Rent a Fat Bike?
The Great Tast Trail is a large loop route (174km in total), taking in segments of the Tasman Bay coastline and crossing through the productive farmlands further inland. The idea behind the trail is to give riders both a sampling of Tasman area scenery, as well as introducing them to the tastes of the area's wineries, breweries, and orchards.
We elected to do a coastal segment of the Great Taste ride, starting from the bayside town of Mapua. We would head south along the bay for as long as we wished, then retrace our route back.
A cluster of retail outlets near an estuary contained our bike hire outfit, a place called 'trail journeys'. We rented out eight bikes (no longer did we have the convenience of the three bikes that came with our Taupo AirBNB house). On a lark, Andy chose to rent a so-called fat bike - perhaps to give himself a better workout while riding with us relative cycle-newbies.
Mapua Bike Ferry
The segment of Great Taste trail we'd be cycling headed south from Mapua, first over the flat terrain of nearby Rabbit Island. There was no bridge to Rabbit Island near hear, however, and a cute little bike ferry took us across the tidal waters of the estuary. Once on the far side, we were able to start our ride. The day was cloudy but so far still dry, and winds were calm. Good cycling conditions, really.
We followed the now-characteristic blue slat-poles that marked the route of a New Zealand Great Ride. They led along a classic two-track dirt road, through a forest consisting almost exclusively of tall pines. This gave way quickly to a scruffy-looking open field on the right of the road, and a strip of trees bounding the Tasman Bay coastline on the left. Every so often we cycled past an access point through the trees leading to the coast. Each time, we glimpsed an impressively wide, sandy beach.
Soon we decided to stop and have a closer look. It was a beautiful stretch of beach, deserted save for some tiny figures way off to the south. We stopped here for our first break, with Andy using his fat bike to carve out arcs in the damp sand, and Pu taking an un-resistable dip into the bay.
Continuing on from our beach-break, we followed the coastline track, which led south to a car-accessible part of Rabbit Island, and where a suprisingly large number of people were out enjoying the beach, even though the skies were grey and threatening. From here the Great Taste track turned away from the coast, crossing the forests of Rabbit island and parallelling the only public auto road. Two road bridges (with a separated cycle lane) led over to the mainland. We received a few sprinkles from the clouds above, but fortunately, they didn't continue for too long.
Now back on the mainland, the Great Taste track turned sharply south again, following the Tasman Bay coastline. Using excellently-constructed boardwalks and bridges where necessary, the track provided a flat, easy, and scenic ride through coastal marshland.
The riding continued to be pleasant; the weather, however, did not. A thin, misting drizzle began to develop, rendering distant objects hazy, and contributing to an overall gloomy afternoon. Fortunately, there was no wind and the temperature was relatively warm. We certainly didn't feel chilled.
With the arrival of wet conditions and the approach of the 20km mark on our odometers, we contemplated our turn-around point. We did want to do a little bit of the "tasting" promised by the Great Taste trail, so we opted to continue along the loop until we reached some of the foodie attractions (wineries, cafes, etc).
The track continued along the Tasman Bay coastline for a bit longer, winding along the outside of some heavy industry, before arriving in the town of Richmond (sort of a suburb of Nelson). Here the track takes a turn inland, riding initially along town streets but soon veering off to follow a bike path through adjacent parkland. We left the Great Taste route entirely when we intersected the major highway of state route 60. We would use this highway and a combination of other side roads to form a loop back towards our start point, and, hopefully, to find a nice place to stop and have a drink or perhaps a dessert.
We soon came across a couple of wineries, but chose to skip them because they didn't offer enough in the food department (all the cycling had made our stomachs a bit growly). At the next crossroads, we came across a quaint place called "The Grape Escape", and they did have food. Not only that, they appeared to have a wide selection of high-end desserts. Sold.
The Grape Escape
After a very satisfying mid-afternoon snack, we mounted the bikes once again. Under gradually-intensifying drizzle, we headed back towards the coast in a crude semi-lollipop type of route, angling to rejoin the coastal segment of the Great Taste track. Once on the track, we turned back north, retracing our path back towards our start point in Mapua.
The ride back along the pretty coastal marsh sections was rendered a bit less pretty by a heavy shower - although fortunately, once back on Rabbit Island, the rain stopped.
Brian, Pu and I chose an alternate path across Rabbit Island, one that led through the darker recesses of the island's lumber forests.
Reunited back at the top end of the island, we awaited the last crossing of the Mapua ferry, the boxy shape of which we could see beginning to maneuver over to us on the far side of the estuary.
Back on the Mapua side of the estuary, we returned our rental bikes, then took advantage of the businesses that had taken up shop in the old port buildings nearby: The Golden Bear Brewing company for some local beer, and a particularly highly-rated fish-and-chips outlet. The only fly-in-our-ointment was the return of rain, along with some strong breezy winds. The local seagulls were pleased when a strong gust scattered some of Lori's french fries.
As rain continued to develop, we returned to our Top 10 holiday park for a relaxing and dry evening. Jenn and I introduced Andy and Andrea to the board game Le Havre.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Great Taste Ride - click map to view
Cycle Data - Great Taste Ride
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet