Cycling New Zealand
New Zealand is a country known for its outdoor pursuits. The jaw-dropping scenery, crystal clear air and array of natural wonders are all celebrated in a variety of activities that bring adventure-seekers closer to the action. While many choose to explore this beautiful country on foot or by campervan, one of the easiest and most well catered for journeys, is the one on the back of a bicycle.
The New Zealand Cycle Trail offers rewarding cycle rides for all ages, abilities and interests. Showcasing some of New Zealand's most amazing landscapes, the 22 Great Rides that make up the NZ Cycle Trail provide an exciting and environmentally sustainable way to reach must-see sights and activities. Varying in length and duration (rides can take between one and eight days to complete), the trails are also graded from 'Easiest' to 'Expert' so it is possible to select the most appropriate level of challenge to suit your purposes. The longer rides are easily accessible so can be broken up into shorter sections.
Many of New Zealand's bike trails are close to towns and villages, with conveniently located bike hire depots. More remote rides are accessed via trailheads with car parks, with local bike shuttles offering drop-offs and pickups for travellers without their own transport. Depending on the level of difficulty, many of the trails are family-friendly and make the ideal holiday for all ages.
All trails offer a wealth of sightseeing opportunities on itineraries that can be taken at your own pace however some visitors prefer to take the stress out of planning and pre-book a guided or self-guided cycling or combination itinerary that includes help with all logistics, equipment, meals and accommodation. To narrow it down, here are some highlights:
The Timber Trail
The ultimate wilderness adventure can be experienced on the North Island's Timber Trail. Located in Pureora Forest Park this 85 km trail combines the spectacle of pure New Zealand beauty with an exploration into the history and ecology of this fascinating area. This region of exotic, regenerating and virgin forest was rescued by passionate environmentalists in the 1970s.
The Timber Trail itself follows the path of old logging roads and tramlines between the tiny settlements of Pureora and Ongarue, visiting Piropiro on the way. The fully guided End to End Epic Ride experience is a three-day, two-night, moderately challenging adventure taking in the entire track along tramways and over numerous suspension bridges, staying in comfortable lodge accommodation along the way.
Great Lake Trail
Hugging the shore of New Zealand's largest lake close to central Taupō, the Great Lake Trail glides through lush forest and wetlands past waterfalls, sandy beaches and panoramic views of Tongariro National Park's volcanoes. There is magnificent scenery along much of the Great Lake Trail however it is the headlands and rocky outcrops surrounding Lake Taupō that offer the best views over the lake to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. This moderately challenging 71 km trail can be enjoyed on two or three-day self-guided itineraries staying in luxury boutique Whakaipo Lodge next to Whakaipo Bay, Lake Taupo.
Mountains to Sea
This epic 231 km trail through two national parks, rolling hill country and remote river gorges is a challenging journey taking up to six days to complete in full. The trail begins at the foot of a volcano and concludes at the deep, blue Tasman Sea. The trail takes in numerous spectacular sights from historic railway viaducts, the abandoned Bridge to Nowhere and the old-town architecture of Whanganui city, to the famous Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks.
Completing the entire trail is a challenging endeavour, best suited to very keen riders, however on the Classic Tongariro Trio Adventure, you can combine cycling with walking and kayaking the region including a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail, riding along the historic cobblestone Old Coach Road and visiting the iconic Bridge to Nowhere and Whanganui National Park.
Hawke's Bay Trails
This network of charming trails traces the coast of the North Island from Bay View in the north to Cape Kidnappers in the south, winding inland through idyllic rural and riverside scenery.
Hawke's Bay is a renowned holiday destination year-round. Boasting fabulous attractions, sublime food and wine as well as temperate weather, this region offers a great deal to visitors, and the trails offer cycling enthusiasts the perfect way to explore the region.
With nearly 200 km of trails to choose from, there are countless ways to design a journey however for an extra special introduction to the best of the region by bike, the Hawke's Bay Trails Luxury Cycling experience, spread over four days, combines daily rides with luxury boutique accommodation and mouth-watering gastronomic experiences.
Queen Charlotte Track
The famous Queen Charlotte Track can be undertaken solely on foot or by bike over two or three days however it is possible to combine cycling, walking and kayaking on the three-day, two-night self-guided itinerary. Located on the South Island, approximately three-hour's drive from Wellington, or an hour from Picton, this highly enjoyable track takes in the incredible beauty of numerous waterways and the spectacular Marlborough Sounds. The highlight of the journey is Eatwell's Lookout, accessed by taking a short detour off the track between Camp Bay and Kenepuru Saddle. The breathtaking views up and down Queen Charlotte Sound, and way out into the Cook Strait are unforgettable.
Tasman Great Taste Trail
This 174 km loop connects the Tasman Bay towns of Nelson, Wakefield, Richmond, Motueka and Kaiteriteri. With a mixture of rural, urban, coastal and riverside scenery this popular holiday region makes the ideal setting for a bike tour. The trail is named for the vast array of gastronomic and cultural attractions on offer – from art galleries and boutique shopping, to fruit stalls, cafes, craft beer pubs and winery restaurants.
The trail can be enjoyed in full over several days on a self-guided pre-booked itinerary or broken into sections. A three-day, two-night itinerary taking in the highlights of the trail on a guided or self-guided basis combines adventure with relaxation, staying in comfort at the prestigious Edenhouse in a serene valley in the heart of rural Nelson.
Alps 2 Ocean
The longest trail is the 'Alps 2 Ocean'. A 306 km stretch of easy to moderate grade terrain takes in some of the scenic highlights between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki/Mt Cook (3754m), Mackenzie's stunning turquoise lakes, Tekapo B Power Station, Elephant Rocks as well as Waitaki wine country.
Otago Central Rail Trail, Otago
The Otago Central Rail Trail follows the old railway line between Clyde and Middlemarch on New Zealand's South Island. A blend of natural beauty, fascinating history and local charm make this trail a thoroughly enjoyable experience suitable for every level of cyclist. The trail takes in historic railway bridges and tunnels, long-abandoned gold diggings, and art deco architecture in the towns dotted along the route.
On the fully guided five-day, four-night 'Mountains To The Sea' Otago Central Rail Trail, experience this epic 152 km trail cycling between four and five hours per day and completing the adventure with the scenic Taieri Gorge Train ride.
The trail passes through many historic townships, offering delightful cafés and restaurants to sample the famous local food and wine and resting each night at a different historic hotel.
Roxburgh Gorge Trail
Another day-ride offering plentiful moments of magic is the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. Easily accessible from Queenstown, this is one of the country's most visually spectacular rides. The trail undulates from water's edge, to the cliffs high above it, along the mighty Clutha Mata-au River. No two seasons are the same here and riders return time and again to witness the changing colours of the bushland in contrast to the sparkling blue waters of the river.
The Queenstown Trail, Southern Lakes
Discover New Zealand's adventure capital on the Queenstown Trail threading through the Wakatipu Basin on a mix of lakeside paths, country lanes, quiet roads and cross-country cycleways surrounded by incredible alpine scenery. The trail connects Queenstown with Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley in the Southern Lakes region of the South Island, taking in historic sites, cultural attractions, wineries and townships as well various opportunities for more extreme activities such as bungee jumping or river rafting.
The Queenstown Trail can be ridden as a multi-day adventure, stopping overnight along the way, or tailored as day rides to suit a range of ages and abilities. The fully-guided Fiordland & Milford Sound Cycle, Kayak & Walk combines multiple exhilarating experiences in one in a five-day itinerary which explores both the Queenstown Trail and the Around The Mountains Cycle Trail, another of New Zealand's Great Rides. This is an active cycling tour covering 35 to 65 km per day however efforts are rewarded with four-star hotel accommodation and an overnight Milford Sound Cruise on day 3.
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