By Amy Delahunty
The Yankee Trail is a fun, easy-to-moderate cycle (and walking) track, which leads you to the US Marines Memorial at Mackays Crossing. It begins in Queen Elizabeth Park and winds along the Wainui Stream (see if you can spot the local eels on the way!). Finishing up at the Marines Memorial, you can learn about the US troops stationed in Paekākāriki, Mackays Crossing and Whareroa during World War II.
A gorgeous restored wetland, just before you reach the Memorial, is not to be missed. This attracts a wide range of native coastal birds – and noisy frogs! The Wetland Loop, a side track around the water’s edge, has thorough information about the area’s birds – plus a bird hide in which to spot them.
Who it suits
This bike ride suits a mountain bike, as much of it is not sealed. The biking is not challenging – just a few short ups and downs (one is steep, but you can walk if you need to). The Wetlands Loop and the Forest Restoration are more suited to walking (or horse riding in the case of the restoration track). The Wetlands Loop is smooth, fine for wheelchairs or pushchairs, although the entire circuit taking in the Yankee Trail will need off-road wheels.
There is much to enjoy on the Wetlands Loop for children, although combined with the Yankee Trail the length might test some of the younger ones. Taking the Dune Swamp Forest Restoration track, developed by the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park, will take you down to the equestrian area via views of totara trees planted in 2013 by local school children.
How long it takes
One way, its approx 15 to 20 mins from Paekākāriki to the US Marines Memorial – so allow at least 40 mins return – more if you opt for the Wetlands Loop as well. The Yankee Trail is 2.75 km long (one-way). The Wetlands Loop adds an extra 2km.
- The US Marines Trust interpretation panels at the Paekākāriki end of QE Park (by the main public toilets).
- Varied scenery – great views of the working farm and coastal vegetation that contrast with the ever changing water of the wetlands.
- The US Marines Memorial is well worth a stop-off. Check out the short bush wander to a replica hut, which shows you the living conditions of the soldiers.
- McKays Crossing also contains the Wellington Tramway Museum and tram rides, horse riding, picnic areas and access to the beach.
The ride begins inside the main entrance of Queen Elizabeth Park at the end of Wellington Road (follow the track by Wainui Stream, signposted as the Yankee Trail), or you can also start from the north end of Tilley Road. From Tilley Road, the ride takes you over a footbridge and along the first section of Te Ara o Whareroa cycle trail and then takes an unsealed path to the wetlands and the Memorial.
From here you can opt to walk the Wetland Loop (just walk your bike, as it’s a skinny walking path for pedestrians only). On your return you can visit the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park Dune Swamp Forest Restoration. The ride is mainly non-sealed track or grass, with a number of hills, and takes you through a working farm before arriving back at the wetland.
Biking from Paekākāriki Village is the easiest way for locals to do this ride – just head into Queen Elizabeth Park or from the end of Tilley Road.
If driving, take the main entrance into Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki and take the first right. There is plenty of room to park a car and the track begins at the end of the road. If you are driving from North of Paekākāriki, there is parking available at McKays Crossing.
The start of the track is approx 20-30 minutes walk from Paekakariki train station heading north. There are no public transport options from McKays Crossing.
There are toilets and drinking fountains at the beginning of the track in QE Park, as well as at McKays Crossing.
Food and drink
The closest cafes and shops are at Paekākāriki village.
- The Yankee Trail can be cycled in any weather, but the Wetlands Loop and Forest Restoration Track may be muddy after rain.
- Take a camera and enjoy some quiet bird-watching while you’re in the Wetland area.
Read A Paekākāriki bike ride by Amy Delahunty