It begins as a gentle pedal to enjoy some of the bay’s most scenic coastline and leaves you with a newfound respect for the tangata whenua who once lived here. The Bay of Plenty’s newest cycle trail - Te Awanui - runs 19 kilometres from Ōmokoroa to Wairoa River. It’s a must-do not only for visitors, but also for locals and Te Ara Tourism’s e-bike tours are the best way to get the most out of it.  

Paula Beilby

Te Ara Tourism owner and tour guide Paula Beilby is proudly Tauranga born and raised and has returned to her ancestral lands of the Te Pirirākau hapū after years overseas. She’s recounting her history as we stand in the historic pā site, Ongarahu, at Plummers Point. 

“Because it is connected to my hapu it’s so special to me. This is part of who I am, this land and this history.”

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Ongarahu is considered one of the most well-preserved defensive fortifications in the country and is one of many pā sites dotted around coastal Te Awanui.  It was the first to make New Zealand TV history by being part of a restoration programme on Māori Television back in 2011. 

Paula paints a verbal picture of a thriving community of around 400 Māori who lived in the pā back in the 1800s with a Pōhutukawa standing guard at the western end and a magnificent sweeping view that takes in Ōmokoroa, Matakana, Rangiwaea and Motuhoa Islands and Mount Maunganui. 

“It has some commanding views of our harbour, right?” smiles Paula, “Back in the day, the proximity to the shore would’ve been for the purely practical reason of collecting kai – shellfish and fish – and for defensive reasons. My ancestors wouldn’t have been admiring the view, they would’ve been looking for possible attackers.”

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She describes how the pā residents traded with their Auckland and Waikato neighbours and eventually, because of their loyalty to those tribes, had their lands confiscated.  

“I hope these tours will be a vehicle for collective healing for our people. It’s time to acknowledge and start talking about what happened so that it stops being so hurtful and simply becomes a matter of fact.” 

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Paula loves the idea of story telling in a different way – small, bespoke tours that can be tailored or personalised to each guests’ interests.   

“I like a snug, intimate group. Maybe six of us hanging out and talking. A more personal touch works for me,” she says.

“A lot of people don’t know about this pā site. It’s not widely talked about, and I think a lot of people like it like that. It’s our little taonga and that’s why it’s nice to begin here on the cycle trail.”

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The cycle route that traverses the rohe (area) of Pirirākau, is made up of both new and existing off-road shared paths and local road connections. Paula’s 90-minute tour ends at The Cider Factorie for light snacks and refreshments.  

“The stories I tell are those that were woven into our childhood by Māori teachers and our kaumatua while others are based on facts from historical records. I’m a committed lifelong learner. I’ve always had a love of great stories and I’m looking forward to sharing them.” ---  Grid