The Cook to Kupe cycling tour took us to places we hadn’t thought of, or even knew about.
It opened our eyes to Northland, a completely different quintessential New Zealand north of the Brynderwyn Range. My husband and I booked the Northland Experiences Cook to Kupe tour in June 2020. With lockdown over and Europe no longer on the horizon, we were keen to see our own backyard. We loved the idea of riding the Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle trail in Northland, but didn’t want to be bothered with finding and booking accommodation, organising bikes, shuttling our bags between destinations, and getting back to our vehicle again. We booked the all-inclusive fully supported e-bike tour in one phone call.
Our tour leader, Rob was legend. He set our group which included cyclists aged from 48 to 75, lightly at ease together.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands set the scene for the Cook to Kupe journey. We mastered our e-bikes easily on the first day – not too bad for ‘active retirees’! The first night at Horeke at the Eastern end of the magnificent Hokianga Harbour was spent in ‘the House over the water’. The hot spa was deliciously welcome after our stunning ride down through the Utakura Valley section of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail. The first of five evening meals with our group as we got to know each other included freshly caught snapper, shared stories, and riotous laughter.
The next morning we visited Wairere Boulders, a spell-binding geological phenomenon, and then cycled to historic Mangungu Mission House at the end of the trail. The largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi hosted 3,000 chiefs here. We boarded the 1945 32ft classic vessel, Ranui, with our bikes, and chugged across Hokianga Harbour enjoying fresh scones while skipper, Craig filled our heads with his – story.
Landfall at quirky, arty, Kohukohu full of characters, saw us take a route we’d never have dreamed of on regular bikes, but our e-bikes gave us the legs. The northern land contours spread out beneath us, a collage of rural bush and blue bays. After the short ferry trip to Rawene we drove to Opononi to ride out to South Head. We heard such heartfelt waiata and karakia from Rob that the landscape became part of us as we looked out over the harbour mouth and majestic North Hokianga sand dunes. Absolute waterfront Hokianga Harbour accommodation for the next two nights offered wow views and left us relaxed.
On Day 3 we had choices – we took an exhilarating and wild walk along the West Coast with the roaring Tasman Sea at our shoulders, the power of which has left marvellous rock pools and formations. Others e-biked up hill to the Waipoua Forest, and some joined a jet ski safari collecting Kai Moana. That sounded so amazing! When I come back – that’s me!
A memorably breath-taking Twilight Footprints Waipoua Experience to see Tane Mahuta the king of the forest, that night was the precursor to a quick fireside drink before bed.
The Hokianga claims hearts, but our Tour Leader led us back to the Twin Coast Cycle trail. We cycled past lakes, through tunnels, over suspension bridges, across an estuary, and through quaint towns with fragrant coffee stops. We ended the day in charming Russell village at The Duke of Marlborough Hotel on the waterfront. Dinner was a high note.
Our final days’ choice was to explore Russell on foot, taking in pristine beaches, coffee and croissants at the French Printery, Pompallier Mission located on the waterfront, hiking up magnificent Kororareka Point Reserve to Te Maiki Hill where a party led by the famed Maori chief Hone Heke felled the flagstaff for the final time in 1845 sparking the Battle of Kororareka.
We spent the night in Kerikeri and the tour culminated in our last meal together at mouth-watering and spectacular award winning vineyard, Ake Ake Restaurant.
We will never forget the Cook to Kupe experience. After such an unsettled time with lockdown we couldn’t have asked for more… it was amazing!
The Tours start in the Bay of Islands just a three hour drive, or 45 minutes flight from Auckland. Northland Experiences run regular trips throughout the year, leaving on Mondays with the last night on a Friday.
Natalie and Steves – Cook to Kupe 5 night 5 day cycling tour – June 2020.