67 km
1 - 2 days
Information for this trail was last updated May 2024

The Motu Road Trail takes riders through remote bush country, historic farmland, and hills that demand good fitness. It’s an adventure ride on a road formerly used for the World Championship Rally of New Zealand event. On a bike it’s a brilliant and beautiful ride and perfect for e-bikes if you have the capacity.

You can ride the Motu Road Trail from either direction: from the coastal Ōpōtiki Dunes Trail, or, from inland at Matawai or Motu.

You get more downhill riding by starting from Matawai or Motu. It’s 67 kilometres from Matawai to the coast including 48 km of gravel. The hills peak at almost 800 metres altitude. 

History of the trail

The Motu Road (sometimes called Old Motu Coach Road) was the first vehicle crossing between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne and the only way for almost two decades. 

The first driver to take a motorcar the length of the Motu Road was in 1914, when there were a dozen river crossings and many slips. The driver told the Poverty Bay Herald it was “the most dangerous trip in New Zealand” and he would not take it on again, except for urgent business.

Tips & Logistics

Matawai is one hour's drive from both Ōpōtiki and Gisborne on SH2. It is another 15 minutes' drive to Motu. The Motu to Ōpōtiki stretch has little mobile coverage and no shops.

Shuttle transport is available with Cycle Gisborne and Motu Trails Hire & Shuttle (minimum numbers apply).

Between Motu and Whitikau Valley, and on the northern 10km of Motu Road, you may encounter logging trucks. If you do, pull over and let them pass. 

Motu Road usually has little traffic. Out of peak periods, you may see only one or two cars an hour. However, always remember the road is open. Keep left and be prepared to stop any time at any time. At some peak periods, there may be considerably more traffic, perhaps 10 or 15 vehicles an hour. 

Take water with you. Many people also drink from a small stream halfway up the northern side of Papamoa Hill, 8km before the Pakihi junction.

Take warm clothes, as the weather can be challenging.

Guided and supported tours are available with Cycle Gisborne.

The ride is mapped on the Great Rides App, download the map before you begin as mobile coverage is almost non-existent on the Motu Road Trail. 

Visit Motu Trails website for more.