After a big day of exploring the Waihaha Trail, we were rested, warm and fed, so it was time to plan the next day’s ride. On the menu; K2K and W2K. These are respectively the classic and likely the most ridden trails in the Great Lake Trail network.
It began with a shuttle out to the start of the Kawakawa section off State Highway 32 at Orakau – just a short 20-minute journey from Kinloch. You can either use a shuttle service like FourB, who will pick you up from your accommodation, or use two cars (one to get you out there and one to collect the car from the other end once finished). The first 10km of the trail is a nice flowing gradual downhill and 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 here. If, like us, 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 the fast and flowing descent down to the village of Kinloch.
With the first half of the day ticked off and now back in Kinloch, we called into the local watering hole, The Tipsy Trout, for a quick beer and burger. After lunch we set off to tackle the W2K, which starts from Kinloch, goes over the eastern peninsula of Whangamata Bay and into Whakaipo Bay.
Again, this section has two distance options. The shorter option is a gentle grade 2-3, 13km in length, with only a few scenic stops along the route. Including the headland loop adds on an extra 9.5km, but is a little more physical than the main route. The ducking and diving through the trees as the trail twists also mentally lengthens this extra section, but you do find yourself out on the edge of the peninsula with a few stunning vistas over Lake Taupo that make it all worthwhile. Before setting out on this section be sure to organise getting back from Waikaipo Bay. There is road access into the bay, so dropping a vehicle there is an option. The other is booking a water taxi to collect you off the shores of the bay and jet you back around to Kinloch.
It’s worth noting that all sections of the Great Lake Trail are ridable in both directions, so you can choose to tackle these trails from either direction. Many Kinloch locals will ride from the village over the headland (in either direction) before returning via the same route. Both headland rides are around 10km each way, so it’s more than achievable to ride there and back within a few hours.
Overall, the Great Lake Trail builds on Taupo’s other mountain biking success and offers up several days’ worth of two-wheeled, ‘off the beaten path’ fun. The great thing about Taupo is that there are tracks suitable for family fun on bikes and for dedicated mountain bikers too. If the weather doesn’t play ball for riding or you want a little time out, then Taupo is your playground. With near on every tourist attraction you can think of and a wide variety of eateries, you won’t get bored in Taupo.
Tips and Helpful Links:
· Base yourself in Kinloch for ease of logistics, but shuttles do operate out of Taupo
· Book ahead – water taxi and shuttles
· Relax plenty – ideally with a locally brewed beer in hand
Words & Images: Cameron Mackenzie
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