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Coromandel’s coasting connection

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February 2021 Issue

At the northernmost tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, an excellent mountain bike track connects two superb coastal campgrounds.

One of the most beautiful camping spots in the world can be found at Stony Bay at the northern point of the Coromandel Peninsula. Ancient, twisted and drooping pohutukawa tower over a sheltered bay that catches the sunrise around its bush-covered headland and rocky outcrops.

Sheep are still farmed over what remains of the old Stony Bay Farm but native bush is slowly reclaiming the cleared land.

A loop track, comprising the Coromandel Walkway and the Stony Bay Mountain Bike Track, begins near the campground. It uses the bridle path formed by early pioneers to link Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay and is, for the most part, well surfaced and graded.

We began our ride on the easy Coromandel Walkway, climbing to the 150m contour and then sidling a series of bush-clad ridges and gullies. The track is surrounded by lush shades of green.

Less than a kilometre along the trail is a short side track that wanders to an old pā site on the prominent northern headland of Stony Bay. It has great views that cannot be seen from the main track.

Further along, are glimpses into Shag Bay where a steep trail descends to the gentle rolling surf and sandy beach. Regenerating bush is transitioning through the fern and scrub stages on the surrounding slopes.

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High above Poley Bay with views to Sugar Loaf and Great Barrier Island. Photo: Dave Mitchell

Not far from Shag Bay, the track descends steeply to sea level and fords a narrow stream that exits into Poley Bay. We wandered down to this beautiful bay for a closer look before retracing our steps back to the main track. There were gannets circling and diving for fish, seagulls above and bellbirds, tui, fantails, fat kererū and pukeko and weka in the bush and more open country.

A steep climb from the ford returned us back to the benched track and eventually into the Fletcher Bay farm. This is dotted with a patchwork of bracken fern and pockets of scrub and bush. The track soon widens and rounds the Sugar Loaf Peninsula where a wide rocky bay and the Sugar Loaf Rock come into view. The farm track continues to Fletcher Bay where there is a prominent pā site, Second World War bunker and another beautiful DOC campground right on the coast.

We ate lunch before backtracking to the junction with the Coromandel Walkway and the Stony Bay Mountain Bike Track. This marks the start of a truly epic climb to a 500m high ridge top.

An old shepherd’s hut stands at this crossroad. Built in the 1930s, at the height of the depression, from material recycled from a demolished house that once stood on the coast far below, it’s a tin-clad one-room mansion with a big open fire and an amazing view. It would have been an extremely remote spot back then, with no communication and a hard day’s journey from civilisation.

Shades of green on the beautiful Stony Bay Mountain Bike Track. Photo: Dave Mitchell

We selected a granny gear and rode what we could on the wide and steep farm track that headed skyward from the hut’s back door. There was plenty of traction available, just not enough horsepower to turn the pedals on the steeper pitches. Walking those sections proved quite relaxing.

Another ‘lunch-stop’ at the top delivered stunning views around the whole of the northern headlands and over the shiny blue Colville Channel to Cape Barrier at the southern tip of Aotea/Great Barrier Island.

The long downhill back into Stony Bay channelled its way through a nīkau palm, fern and broadleaf canopy. The birdlife was prolific and we spotted some good stands of young kauri pushing their way through the lower canopy. The trail is wide and provides excellent traction on a good surface.

After crossing Stony Bay Stream, at the back of the old farm, a series of markers took us past the old homestead and a jumble of farm buildings to the bay. Our sunny camp spot proved the perfect place to relax, refuel and recover.

Distance
20km
Total Ascent
1491m
Grade
Moderate / Difficult
Time
4-6hr (walking 7-8hr return)
Accom.
Campgrounds at Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay
Access
From Stony Bay Road end
Map
AZ34

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Stony Bay mtb track (gpx, 18 KB)

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