Tales from the OG: Auckland’s Big Coast Loop

Epic landscapes and silly detours.

The Auckland coastline from Whatipu to Karekare Beach is a wild place.  Riding it has been on my bucket list for years.  The route requires the tide and weather to align, along with motivation and fitness for a lot of climbing… and a lot of bike-cleaning!  

My particular variation on the Big Coast Loop includes some detours in an attempt to minimize time on the road and maximize time adventuring.

 On this particular Sunday, we were shadowed by Matt Crawford who was enlisted to shoot some fresh adventure content for Wheelworks.  This article is sure gonna make the most of his amazing work!

Just outside of Titirangi, Exhibition Drive is the ideal place to rendezvous with mates for a gravel ride.  Good parking and straight onto the flat and scenic former pipeline trail - perfect for a warmup and a yarn before the action starts.  Dropping down from Mackies Rest to the Pipeline Road, the downhill rollers and fast corners lead to our first stream crossing.  

My visions of charging through for the camera were quickly dashed upon discovering it was about waist deep thanks to the winter rains. Sherp didn’t bat an eye, hoisting his steel frame and plunging through. I followed - the shock to the plums was like a jolt of caffeine.

Andy got cold feet and backtracked to find an alternate crossing.  Here’s Sherp celebrating the moment he finally emerged from the bush twenty minutes later.

Back on Huia Rd our knobby tyres slowed us a bit on the big swooping sealed climbs. But bombing the downs never gets old.

When Huia Rd becomes Whatipu Rd, the gravel returns.

Fun and slippy moments on the sand path leading to  the beach.

Soft sand = soft landings

Whatipu is a magical and desolate place.  But recently an entire village has sprung up on the beach.  Well, not a real village it turns out.  It’s actually the set of the upcoming film The Convert.

The security detail looked on as we did skids for the camera.

Hamming it up for the camera was just part of the fun as we cruised around the beach on the plentiful hard sand.

Arriving in Karekare, our drivetrains and brakes were fully gunked with black sand.  The natural next step was to perform the ritual bike baptism (aka stream-cleaning).  Did it help?  Did it make it worse?  That’s for our mechanics to decide later in the week 🙂

Instead of taking the sealed roads home, we cut up the Ahu Ahu Track from Karekare. It’s an awesome freshly re-stoned trail, but it’s steep as guts and just keeps going. It’s tough but ridable with the right gearing and determination. At the top, the track connects with the popular Mercer Bay Track which has absolutely stunning cliff-top views, a few more hard pinches, a few steps and some distracted walkers.

The carpark at the top connects to Log Race Road, then Piha Road.  We couldn’t resist dipping back onto the gravel at Anawhata Road to get onto the iconic Cutty Grass Track.  After connecting back to Scenic Drive, we took the option to add even more gravel by taking the Concrete Monster down to Opunuku Road then hoofed it to Glen Eden to sample the local delicacy: fried chicken.  Never tasted so good.

Carl's Tip #2:

A squeaky chain can be temporarily remedied with a quick squiz from a Kauri Dieback Station cleaning hose.

Carl's Tip #1:

The optimal riding timing for the beach leg is two hours either side of low tide.  You won’t drown if you miss this window, but you also won’t have the nice hard sand to pedal on. Also, be prepared for multiple small stream crossings.  Super fun, but be sure to give your steed a good clean after.

Auckland Big Coast Loop:

75k, 1800m, 75% unsealed

Route Link