The first 10km of the trail is a nice gradual downhill which takes you through stunning native wetlands before dropping you into the secluded Kawakawa Bay. This is a great place to stop for morning tea or lunch, and during summer is the perfect place for a swim. You can also camp here. For those that would prefer an easy ride, you can book the water taxi back to Kinloch from Kawakawa Bay. If you’re keen to carry on, a 3km climb up onto the Te Kauwae headland is rewarded with sweeping views of the lake and western bays, before you begin the fast-flowing descent to Kinloch.
At the Orakau carpark (20-minute drive from Kinloch), you will find a shelter with a map, information board and a toilet. From here, the trail follows the beautifully clear Orakau Stream thorugh regenerating native bush and past Harakakeke (native flax) wetlands down towards Kawakawa Bay. You will ride across boardwalks, past waterfalls and over ravines as the trail makes its way down towards the lake shore.
This trail is a dream to ride with the generally downhill profile of the first half lending itself to beautifully laid out corners and berms, giving it incredible flow. The trail boasts some stunning scenery and native birdlife – tuis and bellbirds in particular – and there are seats along the way at the best vantage points, so you can rest your legs while taking in the view.
As you near the beach at Kawakawa Bay you will cross two bridges that span some really deep ravines. It’s worth stopping and peering over the sides as the ravines are quite spectacular. After 10.25 km you will emerge onto the beach at the stunning Kawakawa Bay. There are views across the lake to the mountains of Tongariro National Park, and during summer this is the perfect place for a swim in the clear blue waters of Lake Taupō.
A shelter and campsite lies in a clearing at Kawakawa Bay, and you will often see rock climbers here. There is a long drop toilet available but no cooking facilities on site. Please bring your own tent and light no fires.
During summer, Kawakawa Bay is also frequented by boaties and walkers who have come over from Kinloch, so please remember this is a two way track if you are riding over to Kinloch.
From Kawakawa Bay, a 3km switchback climb will take you up onto the Te Kauwae headland before you begin the fast and flowing descent down to the village of Kinloch. Your climbing efforts will be rewarded by magnificent, sweeping views from the top of the hill up towards the western bays. Once down the other side, the trail emerges on the lake front in Kinloch where it continues along the lake shore on a grassy path before reaching the carpark opposite the Kinloch Domain.
There is a shelter and bike wash area on the Kinloch Domain. Make sure you head straight over to the Kinloch Store for a woodfired pizza (in summer) or their famous Grand Loch burger, or hit the Tipsy Trout for a beer, coffee or gourmet meal.
If you want to continue riding after completing the Kawakawa trail, you can carry on from Kinloch and ride the W2K section of the Great Lake Trail over to Whakaipo Bay.
The start of the trail is 20-minutes drive from Kinloch at the Orakau carpark. The trail and carpark is well sign-posted off Whangamata Road. You can either park your car at the start of the trail or arrange for a shuttle to transfer you from the Kinloch Domain. The trail ends back in Kinloch (or you can arrange a water taxi pick up from Kawakawa Bay if you are wanting a shorter ride).
If you are riding the trail from Kinloch, you can leave your car at the Kinloch Domain and arrange for a shuttle from Orakau carpark to return you to your vehicle.
|Time||2.5-3.5 hours cycling | 6 hours walking|
|Direction||The trail can be ridden in both directions, however we recommend riding west to east, starting with a ground shuttle and finishing in Kinloch.|
|Access, transport & guides||Park your vehicle in Kinloch and arrange for your shuttle to drop you off at the start of the Kawakawa section (Orakau carpark, Whangamata Road) - just 20 minutes from Kinloch.|
|Water taxi||A pre-booked boat transfer is available from Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch (for those wishing to complete the first 10.25 km only of this section). A great option for those with low fitness levels or for children. Bookings are essential.|
|Dog access||Yes, dogs allowed|
|Trails nearby||Waihaha section and W2K section of the Great Lake Trail|