Last part of cycle trail to open

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Cyclists at Mangungu Mission Station in South Hokianga, the end point of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail. The trail's last and most scenic section, from Okaihau to Horeke, will finally open on March 18.

By Peter de Graaf

The last, and arguably the best, section of Northland's Twin Coast Cycle Trail will be officially opened on March 18.

The 84-kilometre trail, from Opua in the Bay of Islands to Horeke in South Hokianga, follows disused railway corridors for much of the route and is the only Northland trail in former Prime Minister John Key's network of 22 trails around the country.

Also called Pou Herenga Tai, the Northland bike trail is the only one to reach from coast to coast. It also ran into more delays and difficulties than the other trials and is by far the last of the original seven to be completed.

Despite its difficult birth the trail is generating excitement even before its official opening.

Author and cycling guru Jonathan Kennett said the Twin Coast Cycle Trail had the potential to rejuvenate small towns along the route even more dramatically than the Otago Rail Trail, and would attract more users because of its proximity to Auckland. Eli Orzessek, writing for NZ Herald Travel, included it in his list of the world's 10 best bike trips.

The final 28km of the trail is a grade 2-3 trail that starts in Okaihau, drops through farmland into the scenic Utakura Valley, then follows Horeke Rd and a 1.2km-long boardwalk, the longest on any of the cycle trails, through Hokianga Harbour mangroves to Horeke Tavern, said to be the oldest pub in the country. From there it's another 1km to the historic mission station at Mangungu.

People who want to take part in the March 18 official opening can choose between riding the full 28km or a more leisurely 9km loop.

Continued below.

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Registrations for the Okaihau-Horeke ride open at 7.45am at Okaihau College with a start at 8.30am. Registrations for the Horeke loop open at Horeke School at 8.30am for a 9.30am start.

A powhiri will be held at Mangungu Mission at 10.30am followed by a prize draw. Prizes include mountain bikes and sporting equipment. Riders must be registered to be eligible.

An estimated 800 people took part in the opening of the Kaikohe-Okaihau section in 2011 with 200 pedalling at the opening of the Opua-Taumarere leg in 2014.

Far North Mayor John Carter expected the opening of the final section would attract similar numbers.

"Council staff, community groups, landowners and business people have worked long and hard over the past six years to get to this point. Achieving this milestone deserves to be celebrated."

Mr Carter said the next step was to work with communities along the trail to set up a governance structure. The council had built the trail but the plan had always been to hand over management and marketing to a community trust.

The trail opening will be followed by the annual Horeke Regatta from 11.30am, which will include Iron Man and Woman contests, a team triathlon, children's races, a hangi, spot prizes and live music.

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