Most New Zealanders have probably never heard of Mangamuka Bridge, but a growing number have.

And they are spreading the word, not so much about the tiny village itself but the Mangamuka Dairy, and the bacon and egg burgers served there.

Eliza Chapman-Kete's burgers, and hospitality in general, are gaining worldwide renown thanks to some of the tens of thousands of people who are walking sections of Te Araroa, the national trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

Those people were providing a boost for businesses in many small towns via their purchases of coffees, ice creams and other "vital supplies" before or after their walks, Te Araroa Trust chairman David McGregor said.

Advertisement

"Te Araroa walkers often spend money in places that mainstream economic development initiatives don't touch. The trail is giving businesses along its route a nice little leg up, and the number of walkers is just going to keep on growing."

One of the businesses to benefit was the Mangamuka Dairy, one of the few places where trail walkers could re-supply as they passed through the Raetea and Omahuta Forests.

Doubtless Bay Ramblers on the Te Araroa Trail looking southwards to Twilight Beach and Scott Point. Photo/ Supplied
Doubtless Bay Ramblers on the Te Araroa Trail looking southwards to Twilight Beach and Scott Point. Photo/ Supplied

The store's bacon and egg burgers had become legendary among walkers, he said, many of them mentioning the burgers and owner Ms Chapman-Kete's hospitality on their travel blogs.

"The impact on the dairy is huge," Ms Chapman-Kete said.

"It's been quite hard case. One year all the walkers wanted battered mussels, because word of mouth had spread. These days most of them buy bacon and egg burgers, chips and a coffee."

Kaitaia's Main Street Lodge was doing well out of the trail too.

Manager Suzie Clark said the number of Te Araroa walkers who stayed overnight had more than doubled over the last two years, and she was now seeing them arrive in winter as well as summer.

"In the time I've been here it's just exploded. Many of them start their journey at Main St Lodge before walking to Cape Reinga and then back through Kaitaia, staying here again before they continue south," she said.

Meanwhile record numbers of people took to the Te Araroa Trail last summer, some sections attracting twice as many walkers as anticipated.

The 3000km trail stretches from Cape Reinga to Bluff, with Te Araroa Trust chief executive Rob Wakelin saying more than 550 people walked its entire length last summer season, while hundreds of thousands more walked regional sections on shorter hikes and day walks.

"Walking the entire trail typically takes four to five months, so upwards of 550 Kiwis and international visitors doing it over the course of a single summer season is fantastic," Mr Wakelin said.

"It's a good increase on the 350 people who walked the whole trail in 2015-2016 and the 210 who enjoyed it the year before, so we're pleased with the steady and manageable growth.

"Making Te Araroa meaningful to New Zealanders is what we're gunning for. We want this to be an iconic Kiwi experience that allows people to really experience their own back yard," he said.

"Everyone who walks the trail has a different tale to tell," he added.

"A standout for me was a lady from Wellington who walked the Cape Reinga to Auckland stretch with her two children. The three of them plan to knock off the trail bit by bit, walking together each year until they have completed the whole thing."