Top cycling trails in New Zealand
If you're planning to take the journey over the ditch to visit our neighbour in the east, why not explore the country's natural wonders by bike? It's a cost-effective, exciting way to get up close and personal with some of New Zealand's most renowned treasures, and some hidden gems, too.
The New Zealand Cycle Trail project, or Nga Haerenga in Maori, is a national initiative funded by the New Zealand Government in conjunction with local councilsi. The project brings together a world-class collection of cycle trails for visitors to explore, with 23 great rides in regions across the country to choose from. Here are a few of the best cycle trails on offer from the New Zealand Cycle Trail project.
Hauraki Rail Trail: Coromandel
Difficulty level: very easy
The Hauraki Rail Trail begins at Thames on the North Island, a one-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of Auckland. This trail is wide, smooth and mostly flat, making it suitable for riders of all ages and fitness levels, and also a great option for familiesii.
From Thames, you'll ride south for 34km towards Paeroa. From Paeroa, you can continue for another 21km to Te Aroha Station, or for 22km to Waihi Stationiii. If you choose to ride from Thames to Te Aroha, you'll be following the path of a historic railway line. You'll be treated to great views across the Hauraki Plains on this scenic route through lush landscapes and picturesque little towns.
Both trail options run through the rural town of Paeroa and the home of the famous 'Lemon & Paeroa (L&P)' soft drink, where you might like to stop for a break and a bite to eat. If you decide to continue on from Paeroa to Waihi Station instead, you will get to pass through the breathtaking Karangahake Gorge; here, you'll find emerald forests, mountain views and long tunnels to ride throughii.
The Hauraki Rail Trail can take up to two days to complete and is approximately 69km in length, with plenty of accommodation options to choose fromii.
Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail: Otago/Canterbury
Difficulty level: easy to intermediate
The 310km Alps 2 Ocean trail is the longest continuous trail in New Zealand, and can take up to six days to complete. This trail begins on the South Island at Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand's highest mountain, and ends on the coast in the town of Oamaruiv. This trail offers a great opportunity for cyclists of all riding abilities to not only experience the stunning alps, but also green pastures, glacial lakes, limestone cliffs, Maori rock art and, finally, the sea.
The extensive trail is broken into eight sections of distances between 23km to 55kmv. Along the way, you'll enjoy spectacular views of the southern alps across Lake Pukaki, off-road rides alongside the pristine Freehold Creek, a visit to Waitaki Dam and a journey through the limestone and rock formations known as 'Elephant Rocks'. At the end of your ride, you'll end up in Friendly Bay in Oamaru where you might want to recuperate with a glass of local wine and a seafood feast.
Visit the Alps 2 Ocean trail website to plan your ride, read more about the trail highlights and organise accommodation.
Te Ara Ahi Trail: Rotorua
Difficulty level: intermediate
If you're looking to experience the best of New Zealand's famous geothermal wonders, head to the country's geothermal hotspot area of Rotorua on the North Island. From here, you'll embark on the Te Ara Ahi Trail, a 66km journey to Lake Ohakuri through the geothermal fields of Whakarewarewa, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-tapu Thermal Wonderland, and Waikite Valley Thermal Springsvi.
Ride through a volcanically active landscape strewn with mud pools, geysers and thermal steam. You could also stop off for a tour of the historic Whakarewarewa Maori Village, or have lunch at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, which also has a number of walking trails to explorevii.
This trail is recommended for cyclists with intermediate experience and fitness levels; some parts of the trail may be steep enough to require you to walk your bike instead of ridevii.
It is recommended to complete the Te Ara Ahi Trail over two daysvi. The town of Wai-O-Tapu offers basic accommodation, perfect for resting before completing the last leg of the trip to Lake Ohakuri.
Queen Charlotte Track: Marlborough
Difficulty level: advanced
More experienced cyclists looking for a challenging ride will enjoy the 70km Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough region of the South Island. This track begins at Ship Cove Meretoto and ends in Anakiwa. As you journey through the Marlborough region, you'll experience the beautiful scenic vistas of both the Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds, where you can also find an abundance of regional wildlife such as the flightless weka birdviii .
The Queen Charlotte Track includes hill climbs, steep descents, flat sections and bridge crossings, making it a challenging, varied ride for seasoned cyclists. There are also alternate routes along the road for those who begin to find the off-road trails too difficultix.
The track takes two to three days to complete, with possible destinations for an overnight stay including Endeavour Inlet, Camp Bay, Portage, Mistletoe Bay and Te Mahia Bay. Visit the Queen Charlotte Track website to begin planning your journey, and to explore accommodation options in the area.