The Great Taste Trail has grown this year, with the grand opening of the 29km Baton river extension which happened in April 2022. This section was created in order to take cyclists into more of Tasman’s remote and rugged countryside and away from some of the state highway section. The original route along the Moutere Highway between Woodstock and Tapawera was not our favourite section of the trail and we welcomed the addition of this remote and diverse section. The Great Taste Trail already passes through a range of different environments; coastal, fruit farms, bustling small towns, disused railway, forest, wineries, pastures and the Waimea plains.
The Baton bridge extension takes cyclists up the Baton river valley, mostly on well formed gravel road with some sealed sections. Traffic is scarce as you gain altitude (save plenty of battery if riding E-bikes!) and head away from the highway. Please note that phone reception comes and goes throughout this route. There are sections through farmland, pine forest and there are some great places to stop and skim stones / fossick (take care by fast flowing sections) on the edge of the picturesque Baton river.
Not far from the Baton saddle there is a new, impressive swing bridge, constructed to enable cyclists to safely traverse the rambling Baton river. Sections either side of the bridge are 14 / 15km long depending on the direction you travel.
And the bridge offers a nice open space to stop for a drink / snack break.
This extension is definitely classed as a hilly trail section, but gradients are steady, not severe. Having cycled it with standard bikes and E-bikes, we encourage people to take this route, rather than bypassing it on the Moutere Highway, unless you are very tired / lacking battery charge. The views and landscapes enrich the overall experience of the Great Taste Trail and cresting the saddle feels like a real achievement, before an enjoyable descent (please take this steadily). The large majority of the Great Taste Trail is relatively flat and we encourage you to regularly stop and admire the wildlife, farm animals, views and river.
Please be aware that there may be logging trucks along this route as there are forestry blocks being harvested at various times in the wider area. We have encountered very little traffic on our rides through this new section, but other cyclists have reported one or two large vehicles and we implore riders to anticipate these and ride with the preparedness of meeting a truck at some point.
We completed the route from Woodstock to Tapawera on this occasion and took the opportunity to stop at the Tapawera Hotel for a well deserved lunch. The Fijian curry was a delicious lunch without being too large or rich to make us bloated for the continued ride to our vehicle.
We also took some time in Tapawera to brush up on the history of this region. Nelson was the first center to invest in a railway in New Zealand with aspirations to connect to the West Coast and beyond to Christchurch. Unfortunately, decades of engineering and investment ended in the 1950’s as the improving road network (and the insurmountable Southern Alps) meant that railway was not a viable mode of transport and haulage. Below is a small section of the former railway and a former station (relocated from further down the line), which houses images and information regarding the development and notable contributors to this proud history.
The Tapawera Hotel serves food and drinks (including craft beers) to weary cyclists, as well as providing classic Kiwi accommodation in a unique rural township. Locals are used to the steady stream of cycle tourists and are friendly and engaging to talk to if you make the time and effort.
We chose to take the Moutere Highway (the former section of the Great Taste Trail) back to Woodstock where we began our ride. This provided us with the opportunity to compare riding this route with the new Baton Bridge extension. We both agreed that the hilly but scenic Baton route is preferable as long as you have enough juice in the batteries – either literally or metaphorically!
Before driving home fulfilled, we enjoyed a tasty slice purchased previously at the Burning Edge Café, Tapawera. The nutty slices are great energy replenishers.