Cyclists will be able to pedal from one coast to the other this summer with the Twin Coast Cycle Trail Pou Herenga Tai all but complete.
The 84km trail mostly follows disused rail corridors and runs from the Hokianga Harbour on the west coast to Opua on the east.
It is the only Northland trail in former Prime Minister John Key's national network of 23 cycleways and, despite being one of the first out of the starting blocks, it is the last of the original seven trails to near completion.
The project has taken six years and is now finished barring two temporary detours - one on Ngapipito Rd between Moerewa and Kaikohe, and another on Horeke Rd. The detours require cyclists to ride on the road for about 500m before re-joining the formed trail.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The famous Long Bridge spanning Kawakawa River at Taumarere is open for the holiday period but will close again from February 8 to allow contractors to complete strengthening work, allowing trains to use the bridge again. Contractors say there is no danger to cyclists using it in the meantime.
Infrastructure manager Jacqui Robson said there was a real push to get the trail finished in time for summer.
"Communities and individuals the length of the trail have invested a lot of energy into this project and numerous new business ventures are eager to cater for visiting cyclists. I'm confident this trail will quickly become a key attraction for tourists and locals alike," she said.
An official opening ceremony was planned for early February, probably at the Hokianga end of the trail.
Construction of the trail was divided into four stages. The first to be completed follows a 14km rail corridor between Okaihau and Kaikohe and includes an 80m-long curving rail tunnel. The trail then continues a further 34km east from Kaikohe to Kawakawa, taking in Otiria and Moerewa. The final 11km stretch east goes from Kawakawa to Opua. These sections are all grade 1-2 and suitable for all riding abilities.
The 25km stretch west from Okaihau, ending at Mangungu Mission, is the most demanding. This is a grade 3 trail and follows the Utakura River to Horeke with a 1200m section of boardwalk through mangroves on the edge of the harbour.
The cycle trail started as a Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board project to open up the old Kaikohe-Okaihau rail corridor, championed by then board member Tracy Dalton.