Wheelworks Journal: 5 Gravel Rides Near Auckland

Is there quality gravel riding within an hours drive of Auckland? Carl set himself the mission to find out and came back with some fantastic loops and even better stories.

If you’ve got some sneaky Auckland gravel rides that aren’t listed below we’d love to hear about them - either reply back to this email or drop a Strava link on our instagram post here.

Over to Carl 🙂
- Tristan

Once you’ve got the right wheels for gravel (and the bike that supports them), where do you ride? If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere like the Mackenzie Country you can stop reading.  However most of us live in the main centres, with Auckland being the sprawliest. Is there quality gravel riding within an hours drive of Auckland? My mission was to find out.

Top 5 Auckland Gravel Rides

#1 Best Intro to Gravel 101: Puhoi Loop

Puhoi Loop - 67km - 1275m gain

This loop is the quintessential gravel ride of Auckland.  Beautiful country roads,
great food and drink at the start/finish, and an achievable distance -  it’s easy to see why this is Auckland’s most popular gravel ride. But I wanted to spice it up a bit with a few untested add-ons…  Nek Minnit we were passing bikes over a waterfall deep in the bush. Mission accomplished.

#2 Best Ride for Racing: Port Waikato (Gravel Nationals)

Port Waikato - 130km - 2,638m gain

The gravel roads south of Port Waikato are next level: nothing is flat and the views are huge.  And the sheer quantity of looping roads and absence of cars make it an obvious location for racing. Racing Gravel Nationals here was savage but awesome. See you at the start line next year!  However it’s also more than worthy of a day-trip from Auckland: start your ride from Port Waikato which is only an hour’s drive from the CBD. My route below is a big day out, however you can shrink it by cutting across early (or expand it all the way down to Raglan!). You’ll appreciate the crazy rock formations and ridgeline ocean views more if you’re NOT racing 🙂

#3 Best Ride Sheer Vanity: RiMu Loop (Riverhead-Muriwai)

Riverhead-Muriwai - 95km - 1,702m gain

North-West Auckland has lots of gravel, but it’s not commonly ridden as a loop - until now. I was fizzing after this ride - it has it all! The RiMu Loops links the Riverhead Forest trails, Muriwai Beach, and an assortment of unusual but delightful off-road sectors. For me the highlight was discovering the beautifully maintained bush trail climb out of Muriwai. For others it might be the optional downhill MTB trails. And a Start/Finish at Hallertau or a cafe in Riverhead is just perfect.

#4 Best Ride for Not Riding: Whangaripo Loop

Whangaripo Loop - 83km - 1,542m gain

Here’s a ride I really enjoyed, regardless of all the route choice mistakes. I devised the route online, but it flopped in real life: aborted muddy hike-a-bikes, gorse thickets and wrong turns. It was a proper adventure pushing our stamina, skills, decision-making and sense of humor to the test. Based on all my mistakes, I’ve optimised the route by cutting out the really stupid stuff.  Even still, this loop isn’t for the faint of heart, there’s still some challenging sectors. But it’s a guaranteed adventure! 

#5 Best All-Around Bucket List Ride: Big Coast Loop

Big Coast Loop - 74km - 1,712m gain

The Auckland coastline from Whatipu to Karekare Beach is a wild and exhilarating place - and an incredible ride with the right tide and wind. There’s a lot of climbing to get there, and for sure a lot of bike-cleaning after! This particular variation of the Big Coast includes some long-cuts to pack in as much off-road adventure as possible: Pipeline Road, Ahu Ahu Track to the Mercer Bay Loop, and the Cutty Grass Track. Zip down to Anawhata for another spectacular add-on.   Absolute bucket-list stuff, and right on our doorstep.