- Taupo Historical Cycle Tours are two hour long guided tours of points of cultural significance along the Taupo lake front with a detailed look at the new Atea lake front space. They are designed to use the growing interest in local history to motivate people to get out and about on bicycles to learn more about our district, while also activating the recreation space that the Atea has now become by making it a meeting place and community focus.
The Great Lake Pathway was voted New Zealand's Favourite Urban Ride in 2017 and underwent a substantial upgrade in 2020, during which it was widened, resurfaced and had various cultural design features added. The Pathway has been enthusiastically embraced by locals and visitors alike – in the last December/January/February period nearly 100,000 people used it – and ever since the upgrade we have received queries from the community about the meanings or histories of some of the highlighted sites along the Pathway. Site signage gives an overview of each site, but it was clear that the community wanted more, and we saw the opportunity for an exciting initiative that would get people learning about our district in a more active way.
We first considered a walking tour, but soon settled on cycle tours that could cover more ground, and used the motivation of an interest in history to get people cycling and active around our lake. This was also a really great way to activate the new lake front space, which was purposely built to be an active recreation space – for people and for cyclists, not cars.
The first tour was organised to coincide with Matariki 2022, and was so well subscribed that we ran two tours instead of the planned one. Each tour lasted two hours, traversing the lake front and hearing the stories of our local iwi Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
The warm reception of the first tours showed us we had to make them a regular feature, and thanks to the work of Taupō District Council Road Safety Manager Sarah Wraight and Taupō Museum staff member Hawira Karaitiana this is now a reality. Sarah has worked extensively to make the cycling aspect of the tours safe and achievable to different age groups and abilities (in some cases providing loan bikes), and Hawira provides an authentic and personal narrative of the many stories that tell the histories of the points along the tour. Their combined efforts have broken down barriers and used the growing interest in local history to get people who would not normally be cyclists out and about enjoying our rohe.
The tours were soon building interest via word of mouth and our social media, so much so that in the last 12 months the cycle tours have become a regular and popular feature, and we have now hosted 355 people on 29 cycle tours, including school and workplace groups, locals and visitors. The tour starts at Parakiri Taupō Boat Harbour and is an easy 12 kilometre return ride that takes in the new lake front Ātea space, Taharepa, Kaiwaka and Wharewaka Points, and Onekeneke Stream before concluding at the Taupō Museum.
The tours remain free of charge to be accessible to all.
The feedback we received about the tours has been extremely positive, and we will let the comments given to us from happy tour participants speak for themselves:
“Great to get the Māori History. Been in Taupō a long time and now can understand the Māori names.”
“Hats off to the team. Well balanced for all abilities, well presented history given in a way all pākehā and Māori can get. Well done and thank you.”
“This was excellent. Hope this is the beginning of opening up many more opportunities for Taupānarians to learn local history, geography and general knowledge.”
“Enjoyed the bike ride and learning. Thanks for the cookies and coffee afterwards!”
“Really interesting to know information of the many historical spots in Taupō. Lived here five years and I didn’t know.”
The most rewarding aspect of the tours has been the unique activation of our new lake front – on bikes, a method that perfectly suits it – and an increased awareness of local history. Many also remarked that it was great to ‘be back on a bike’ again and to see just how cycle friendly our town is.
The greatest achievement of the tours has been the awakening of a genuine interest in getting out and about around our Great Lake and learning more about the place we call home – or the place you are visiting. For so long history has been resigned to books and museum walls, and the tours have not only taken it off the page and out of the museum but onto the very land where that history began. To hear the oral traditions retold in person is a very moving experience, and nearly all tour participants leave wanting more.
Equally importantly, the tours are a great way to remind people that cycling and being active is not the sole preserve of mountain bikers: cycling the land learning of it’s past is a fantastic way to get some exercise for body and mind, and the work of Hawira and Sarah in making that interesting, easy to access, and open to all has been an inspiration to all.
The tours have also been instrumental in activating our new lake front, making it a meeting place and focal point, a place where adventures begin. In short, the tours have proven so successful that we are now starting a second cycling tour of the town’s murals during the Graffiato festival.
- Outstanding Active Space Initiative