Cycling the Spooners Tunnel
The next section of the Great Taste Trail Rail Route linking the villages of Kohatu, Belgrove & Wakefield is almost complete, with the final 4 km section opening on Sunday 29 September 2019. This section (which is just south of the village of Wakefield) allows cyclists to follow the trail from Kohatu to Wakefield through the Spooners Tunnel and continue to Brightwater, Richmond, Stoke & Nelson.
With the completion of this Kohatu to Nelson section of the Great Taste Trail, the construction team will move their focus to the section from Kohatu to Tapawera. While there will be 1 km of this piece built this year, there is no construction date yet for any further sections towards Tapawera. Follow this link for a trail map.
One way to ride this section is to start at Kohatu (where you will find the Flat Rock Cafe, previously the Kohatu Pub) and the ride back to Stoke (location of The Gentle Cycling Company) is then virtually all downhill. Highlights include the scenic heritage landscapes between Wakefield and Brightwater, and the winery area between Brightwater and Stoke. The distance from Kohatu to Stoke is 46.5 km and each section is described below.
Kohatu to Norris Gully, 7 km
From Kohatu through to Norris Gully, the trail runs alongside pine forest, near the state highway. Norris Gully is a rest area near the highway, and is located close to the southern entrance to the tunnel.
Norris Gully to Belgrove, 8 km
Approaching the Spooners Tunnel, the trail follows the route of the old railway line. At 1.4 km long, the dis-used rail tunnel is completely dark and lights are required. Emerging into the sunlight again, there is a long gentle downhill, again following a railway line cutting, to the next settlement of Belgrove. Belgrove was a terminus for the railway and the restored railway windmill here one of only two in NZ. The Belgrove Tavern is located here - opening hours vary.
Belgrove to Wakefield, 9.5 km
There are some very scenic, expansive rural views on this section of the ride. Leaving Belgrove the trail passes close to a hop garden and then meanders around the side of the Wai Iti river for some distance, with opportunities for swimming along the way. The countryside here is dotted with sheep, disused tobacco kilns, and some lovely colonial farmhouses. There is a 1.6 km section which runs along the edge of the state highway, where the highway has been widened to allow this to occur. The final (and newest) again follows a river edge towards the historic village of Wakefield. Close to Wakefield, the trail joins a public walking/cycling trail on the edge of the village, to emerge in the village center. There are cafes, a bakery, an old pub and small supermarket in Wakefield for refreshments.
Wakefield to Brightwater, 8 km
The section of trail from Wakefield to Brightwater is flat virtually all the way. Leaving the village, the trail passes the St Johns church, which is the second oldest church in NZ. The churchyard on the hill provides great views down the valley to the sea. From here, the trail includes a short section through a remnant totara forest, then follows the side of a quiet country road, dotted with large old oak trees, towards Brightwater. There is a café, a Sprig and Fern pub and a small supermarket in Brightwater.
Brightwater to Stoke, 14 km
This last section of the ride is on the Waimea Plains, where the trail passes close to a number of wineries, including one section where the trail goes right through the grapes. The trail skirts the town of Richmond and then Stoke. If planning an overnight before continuing your ride on the Coastal Route, Stoke or Richmond are convenient locations to stay. If returning to The Gentle Cycling Company in Stoke, our maps will provide the route for you.