On our first visit to New Zealand we drove out to Raglan Beach to check out the nearest beach before our country relocation. The short 45 minute trip from Hamilton City (our home for 2 years) featured the Te Uku Wind Farm along the way. I was instantly fascinated with the Te Uku Wind Farm having never seen a wind farm in person. Once I found out about the Pipiwharauroa Trail which curves through the wind farm, I had to do it!
You can get access to the trail by turning off the main SW 23 road and following the signs to Bridal Veil Falls. This waterfall is one of the best in New Zealand (in my opinion) so make sure to stop there too! Keep driving past the Bridal Veil Falls car park and you will see the Pipiwharauroa trail sign on the left. The sign is small and easy to miss. Unlike the popular Bridal Veil Falls car park, we only saw one car parked at the start of the Pipiwharauroa Trail between both visits.
The website suggested 2 hours via bike and 4 hours for walkers to complete the 18 km return track. The entire trail is through a private farm that the owners have graciously permitted visitors to access. On our first attempt Andrew and I decided to bring the girls and our bikes. We would go as far as we could and then turn around once the girls were tired.
We put Ella on the back of Andrew’s bike and I hung back to help guide Aubrey. The entire trail is made up of large gravel which caught us off guard. Aubrey had never ridden her bike on anything except sidewalk and found it challenging especially on the uphill bits. We were only able to complete a section before approaching a locked gate and turning around. A local resident later informed me that bikers typically just throw their bikes over the gate and continue on. Oh well, Aubrey had enough on this day and was ready to head to the beach.
This would not be our last attempt at the track though. A few weeks later Aubrey and I decided to walk the trail instead to make it easier on her. This would be a four-hour trek so I made sure to pack enough water and food for both of us. The day was sunny and hot making the walk more draining than I intended. The low hanging clouds and beautiful blue sky were a nice backdrop for my pictures though. In fact, all the pictures are from this day because the day we attempted to bike was dreary.
We started off really well but over time the gravel hills and little shade made the walk seem endless.
The first part of the trail is mostly uphill as you curve around cow and sheep pastures. The smell can get to you at times.
There are several gate entrances on the property and luckily for us everything was already unlocked and easy to enter on this day.
Once you make your way higher, you can see Mt. Karioi and the many rolling hills of the Waikato.
The windmills are almost always in view along the trail!
There is one area that I am glad we did not bike with the kids. The path begins to narrow and the drop off to the left is significant. I would suggest bikers should be fairly capable before attempting this track. We did fine walking it but I not sure Aubrey would have been able to control her bike enough for me to feel comfortable with her riding this section.
The trail is not a straight shot as you can see below curving around the hills.
You never know what you are going to spot along a New Zealand walk.
The trail signs are clearly marked throughout to keep visitors on the correct paths.
At one point, the signs guide you on a short bush walk where you get off the large gravel. This area had a bit more shade providing some relief from the sun. Clouds began to roll in too as we approached the top.
As you can see from the pictures, the gravel path leads you right up next to the windmills. They are much taller than they appear from the distance.
We finally made it to the top section and had an opportunity to photograph from underneath these enormous windmills.
The last part of the trail turns to a grassy field. You are allowed to climb over the fence and there are benches placed to make it easier.
Aubrey and I walked in the grass for a little while before we decided to turn back. The cows definitely take notice of your presence and stare you down or run away as you walk by their pasture.
We had to pick-up Ella from school and I could tell Aubrey was beginning to fatigue. There were still a couple of kilometers to go on the trail before reaching the end. We accomplished getting pictures from under the windmills though so decided to start making our way back to the car.
The walk back was long but a bit easier considering most of it was downhill.
You can see a few more pictures from our trip here! We had an amazing day but my recommendation would be to bike the trail. The view is amazing from the top!
Te Uku Wind Farm