Glenbervie: When Gorse Attacks

While up north this weekend, we took the bikes out to Glenbervie Forest, near Whangarei. I’ve been here many times over the years, but not recently. Turns out things have changed a little.

Arriving at the carpark, I wondered why there were no other bikers there. Normally there’s one or two. We headed out into the forest, noting the signs that showed some areas were closed due to logging. No problem though, we should be able to find some other trails, right?

Not so much. Signs pointed to trails, but they ended like this:

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This wasn’t just a one-off either. Everything was turning into dead-ends.

All my attempts of find good trails were going nowhere. We just seemed to have miles of uphill in the hot sun, with trails non-existent or overgrown. Well, maybe there’s one left – Bluff. That’s one of my favourite trails at Glenbervie. It’s been there a long time, and was always reliable. Let’s head down there.

It started beautifully, with a nice path through pine trees. Didn’t last though – we came up to this:Glenbervie - 11There is a trail through that gorse, if you look closely. The old trail is still underneath it all. There’s a smooth patch of dirt, and it’s a trail I know well from past rides. I thought that it might have just been a short patch of gorse, and we could push through it, but it got worse. Now we had cutty grass to contend with.

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I pushed on past Anna, trying to see if it ever opened up. I kept thinking we’d reach the older forest, and the path would open up. It just got worse.

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But after 150m of bashing downhill through it, I had to admit defeat. The problem is…there was only one way out. Back through the gorse. Uphill. Sigh.

I hauled my bike back up first, then came back and grabbed Anna’s bike. Eventually we made it back up to the forest road. Anna wouldn’t let me try going down any more tracks though. We had to head back down the main gravel road.

I guess the results were inevitable – we both ended up with shredded legs. Over the next few days I pulled at least 20 small thorns out of my fingers. Ouch. I’m not quite sure Ann’s forgiven me.

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For the last day of my summer holidays, we went mountain biking at Waitawa, about 50km south-east of Auckland. This is a new regional park in the Auckland area, that only opened in 2014.

For the last 50 years Waitawa operated as an explosives manufacturing facility. Obviously it was off-limits, even though it occupies a remarkable position overlooking the Hauraki Gulf. But the council purchased the land in 2004, and Orica finished operations in September 2013. Since then the council has been hard at work, re-shaping the park.

Normally regional parks are a lot of bush, with a few walking tracks and campsites. All very sedate. But here they’ve taken a different approach, planning a range of recreational activities within the park. So they’ve built walking tracks, MTB tracks, horse riding trails, disc golf, etc. There’s fishing & BBQ areas, and there’s even a campsite for sea kayaks.

It was a stunning day, and the park & surroundings were looking amazing:



This was our first trip to Waitawa, so it was a bit of an exploratory mission. There’s plenty of maps and signposts, but it was still a little tricky figuring out our bearings. The maps don’t always quite match up with what’s on the ground either.

They’ve had some problems with slips recently, which was limiting vehicle access. Some of the mountain bike tracks were impassable due to slips too, although this didn’t cause any major problems for us. Lack of bikes was a bigger problem – the gorse is encroaching on some trails, because they just haven’t had enough riders through there recently. I’m sure that will change.

Getting started was a bit tricky – we could see trails, but it was a bit unclear which trails were going where, and we had a bit of looping around near the carpark, before we got under way. Once we got onto a nice downhill to Mataitai Bay, we were away!

Wharf Waitawa Rd

Down at the bay, we cruised over to the wharf, to watch someone catch a hammerhead shark. Only a foot long though, so it went back in.

Being summer, it was of course fine and sunny in Auckland, as it always is. Makes for hot and sweaty riding back up the hill. Trying to get around one of the old magazines, we hit blocked off trails and gorse, so had to backtrack and head up the road.

We then went up and over, and down to Waitawa Bay. This track is not marked on the maps as a mountain biking track, but it was signposted. It really shouldn’t be a biking track though – the corners are too tight, and it’s very steep in places, with many steps in the steep sections. A walking track, not a biking track. Still, it got us down to the campsite.

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Lunch was the old mountain biking staple:


Easier to haul up the farm track away from it:

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Well, maybe a little bit easier. Anna’s face was about the same shade as her top by this time.

From here we headed back toward the main entrance, then picked up ‘Oyster Shell’ and ‘Valley Loop’ to take us back towards the MTB carpark. These trails were nice easy going, smoother than the trails we’d started out on. Some of the tracks are far too tight & steep, but these were perfect – only problem was getting too hot and sweaty on the uphill climb back to the car!


I’m not sure how well it will ride in the wet, but I look forward to getting back there again before the end of summer, to explore more of the trails to the Western side of the park.

It’s great to see more mountain biking options in the Auckland area. With Fourforty now opening, there’s plenty of choices in the South/East area.