Mountains to Sea Trail • Grade 2 - 3+ • 238km

Join a group on our scheduled tours, or book your own custom dates if you have a group of your own.

Guided and self-guided package tours available.

THE MOUNTAINS TO SEA TRAIL

Just as the name suggests, the Mountains To Sea trail stretches 238km from the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in the volcanic central plateau to the Tasman Sea at Wanganui. This is the most diverse trail in the NZ Cycle Trail network. This multi day journey combines purpose built cycle trail, both gravel and paved rural backroads, a historic coach road and access tracks of pioneering settlers. Last but not least, it also a unique river experience which is essential to the logistics of the ride.

Length: 238km        Grade: 2-4           Seasons: Best ridden in the dryer months (Oct - Apr)

The Mountains To Sea Trail has 6 distinct sections, plus an alternate start.

1) The Ohakune Mountain Road  16km • Grade 3 • Sealed road

2) The Ohakune Old Coach Road 14km • Grade 2+ • Trail

3) Ruatiti Road 43km • Grade 2 • Gravel road and sealed road

4) Mangapurua Track 38km • Grade 2-3 • Trail

5) Whanganui River 28km • Choose a jet boat or canoe

6) Wanganui River Road 87km • Grade 2 • Sealed Road

The alternate "northern arm" of the Mountains To Sea Trail starts in National Park village. This section also has 3 distinct sections of it’s own:  

1) Fishers Track 17km • Grade 2-3 • Trail and gravel road

2) Upper Retaruke and Oio Roads 35km • Grade 2 • Gravel road

3) Kaiwhakauka Track 15km • Grade 2-4 • Trail

***The jet boat shuttle from Mangapurura Landing is essential to the logistics of the ride. The trail ends at the river. There is no other way out, you must take the boat (or canoe). Tread Routes will arrange your jet boat ride for you when you book a shuttle with us.

The Mangapurua Landing is the place where trail meets the river and where the jet boat shuttle will pick you up. It is just 3km passed the Bridge To Nowhere.  The landing is in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops no cafes and no mobile reception.

Several kilometers downstream (but only part way to Pipiriki) is the Bridge To Nowhere Lodge, which is only accessible from the river. Tread Routes can arrange for you to stay the night there, if it suits the logistics of your experience. 

In Pipiriki, the village where the jet boat drops you off, there is nice campsite with a kitchen, lounge, and a couple of cabins. This great place is the HQ of Whanganui River Adventures, who operate a jet boat service.

Please note the Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka tracks are in a very remote area. There is no mobile reception on the trail, except for a very limited amount at the Mangapurura Trig (the high point of the trail).

The full 238km Mountains To Sea Cycle Trail takes 3 - 5 days to ride. Visit out Mountains To Sea Trail packages page for more info.

Logistics and shuttle pricing for day trips to ride sections of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail:

BRIDGE TO NOWHERE SECTION 

Mangapurua Track via Ruatiti:
Ride from the Ruatiti Road End to Mangapurua Landing • 38km • Grade 3
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from Ohakune to the Ruatiti Road End (1hr)
Ride to the Mangapurua Landing (4 - 6 hrs)
Jet boat ride down the Whanganui River to Pipiriki (45min)
Shuttle from Pipriki to Ohakune (1hr)
$220 per person (including jet boat ride)
This can be done with round trip transport from National Park for the same price
Add an extra $20 per person for round trip transport from Taupo
 
Ride the Kaiwhakauka and Mangapurua Tracks via Whakahoro:
Whakahoro to Mangapurua Landing • 42km • Grade 3 - 4
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from National Park to Whakahoro (1hr 45min)
Ride to the Mangapurua Landing (5 - 6 hrs)
Jet boat ride down the Whanganui River to Pipiriki (45min)
Shuttle from Pipriki to National Park (1hr)
$220 per person (including jet boat ride)
Add an extra $20 per person for round trip transport from Taupo
Add an extra $30 per person for round trip transport from Ohakune
 
OHAKUNE OLD COACH ROAD SECTION
 
Ride from Horopito to Ohakune • 17km • Grade 2
Logistics for this ride with a round trip shuttle:
Shuttle from Taupo to Horopito (1hr 45min)
Ride to Ohakune (2 - 3 hrs)
Shuttle from Ohakune to Taupo (2hrs)
$120 per person
This can be done with transport from Turangi, Whakapapa Village, or National Park Village for the same price.
 

* Note about the Bridge To Nowhere Section: If you are riding the Bridge To Nowhere Section, you must also have a boat transfer at the end of the ride. Tread Routes will arrange your boat transfer for you when you book a shuttle with us. The price of the boat transfer is $90 per person for 3 to 11 people. It is $135 per person if you are a group of 2 and there are no others on the trip.

Pricing for the two way/round trip shuttles above is for day trips only. If you require each half ofa particular shuttle service on different days, the price will be different. Contact us for details.

Guiding: Tread Routes is your Central North Island mountain bike guide, we have the largest range of trails to choose from and offer the most options. Our expert guides will not only show you way and provide insight into our land, but also teach you some bike skills as we go. With our guided experience you can be assured that you are in the best of care while in our remote wilderness.

Bike hire: We provide high quality hard tail mountain bikes for $60 per day. Most of our hire bike are in the $1000 - $1500 retail price range. High end dual suspension bikes are available on request. For your enjoyment it is important that you hire the right size bike, so we are here to help. When you contact us to make your booking the right information to get you on the right size bike. Helmets are provided with bike hire.

Best places to park:

Ohakune: at the Cycle Trail car park in between the The Junction and the Railway Station (near the Powderhorn) There is a big New Zealand Cycle Trail sign here.

National Park: (if you are doing the alternate Northern start) at the Station Cafe

Taupo: the boat harbour near Stir Cafe (if you have arranged round trip transport with Tread Routes)

Most commonly ridden sections of the Mountains To Sea Trail:

Ohakune Old Coach Road

Park in Ohakune at the Cycle Trail car park in between the The Junction and the Railway Station, and arrange for Tread Routes to drop you off at the Horopito end of the trail.

Mangapurua Track  (AKA: Bridge To Nowhere Track)

Park in Raetihi or Ohakune if you are want to ride Mangapurua Track only. Our shuttle will pick you up from either of these locations. There 4 parts your round trip journey for day:

1)Shuttle from Raetihi (or Ohakune or Taupo) to the Ruatiti Rd end.

2)You ride the 38km Mangapurua track to Bridge To Nowhere followed by the Mangapurua Landing

3) Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki

4) Shuttle from Pipiriki back to Raetihi (or Ohakune or Taupo)

Our recommendation for moderate to experienced mountain bikers is to add the more adventurous Kaiwhakauka Track. The logistics are similar (to the common trip described above), but the round trip is best started from National Park (or Taupo). 

The 4 parts of the round trip journey are as follows:

1) Shuttle from National Park to Whakahoro

2) You ride the 42km to the Bridge To Nowhere followed by the Mangapurua Landing. This includeds the Kaiwhakauka Track and the best part of the Mangapurura Track.

3) Jet boat ride downstream to Pipiriki

4) Shuttle from Pipiriki back to National Park (or Taupo)

The final section of Mountains to Sea Trail is the Whanganui River Road. The road, which is a classic NZ cycle touring route is now sealed from Pipiriki all the way to SH4. The road takes riders through historic settlements that grew from the river being used as essential transport arterial to the Whanganui high country in centuries past. The River Road meets SH4 just 10km north of Whanganui, cyclists must ride the highway into Whanganui. Once in the city the Mountains To Sea Trail then follows paved cycle paths along the river bank to North Mole at the very tip of the river mouth at the Tasman Sea.

Scroll past the photos below for an in depth description of the Kaiwhakauka Track and The Mangapurura Track:

Below is an in depth description of the Kaiwhakauka Track and The Mangapurura Track:

The Mountains To Sea trail has 4 sections of trail that are nicely connected with beautiful remote public back roads, most of which are narrow winding gravel roads that are steep at times. The 4 sections of trail are: The Old Coach Road, The Fishers Track, The Kaiwhakauka Track, and the Mangapura Track (also known as the Bridge to Nowhere track).

The Kaiwhakauka Track:
This track starts the unique location where the Oio Road end meets a meander of the Wanganui River. At this cool place you will find The Retaruke Station, Blue Duck Lodge, and DOC campsite. The beginning of the Kaiwhakauka Track is uphill along private farm track through the Retaruke Station which is a huge working sheep and beef farm that spreads through the valleys. The track follows the east bank of the Kaiwhakauka stream to the large swing bridge that has been built directly in and over the original “Depot Bridge” which is the last standing truss bridge of its type in the district. Just after the bridge the track passes by the old depot building which was originally built to store supplies that came off the river boat service and were destined for the valley settlers. The track winds through pasture lands, regenerating bush and hugs the hillside around many steep banks above the river. The track narrows for a few km before arriving at the Wanganui National Park boundary.

The track changes significantly as it goes into the park. It is an upgraded tramping track so it is narrower than the farm 4x4 track and had many bridges of variying sizes, some cross dips and muddy holes whereas others allow riders to cross stream that pour off the valley walls down to the Kaiwhakauka stream below. Much of the track is benched so there are significant drops to the left side provided superb view of the fern lined valley in all its green splendour. Much of the trail surface is packed soil and there are some rocky corners and tight approached to some of the bridges. Along the way riders will notice many signs with the surnames of the people who once settled the land. This track was once the access way to all these homesteads and was traveled on foot and with pack horses often with heavy loads. Eventually the trail comes out of the bush onto a laneway that opens up into what was the Tobin homestead, a freestanding chimney marks the spot. From here there is a climb up a wide gravel track through mixed podocarp forest for another 3km the junction of the Kaiwhakauka track and teh old Mangapura road, which has since become known as the Mangapura track as the majority of it is only accessed by cyclists and trampers.

The Mangapura Track:
The Mangapura track is most often accessed from Ruatiti road end, coming from the south west. The track goes through old lanes on private farmland traveling through scrub land and pockets of native bush as it enters the hill country. On a clear day there are stunning views of the Tongariro National Park so be sure to stop for a break and look back at this worlds heritage site. At the junction of the Mangapura and Kaiwhakauka tracks there is a Maori Pou (culturally significant sculpture). The Pou symbolizes the Ngahere (forest) and was set up to provide cultural and spiritual safety for visitors. It also acts as a tribute to the families who once tried to settle the land. 

From the junction cyclists climb up to the Mangapura trig where there is a good stopping point for lunch or camping if you are carrying a tent. There is a nice clearing a view of the valleys beyond. Water is available from a spring and there are toilets up a side track where there is also a clearing that provides panoramic views of the Tongariro National Park and Taranaki to the east.  From the trig the track heads steadily down hill trough on the only section of uncut native forest in the valley and towards the first swing bridge (on the Mangapura track), on another 1.5km the track reaches Johnsons. Many of the papa clay bluffs are named after the settlers, there is a settlement map produced by the “Friends of the Wanganui” that outlines these details. Common sights through the valley are rows of exotic trees that mark the laneways to house sites of the early farmers. 3.4km down the track we find the house site of Edward Johnson who use to collect mail from Mangapura landing and distribute it twice a week throughout the valley to the settlers. Later on cyclists come across the Tester house which was the site of the first school in valley started in 1926 with only seven children at the time. 

Bettjemans homestead is marked by a row of poplars along the track and was once thriving location. Bettjeman was the first to arrive and the last to leave the valley in 1942. In its time there was a family house, and bunk room and tennis court, but all that remains today is the brick chimney and exotic tree and plants that surrounded the property. About 1.5km from Bettjemans is Bartrums swingbridge; access for quad bikes stops here. From here on the track narrows and travereses steep clay bluffs, extreme caution should be taken as it can be 70m down to the Mangapura stream. One in particular is “currant bun bluff” named because of the rounded exposed boulders that protrude from the curved surface of the bluff. A short distance farther along is waterfall creek (with Hellawells on the other side) which was once the location of choice for hockey games and community picnics for the settlers. A 1.5km walk along a side track up the creek provides a view of the waterfall.  

Eventually the track arrives at “battleship bluff”, named as it can resemble the bow of an old battleship. This bluff was great challenge to the original road builders, it took them two years to carve out the bluff making terraces for people and horses to pass. The track undulates cross small streams and bridges down the valley. Suddenly, round a corner, travellers come across the famous “Bridge to Nowhere”. This massive concrete structure in the middle of the bush stands like it was built yesterday and seemingly comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Built in 1936 it was of great importance to the settlers as it linked the valley to the Mangapura landing and permitted vehicle traffic, all important to the developing settlement. However, the bridge was finished after the settlers had already started abandoning the area. Previous to the concrete bridge was the wire cages that were used from the transport of all supplies. 

The connecting track between the Bridge to Nowhere and Mangapura landing is nearly 3km and is built to walking track standards as it is commonly used by tourists accessing the area by jet boat or canoe. Cyclists should use extra caution as there will likely be walkers going either way on this section of track. The Mangapura Landing, where the track meets the Wanganui river was the place where the paddle steamer boat dropped off supplies and equipment. Everything that came into the valley from the south came off the river boat service here.  From the landing cyclist should take the jet boat down river to Pipiriki where there is a small village and campsite. From Pipiriki mostly paved roads provide a way to either Raetehi to the east or Wanganui to the South. The Mountains to Sea cyclway takes the Wanganui river road southwards to SH4 and onto Wanganui town and the black sand beaches.