The abandoned coastal railway line that runs from Mahia to Nuhaka is to become a new railbike experience that could transform tourism in northern Hawke's Bay.
Railbike Adventures, which has been operating in Gisborne for 18 months, could be the cure for Hawke's Bay's outdoor enthusiasts after lockdown.
The self-proclaimed "best thing to do in Gisborne" offers people the chance to tandem cycle along the scenic 90km of coastal railway between Gisborne and Wairoa.
The on-the-track experience requires no balance or steering, according to Railbike Adventures Operations Manager Geoff Main, as the bikes are mechanically attached to the railway tracks.
Main said he hopes the soon to be opened Mahia-based Blacks Beach Scenic route, the third route he has opened, can attract New Zealanders post-lockdown.
"About 80 per cent of our customers are New Zealanders, so we've lost 20 per cent of customers thanks to the travel restrictions," he said.
"But, we are hoping that 20 per cent should be made up by the new drive to travel and explore our own country. We still have a lot of New Zealanders we anticipate will want to come on board after lockdown.
"We've been chomping at the bit to get this one going because we think this is going to attract quite a lot of Hawke's Bay traffic."
The Blacks Beach Scenic half-day trip takes riders on a 22km guided round-trip from Opoutama, Mahia, to Nuhaka village, passing the Waikokopu lagoon and pastoral farmland, and crossing the Nuhaka river bridge.
The three-hour return trip offers rider sweeping views looking out over the Mahia peninsula and south across Hawke Bay.
Main said while the "one of a kind" tour could be completed in less than a day, he hoped the people from the twin-cities would make a trip out of it.
"Mahia is just that much closer to those in urban Hawke's Bay compared to Gisborne," he said.
"We start at 9.30am and are finished by 1pm, so you could get back to Hawke's Bay after if you wish.
"But preferably, why not stay the night in Mahia – there are plenty of places to stay and it would bring some money to the region.
"Mahia is definitely a big summertime option and we expect traffic there to quadruple in the summer months quite easily."
The railbikes, made up of two off-the-shelf bikes shackled together by a chassis, was an idea born out of a dream.
"I thought of the idea in the middle of the night and could find anything similar online," Main said.
"We built a prototype and then said to KiwiRail that the Napier to Gisborne railway line is what we want.
"We knew full well that KiwiRail was losing money hand over fist and said we have a way of turning it into a tourism venture."
With three routes available, Main said a fourth can be expected in the next five months as part of their five-year strategy.
"Our experience is similar to the Otago Central Rail Trail, but with a difference – the fact you are actually riding on the tracks," he said.
"We have about 100km of railway line to use and sooner rather than later, we hope to have the whole lot connected up for the Railbikes."