Motu Trails loop
Be Set Free
- Combines the Dunes Trail, much of the Motu Road Trail, and the Pakihi Track sections of the Motu Trails Great Ride
- Grade: Advanced/4 (due to the Pakihi Track)
- Distance: 90km
- Time to ride: five hours to two days
- Start: Opotiki, or connecting from Motu
- There is little mobile coverage. You are advised to take basic tools and safety gear, including a PLB
- There are no shops between Opotiki and Motu
- See the individual trail pages for full descriptions.
This is a remarkable journey, with riding that ranges from beach-side to forest interior. The 90km Motu Trails loop takes in all three sections of the Motu Trails Great Ride. This ride is mapped on the Great Rides App.
You can start and finish your ride in Opotiki, or Te Waiti. Or you can ride in-and-out from Motu, adding another 30km to the loop.
From Opotiki, you cruise the full length of the Dunes Trail, which links directly with the northern end of the Motu Road Trail. From here it is mostly uphill riding, heading inland for 38km.
There are two major climbs, of approximately 6km long (Meremere hill) and 3.5km long (Papamoa/Toatoa hill). After 1km of a third climb, you get to the start of the Pakihi Track, which is just over 20km of stunning riding, mostly downhill.
From the end of the Pakihi Track, you have 23km of gravel and sealed roads, and the Otara Stopbank Trail, back to Opotiki. If it's hot or there's a headwind, it can be a challenging finish.
You can do this loop in one day if you are fit. Many people take two days, staying at Toatoa Farm Stay, or (adding more distance) at Motu Community House. Staying in Motu is a great way to turn the loop ride into a three-day experience: day one ride Opotiki-Toatoa; day two ride Toatoa-Motu with a side-trip to Motu Falls; day three ride Motu-Opotiki via Pakihi Track.
If riding the loop in one day, don't underestimate the distance. Start early. One day makes for a big ride. Total elevation round the 90km loop is about 1100 metres; if you add in a visit to Motu, it's more like 2000 metres. Keep in mind that while the Dunes Trail and Motu Road Trail are graded 2-3 (easy and intermediate) the Pakihi Track section is graded 4 (advanced).
There are no shops or cafes for most of the loop. The Motu Road has some traffic, vehicle counts are low but always ride with care.
This is remote terrain with little mobile coverage. It can get cold and damp, even in summer. Be prepared. Take repair and basic medical kit. A PLB is advised, and available for hire from Opotiki and Gisborne i-SITEs.
Bike hire, packages
Motu Trails Limited offer bike hire.
Bushaven offer bike hire and a loop package
Toatoa Farm Stay offer bike hire and a loop package
Cycle Gisborne offer bike hire and a package including the loop.
Accommodation close to the trail
Before and after your ride, you have many accommodation choices, so check the A-Z. On the loop, your options include:
Toatoa Farm Stay (includes meals)
Motu Community House (option of meals)
Pakihi Track / Te Waiti:
Weka Wilds (option of meals)
Bushaven (option of meals)
Food close to the trail
Toatoa Farm Stay and Motu Community House can arrange meals. In Opotiki, options include:
You’ll find further historic detail on each trail page.
The Motu Trails loop takes in parts of four historic crossings from Opotiki-Gisborne:
The first crossing was an unformed Maori track, Te Kowhai track, appearing on maps until the mid-1880s. Te Kowhai track came down a ridge near the confluence of the Pakihi and Te Waiti streams, and followed the Otara river valley north to Opotiki, as does the road today.
The first formed route from bay-to-bay was the Ormond-Opotiki Road, first linked in 1876/77. From Opotiki, this route went along the beach for about 10km, parallel with today's Dunes Trail. If you go to Motu and Motu Falls, what’s now Motu Falls Road and the Whinray Scenic Reserve are also the old Ormond-Opotiki road.
The first true road was the Motu Road. The first car went through 1915. The present course of the Motu Road is much the same as it was in 1915-1930, so you’re again riding through history.
The Pakihi Track was first cut through about 1906. This was relatively well-formed by 1914 but, after a storm, in a poor state by 1918. The present course of the Pakihi Track is exactly as it was in the early-1900s. Much of the original track benching remains.