The Waihaha section of the Great Lake Trail is the most remote, so be prepared for an early start. It’s 40 minutes’ drive or shuttle from Kinloch and is the longest of the three sections. The ride starts from the Waihaha River Bridge and has been built with flowing corners, fun downhills, and some short switchback climbs to keep you honest, but your efforts will be rewarded with postcard-worthy lookouts along the way. Towering volcanic rock cliffs, spectacular views and a waterfall hidden deep in the Waihaha Valley are among some of the highlights on this section of the trail.
The final part of the ride drops you down past the sacred Kotukutuku Falls to the remote aquamarine waters of Waihora beach. This is the perfect spot for a swim as you wait for your water taxi to pick you up.
It is important to plan ahead as the remote nature of this section requires both a shuttle to the start, and a water taxi from Waihora Bay back to Kinloch. Pack plenty of food and water and take your time to enjoy all the stunning sights and sounds along the way. Be sure to stop at Echo Rock where you could be tricked into thinking you’re underneath a waterfall.
Riding the trail
At the Waihaha River carpark (4478-4184 Western Bay Road, Waihaha), you will find a shelter with a map and information board (note the toilet is 50m or so down the track). From here, the trail follows the river downstream for a few hundred metres before it crosses the river on a swingbridge.
The trail then gently climbs up onto the cliffs above the river and follows the course of the river to the junction at the end of Waihaha Road. This first part of the trail has great views of the Waihaha River canyon and waterfall. Be sure to stop and view the beautiful Waihaha Waterfall from the trail above. The trail is surrounded by Tanekaha dominated native bush and large outcrops of weathered volcanic rocks.
At the junction at the end of the Waihaha Road you will see a directional sign (Waihaha Road is really a farm track that ends at the edge of the bush, so you won’t see a sealed road as such). The trail continues from here down to Kotukutuku Landing on what is known as the Waihora section of the trail.
If you want a shorter ride, you can pre-arrange for transport to pick you up from the end of Waihaha Road, which is 13km from the start of the trail. Alternatively you can ride out Waihaha Road and turn left onto the main highway back to the trail start at Waihaha River Bridge, a distance of approximately 9.5km.
From the Waihaha Road junction, the trail continues along towards Kotukutuku Landing. This section is extraordinarily beautiful with big blue skies and expansive views from the Waihora lookout across Lake Taupo to the majestic volcanoes of Tongariro National Park.
Ride amongst vast stands of Kamahi, through volcanic rock formations and past the intriguing Echo Rock before you start to descend down the Kotukutuku Stream via the unique engineering feat of bridges, platforms and boardwalks. You will emerge onto the beach in a tranquil bay where you will meet your pre-booked boat transfer across to Kinloch.
Transport out from the end of the Waihaha section of the trail at Kotukutuku Landing is by pre-booked boat shuttle only. There is no trail link between the end of the Waihaha section and the Kawakawa section.
The start of the trail is 40-minutes drive from Kinloch. The trail and carpark is well sign-posted off Western Bay Road (4478-4184 Western Bay Road, SH32).
We recommend parking your car at the Kinloch Domain and arranging a shuttle to the start of the track. It is important to plan ahead as the remote nature of this section requires a water taxi from the end of the trail at Waihora Bay back to Kinloch. If you are keen to ride further, you can arrange for the water taxi to drop you at Kawakawa Bay to ride the second half of the Kawakawa section of the Great Lake Trail back to Kinloch. Please book ahead.
|Time||4-5 hours cycling | 7.5 hours walking|
|Direction||The trail can be ridden in both directions, however we recommend riding west to east.|
|Access, transport & guides||Please arrange for your shuttle to drop you off at the start of the Waihaha section at 4478-4184 Western Bay Road, Waihaha and for a water taxi to pick you up at the end of the track.|
|Water taxi||Yes (from trail end to Kinloch). Book water taxi prior to departure.|
|Dog access||Yes, dogs allowed|
|Trails nearby||W2K section and Kawakawa section of the Great Lake Trail|