loaded with tzatziki, haloumi cheese and caramelised onions at Kefi At The Hub café.
Pop next door to FourB, which sells, services and rent bikes and its staff offer excellent advice for anyone continuing on to the nearby Craters Mountain Bike Park. The park, less than 1km from Kefi and FourB, offers another 55km of purpose-built grade two to five trails. The bike business also provides a shuttle service to the renowned Great Lake Trails that collectively cover 85km of glorious grade three mountain bike riding.
From FourB, those heading back towards town can take a paved cycle path alongside SH5, or return via the same Rotary Ride trail that showcases the river and offers peeks of historic Huka Lodge. During winter months, the famously luxurious lodge sometimes opens its restaurant to paying diners who are not staying overnight.
Bikers willing to venture a little further out to eat and ride can do both in Tūrangi. Tongariro River Trail is a delightful 15km loop ride along either side of the famous trout fishing waterway.
It’s an easy, undulating grade 2 track that roams through native bush and urban areas and crosses a couple of suspension bridges. Extend the adventure with a visit to Tongariro National Trout Centre, where visitors can opt to catch a rainbow trout and have it smoked on-site.
Mere metres from the trail, on Taupahi Road, Creel Tackle House & Café is a gem of a place where everything from the brioche and the pear tart pastry to the chorizo beef burger patty is made on-site. This diminutive eatery is tucked into the back of a charming, historic fishing tackle shop.
Discover the Taupō region's culinary accommodations - where gourmet picnics, degustation dinners, and the chance to have your freshly caught trout prepared by a top chef await. Experience unmatched comfort and style at bed and breakfasts, hotels, villas, or luxurious lodges.