A vantastic honeymoon -mountain biking in Rotorua and Palmerston North

We’ve been pretty slack on the blogging front lately. Sorry, we were busy getting married. But now we are back and ready to share the details of our mountain biking honeymoon in a van. This is certainly not everyone’s ideal honeymoon, but for us it was perfect. Read on to hear all about the different camping spots and trails we explored over 5 days. If you want to know more about the fun activities on offer in Rotorua check out our friends blog: A girl and a kiwi.


Our route

Daniel and I got married on a Friday, in Gisborne, our hometown. We intended to leave Gisborne the following Monday morning to head straight to Rotorua and spend the afternoon riding. We finally had the van packed at about 4pm on the Monday. After 2 hours drive we decided to spend the night in Whakatane, parked on a friends lawn.


First thing, well kinda, in the morning we were up and on our way. We arrived in Rotorua at about 10am and were riding by 11am. We rode in Rotorua for 4 days before escaping a thunder storm and heading towards Palmerston North for a final day riding. After that it was back to Wellington. Back home, back to reality and back to work.

Ohope Beach

Where to camp in Rotorua

Rotorua is not great for freedom camping. Using the Rankers camping app*, we found 3 free spots in and around the city. Two in car parks on the lake front, near the city and one car park by the Trout pools reserve river. This last spot had great access to the river and was fabulous for a dip to wash off the riding sweat but was another lack lustre car park.

 Trout pools reserve river
 Trout pools reserve river

We thought we deserved a little better for our honeymoon and ended up spending 3 nights at Lake Okareka. There is a nice Department of Conservation site here. We thought it was quite steep at $10 per person, per night, but its only 15 minutes from Whakarewarewa bike park and was stunning. This campsite had a nice toilet block with flushing toilets and running water, practically luxury. The car park was about 30 meters from the lake front where it was beautiful for swimming, fishing and water sports. The main downside of this place was its extreme popularity. During the day and well into each evening, the place was packed with families. There were also heaps of other campers. This is okay but our usual preference is for small places with a few or no other campers.

I was told some of the photos need captions, so here’s a swan on Lake Okareka


Lake Okareka
Lake Okareka
people standing on water, or ‘SUPing” i think they call it.

Mountain biking in Rotorua

Rotorua is a bit of a mountain biking Mecca. There are trails for all riders from flat lake side trails to massive jump tracks. There are also shuttles, a very exciting novelty for us, and ‘honeymoon’ seemed a great reason to cash in. We highly recommend when riding in a new area, chat to the people at the bike shops. We headed to the Mountain Bike Rotorua Hub on Hinemoa street. Here you can hire bikes, buy clothing, get your bike fixed and get a great coffee. We spent about an hour here on our first day drinking coffee and chatting to the girl about the riding we should do over the coming 4 days. She gave us heaps of tips about the different trails and using the shuttles.

Whakarewarewa mountain bike park


This park is extensive and over three days of riding we barely made a dent in the trails on offer. I highly recommend buying a map or manky (map hanky). We were using Trailforks** and got a bit muddled at times. You can access the park from 3 main car parks; the redwoods car park off Tarawera road, just off state highway 5 on Waipa State Mill road (where you’ll find another Mountain Bike Rotorua shop) and on the corner of Hill and Eight Mile road. We rode 2 days from the Waipa State Mill road car park and shuttled one day from the Eight Mile car park.

Dabbing harder then Jeremy Corbyn

We followed the odd bit of advice and ended up on the odd cross country track (ewww) but found some epic downhill too. Some of our favourite tracks were Billy T, Mini dh, Tokorangi and Challenge. We found that the tracks were awesome for building technical skills as the gradient was less than Wellington. We were also riding 5-6 hours a day which has to help!


My engagement/christmas present to myself, a Giant Trance SX 2014, the best Trance ever made.

Pros of Whakarewarewa

  • Southstar shuttles will take you to the top! See here for details and pricing
  • So much riding for all different skill levels and disciplines
  • Close to the city and other attractions
  • $2 hot showers at the main car park (Waipa State Mill road), a spectacular find for all freedom camping mountain bikers 

    Preparing a quick mountain side lunch

Cons of Whakarewarewa

  • The shuttles only take you to the top of one section of the park. They change their route dependent on logging.
  • If you don’t take the shuttle its a serious uphill slog
  • Old Chevy -so cross country!

Skyline bike park 

Did someone say gravity fed heaven? At skyline you can ride, barely pedalling at all. We brought 15 gondola uplifts each for $59. It’s quite good value for money. We did 5 runs over about 3 hours and still have 10 runs left each for when we next visit Rotorua. More info at Skyline’s website.



Daniel didn’t take any photos at skyline, so here’s his Banshee Rune v2 running 26″wheels and a 180mm Fox Talas forks

Did someone say gravity fed heaven? At skyline you can ride, barely pedalling at all. We brought 15 gondola uplifts each for $59. It’s quite good value for money. We did 5 runs over about 3 hours and still have 10 runs left each for when we next visit Rotorua. More info at Skyline’s website.

Pros of skyline:

  • It’s all about gravity. This means you can reserve all of your energy for the down hill.
  • It’s beautiful. As you ride up the gondola you can see Rotorua and the lake as well the beautify bush you get to ride down though.
  • It’s the home of Crankworx Rotorua! While you can’t ride crankworx track (which you’d have to be mad to do), you can see the INSANE jumps and features that the riders face.
  • The tracks are in top condition and are continually being maintained and upgraded.
  • riding the same track does not get boring, it only gets better the more you ride it. There was only one beginner/intermediate track open when we were there and riding it 5 times was awesome.
  • mountain bikers have their own gondola cars; you don’t have to queue with all of the people going on the luge.

Cons of skyline:

  • you can only access their big jump track (Mr. Black) if you can riding the first feature on the track, a drop from a wooden platform. NO WALKING ALLOWED. Daniel rode this, I looked at it and thought it was definitely rideable but with all the “DANGER XXXX XXX!!!XXXXXX FEATURE” and rules surrounding the drop, I psyched myself out. ‘oh my gosh, what the heck, no one told me there’s wood.
  • When tracks are closed for maintenance it limits what you can access, which is why we rode the same track many times.


Freedom camping near Bulls


Mt Lees Reserve

After leaving Rotorua in a hurry, we were keen to get the drive to Palmerston North over and done with so we’d be closer to the riding the following morning. We picked a random free spot on Rankers * that was near Palmerston North and hoped for best, ending up at Mount Lee’s Reserve. It was a total treat! There is also a bed and breakfast on the sight. Someone obviously loves this spot and has invested time and money into maintaining the grounds and keeping it quirky.




  • Isolation. We were one of 4 vans at this spot, a pleasant surprise after the business of Rotorua. Mount Lee’s is about 15 minutes from the main highway and wouldn’t find it without a map.
  • Swings. Need i say more?
  • Cricket. In the middle of the green is a cricket set for anyone to use. If only the other campers had been up for a game!
  • Sunroom. Next to the BnB was a cute little sunroom. It was full of 20’s furniture, board games and a book exchange shelf. If we had arrived earlier this would have been a wonderful place to hang out. The sunroom also has a small kitchen with some bits and pieces for people to use.
  • Baby bunnies at sunset! We are slightly biased towards anything bunny, but this was so cute it would make the strongest man coo. At sunset heaps of small rabbits came out for their evening graze. At a guess there would have been at least 50 over the grounds. HEAVEN.
  • Beautiful gardens. The gardens surrounding the sun house were full of vibrant flowers and greenery.
  • Massive friendly ducks. Not everyone’s favourite way to spend an evening, I know a few people who would have run screaming from the reserve. We saw 3 Muscvoy ducks and 2 other large brown ducks that we couldn’t identify. They were pretty keen on our dinner.IMG_0449IMG_0765

Mountain biking in Palmerston North

Our final honeymoon destination was Arapuke Forest park, just outside Palmerston North. This park is a wonderful resource in a forestry block and has tracks for mountain biking, walking and horse riding. We visit this park occasionally as it only 2 hours from Wellington. We discovered too late that they also have shuttles running on the weekends! Something to keep in mind for the next visit.


Pros of Arapuke:

  • you are well away from the city and can only see forest from the top
  • There is a shuttle (take cash)
  • There is a swimming hole at the bottom for a post ride skinny dip
  • It’s constantly being upgraded so the riding evolves between visits

Cons of Arapuke:

  • It’s a long climb to the top
  • They occasionally change the names of tracks which can be seriously confusing when yo only visit every 6 months or so.
  • We’d like the tracks to be a bit steeperIMG_0001-Pano

But is the riding better at home?

Living in Wellington we are blessed with seriously good riding. It was wonderful to go away and try something else and we both saw improvements in our riding with the number of hours we spent on the trails. A few of the trails we rode were absolutely pumping and they would be great to ride more. We had to pick and choose carefully to find tracks that suited our riding and definitely ended up on a few we didn’t enjoy. The main difference we found was we love everything we have in Wellington, maybe we are just conditioned to the trails we’re used to!

Mr and Mrs Lawrence Poulsen

*We use the Rankers camping app to find all of our campsites. We decide where we want to go and then find a campsite nearby. You can use the app to find campsites with toilets and ones that allow for non-self contained vehicles (avoiding fines!). Also, all spots a okayed by locals so you are unlikely to be asked to move on.

**Trailforks is a fab free app by Pinkbike.com that shows you trails all over the world

2 thoughts on “A vantastic honeymoon -mountain biking in Rotorua and Palmerston North

  1. Leave hearing about your honeymoon!
    Loved all the pics.
    Congratulations Chloe!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! We had a wonderful time and Daniel recorded it beautifully


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