New Zealand is a natural wonderland, filled with an assortment of native wildlife and pristine wilderness. Go on an extraordinary journey, and admire ever-changing landscapes and picturesque views. From vast plains and rivers to rugged mountains and farmland, a pure nature paradise. Along the way, you will also have the opportunity to meet many proud Kiwis. Stay in luxurious, small-scale accommodations, places where you can experience the warm hospitality of the locals.
New Zealand is world-renowned for its astonishing nature and hiking trails. But did you know there are beautiful cycling routes on both the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand? Get active and discover the places that you cannot reach by car. Spend the night in a stylish accommodation where you can connect with the environment, rejuvenate and enjoy the company of your hosts.
There is a great assortment of cycle routes and mountain bike trails that cater to everyone. Whether you’re seeking a gentle bike ride around the fruitful vineyards, a child-friendly path, or a high-octane backcountry trail, there is something for you. And be sure to allow plenty of time to engage with the locals and explore the charming towns, along the way. A journey with the perfect blend of nature, cycling and unique accommodations.
Mountain biking the Otago Central Rail Trail
Between Dunedin and Central Otago on the South Island, you will find the 152-kilometre long Otago Central Rail Trail. This used to be a railway line, but the track has since been removed due to faster connections. Today, it is a beautiful route for cyclists and an ideal way to admire New Zealand’s stunning nature. You can choose how many days you would like to ride the Otago Central Rail Trail. There are tours from one day to five days, including overnight stays.
The most popular stretch of the Otago Central Rail Trail is between Lauder and Oturehua. Here, you can discover the wildlife of the Poolburn Gorge and the Ida Valley. You will also cycle over the iconic 110-metre high bridge.
Stay in the heart of Central Otago at a charming bed & breakfast. Filled with historical value, the town of Clyde owes its existence to gold which was discovered here in 1861. John Waldron built the homestead in the early 1900s with mudbrick and planted fruit trees throughout the property. Your Kiwi host moved from Auckland to embrace the local culture, history and serene lifestyle in Clyde.
The accommodation is set amongst gardens, fruit trees and well-kept lawns with views over the vineyard and Cairnmuir Range. Perfect for after a day of cycling, have a soak in the outdoor hot tub under the Milky Way.
Biking through the nature of Wanaka
Together with local Kiwi guides, cycle over hills and through forests, and enjoy the endless views of the Clutha River. This is the longest river in New Zealand’s South Island. Along the way, you can also soak up the views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park.
There are various mountain bike tours on offer, both for beginners and advanced. The tours can even be combined with a helicopter flight, which will drop you off in the mountains, after which you can continue mountain biking.
After exploring this spectacular part of New Zealand by bike, unwind in a chic bed and breakfast. The property is set on four hectares and is surrounded by wide-open spaces and lavish mountain views. Located just five minutes from the lively town centre, it is the perfect base to relax, explore and mingle with fellow travellers. Enjoy a glass of wine by the fireplace together with your hosts. Fire up the barbecue or take a dip in the heated swimming pool.
Explore the Lake Taupo area by mountain bike
Taupo is a thermal wonderland of active volcanoes, trout-filled rivers, alpine tussock and ancient forests. Be dazzled by Lake Taupo, the great inland sea of New Zealand. As you make your way around the lake, you will discover an array of different landscapes.
Snow-blanketed mountains, alpine deserts, Huka Falls, steaming geothermal valleys and rejuvenating hot springs. This region has something for everyone but is especially attractive to fishermen, golfers, wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cycle the Great Lake Trail and discover the surroundings of New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo.
The Great Lake Trail is one of the 22 cycle paths of the ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail’ and consists of 4 different routes. One of these routes is the K2K, a stunning mountain bike route to the northwestern shore of the lake. The route passes waterfalls and panoramic views of Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park. It is advisable to cycle this K2K route from west to east, then you have to climb less and you can descend for a longer time.
On top of a cliff near the town of Taupo lies a luxury lodge, an accommodation boasting panoramic views of Lake Taupo and the surrounding mountain ranges. An ideal place to unwind after a day of cycling and exploring. Meet other travellers by the cosy fire and enjoy a glass of New Zealand Pinot noir.
Discover the vineyards of Marlborough by bike
Explore the spectacular Marlborough region by bike. New Zealand’s largest wine region makes up 77% of the country’s total wine production. The bike ride takes you on country roads through the vineyard valley. Along the way, stop at wineries and sample the local wines.
Meet a local wine connoisseur, who has lived in this region for over ten years, and knows all about the local food and wine scene here. Together, you can go on a six or ten-kilometre cycling journey and discover the local gems. It is also possible to discover this gorgeous wine region on your own. The locals are more than happy to give you tips for routes and directions.
Nestled between five acres of gardens, orchard trees, fresh herbs and green lawns is a self-contained cottage, full of character. In the surrounding area, you will find an array of vineyards growing Chardonnay grapes. Your hosts are renowned for providing exceptional hospitality. Fire up the barbecue at night with some local produce. Try a local favourite, mussels! Savour a glass of Sauvignon blanc while overlooking New Zealand nature.
Conquer the West Coast Wilderness Trail
Cycle along winding paths through rainforests with special native birds, past lakes, over exhilarating bridges and admire the crystal clear rivers. The West Coast Wilderness Trail is a 132-kilometre track that connects Greymouth in the north with Ross in the south. A unique and memorable experience with stunning views of the Southern Alps.
Along the way, you will pass beautiful viewpoints and historical sites. A born and bred New Zealand, and local guide can advise you on the best routes and will tell you about the locals of the West Coast, along the way.
You can choose one of three options for cycling the West Coast Wilderness Trail:
- 49 kilometres in about seven hours;
- 36 kilometres in about five hours;
- 15 kilometres in about two hours.
Nestled on the coastline, surrounded by native bush and pohutukawa trees, you will discover your quintessential Kiwi bach (holiday cottage). Punakaiki lies at the edge of the Paparoa National Park, the home of the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. Steps away from the accommodation is the Pacific Ocean. Wander along the beach at low tide and collect fresh mussels, ready for you to eat! And be sure to end the day, watching the sunset over the glistening water.
More bike trails to discover in New Zealand
- Queenstown Trail
- The Redwoods
- Roxburgh Gorge Trail
- Great Taste Trail
- Alps 2 Ocean Trail
- The Old Ghost Road
Are you ready to experience New Zealand’s natural wonders by bike?
Andrew Morten is Founder of A Journey DownUnder. A Journey DownUnder creates bespoke, tailored trips to Australia and New Zealand.
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