This popular track is shared use, but ideal for recreational biking – especially for riders wanting a few fun up-and-downs over the flax and taupata covered dunes at the coast’s edge.
Full of variety, on the return from Whareroa Beach you’ll be treated to spectacular views of sea and hills from up high (Inland Track), as well as up close on the Coastal Track on your way there.
Walking or biking, in this peaceful place you feel like you’re happily lost, away from the bustle of the world.
Who it suits
The track is a wide, well-maintained dirt surface, suitable for all bikes – although mountain bikes will fare best. It is ideal for a family afternoon out with bikes, or a quick lunchtime or evening energetic break. Its charm is its snaking up and down nature, which means children are constantly rewarded with downhills after the challenge of trying to ascend the short upward sections.
Watch out for oncoming walkers and joggers (people on bikes must give way).
Idea for kids (or anyone!)
Try out this game that my family invented – ‘banana bends’. Each family member takes turns to pedal down a hill – but then must take their feet off the pedals at the bottom and see how far they can get free-cycling on the uphill stretch. Whoever travels furthest is the winner. Tremendous fun for new cyclists.
How long it takes
- The track is 4km, and experienced cyclists can do the loop in about 20 minutes, plus breaks.
- For families with young children, give it 40 minutes – plus lots of time for generous breaks in the many places you’ll want to stop. If you really don’t think they can make it along the Coastal Track, you can head down to the much flatter, faster bike track (Te Ara o Whareroa).
- Full track including the northern section past Mackay’s Crossing (Paekākāriki – Raumati South): 40 min to 1.5 hours. It is about 7km all up (each way).
Not only are the views over to the South Island on a clear day beautiful, the rolling nature of the dune environment – with native replanting now well established – makes this a special wonderland.
Take breaks and explore the many braids of paths that criss-cross the loop along the way. Pop down to the beach to soak up the sea and play with the driftwood.
There are many seats along the way to take in the views, and cosy nooks to discover away from the wind, if it’s blowing.
The beach can be accessed at several points along the Coastal Track. On the way back on the Inland Track, you’re up high with some great 360-degree views, including down to farmland and the bike path that takes people more quickly up to Raumati South (Te Ara o Whareroa).
Other things to see in the area on the Mackays Crossing road down to Whareroa Beach:
- Model aeroplanes.
- Marines Memorial.
- Tram Museum. This operates trams to and from Whareroa Beach on weekends and public holidays, from 11am to 4:30pm. Ice creams here at the weekends!
Historically, the area was home to Māori; down on the beach you can find the remnants of a midden or two, where part of the dune has collapsed to reveal layers of shell.
During World War Two, US Marines practised their Pacific beach landings here.
Today replanting is seeing the restoration of a wonderful natural environment, showing the distinctive beauty of New Zealand sand-dune country.
If you’re coming from outside the village, the Coastal Track is easy to find after travelling by train or car.
- Take the train with your bikes to Paekākāriki – it’s a short bike (just over 1km) from the train station to the Queen Elizabeth Park entrance at the far end of Wellington Road. You’ll find an information board, map and directions opposite the Paekākāriki Holiday Park, just inside the park gate.
- If driving, parking is available at the Paekākāriki and Raumati South entrances to the park, and also at Mackays Crossing and Whareroa Beach. Note that parking at Raumati South is limited. Access gates to Queen Elizabeth Park via Wellington Road in Paekākāriki are locked at dusk so don’t get your car locked in. (If you do, ring the ranger on 027 244 5319.)
You enter the Coastal Track by the beach from Queen Elizabeth Park at Paekākāriki’s Wellington Road, returning from Mackay’s Crossing in a loop via the Inland Track.
The track is well-signposted. When you get to the small carpark at the north end of the track, you have the option of riding down the hill to visit Whareroa Beach (toilets, trams and picnic tables) – or turning right to join the Inland Track.
For those with more time, this is just one half of a loop: the track is split into southern and northern sections which meet at Mckay’s Crossing. You can carry on to the northern section to Raumati and back.
Toilets are available in Paekākāriki near shops on Beach Road, and also at the carpark in Queen Elizabeth Park at the end of Wellington Road. Inside the park they are at Whareroa Beach. In Raumati, they are at the entrance to the park.
Food and drink
There are options for purchasing food and drink in Paekākakāriki, Queen Elizabeth Park (limited) and Raumati South. On Beach Road, Paekākāriki, there are two cafés, a pub, fruit shop and dairy. These are all about 1.5km south from the Wellington Road entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park.
In Queen Elizabeth Park, at Mackays Crossing, there’s a kiosk at the Tram Museum that sells pre-packaged ice creams, ice blocks, chippies etc. This is around 1.5km from the end of the southern track and can be reached by foot or by tram from Whareroa Beach. Both the tram and kiosk operate on weekends and public holidays (excl Christmas Day) between 11 – 4:30.
In Raumati South there are cafes, a dairy and Southend Takeaways. There are more cafes further north in the bigger shopping centre of Raumati Beach.
What to bring
- Take water, as there are no drinking-fountains on this track.
- In summer, don’t forget your togs and sunscreen!
- If things are getting too windy for the whānau on the way back (Inland Track) there are many diverse, interesting linking tracks to take you back to the beach, where you can always ride back on the flat sand, tide willing.
- There’s generally mobile coverage along the length of the track.
- Be aware that weather events can sometimes cause potholes to appear overnight in the lower parts of the southern track, and coastal erosion means you should keep an eye out for slips.
Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park are an active group who help look after the park’s dune, wetland and forest native plants and animals. The Friends are involved in restoration, conservation, and where possible expanding these ecosystems.
They welcome new volunteers to help with regular weeding and planting.
Contact: Friends of QE Park
Read Dinah Hawken’s poem, Currently