• Angela Mackay

The latest "Great Ride" opens in Rotorua

The last Great Ride to open was the wildly popular Lake Dunstan Trail, which follows the Cromwell Gorge along a series of dramatic cliffside platforms. This latest bike trail is just as spectacular but completely different. The Lake Dunstan Trail has a stark, rugged beauty whereas the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is lush and green.

Rotorua’s 33-kilometre Whakarewarewa Loop encompasses some of the city’s much-loved forest, commonly known as The Redwoods.

The best place to start the trail is at Waipa, where Mountain Bike Rotorua conveniently has a base to rent a bike if you don't have one. Unless you are after a serious workout, go electric. It makes things much easier.

As you start the ride you enter the exotic section of the forest, which completely changes the mood as the dense canopy clears. Here, we are greeted with much more open space, punctuated by enormous trunks; we have reached The Redwoods.

The trail is cycled clockwise and the beauty begins the moment you start, as you enter a path of almost mythical native bush. In the first few minutes, we come across the mud pool bubbling away.

Californian redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth and in Rotorua they reach more than 70m in height – much taller than our biggest native kauri, Tāne Mahuta.

The trail alternates between native blocks and redwoods as it slowly climbs, culminating in a magnificent view of Lake Rotorua.

The trail then weaves through dense native bush to Te Pūtake o Tawa on Tarawera Road

, a major new hub with toilets, showers, bike hire and a cafe. It also has five stunning pieces of Māori art, including a work created from a 10-tonne rock that was catapulted into the forest during the 1886 Tarawera eruption.

The latter half of the trail takes on a different type of beauty as it weaves down towards Lake Tikitapu, also known as Blue Lake. There are a food truck, coffee shop, beaches and picnic tables to enjoy lunch.

However, the most beautiful lake is just a little further along the trail.

Lake Rotokākahi is also known as the Green Lake; it is abundantly clear why it is called that when you see it. Its rich emerald colour reflects the native forest magnificently. There are a few places to view it along the trail but you can’t – and must not – get any closer.

Before Mt Tarawera's disastrous eruption, the area was heavily populated – and the island in the middle of the lake is considered tapu, as it is the burial ground for many ancestors.

The lake is now privately owned by iwi, with strict rules around its use – including no swimming, boating and fishing – with a request that no photos be published. You will just have to make the journey to see it yourself, because, like everything on this trail, it is worth the effort.

End the loop by dropping off your bike at the depot, then head next door for a soak at Secret Spot – a series of hot tubs in the bush. Each tub has a button, which you can push and be delivered drinks while soaking.

If you don’t feel like getting in, Secret Spot also offers free “shinny dips” (foot baths) if you buy something from the cafe. It is a great way to end a Great Ride.

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