A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

SHORT INTRODUCTION TO NEW ZEALAND’S CYCLE TRAILS

Reading time: 5 minutes
“Cycling (Trails) in New Zealand”

– a short introduction –

New Cycling Mecca

If you mention New Zealand, you say hiking paradise. But since a while the old tramping legs have gotten fierce competition. Roughly 2,600 kilometers of cycling trails nicely spread across the country, take you through breathtaking landscapes and pristine nature. New Zealand is rapidly also becoming a cyclists heaven!

With names like Old Ghost Road, Around the Mountains, Alps to Ocean, Great Taste Trails, Mountains to Sea and Timber Trail New Zealand shows the cyclist the absolute best it has to offer. And that’s a lot! High snowcapped mountains, dense rainforests, extended beaches,  volcanos, spectacular waterfalls and deep blue glacier lakes; you’ll encounter it all while enjoying the wind in your hair.

Huge choice
With 22 ‘Great Rides’ evenly divided over the north and south island, there’s really something to choose. Cyclists who like to explore the country at their own pace, will certainly appreciate the multi-day trails. The adventurous mountain biker however, can go wild on challenging mtb-trails. Grade wise, there’s always a trail that suits your skills or shape. Like gorgeous routes through hilly scenery with some challenging climbs and completely flat trips running over former railway tracks. And, if that ain’t enough for you, you can spice it all up by starting (or ending) stages with a helicopter flight, a journey on a jet boat or a voyage on an old steam engine. And your bike comes along!

UNIQUE LANDSCAPE

ALL TO BE DISCOVERED BY BIKE

Cycle adventure
Mountain and Road bikes can be hired at many companies and are of an excellent quality. Shuttle busses take you to the start of the trail and they also pick you up once you finished. Need some help arranging your cycling adventure? There are plenty of companies willing to help book accommodation, transport and arranging any gear needed. You’ll be cruising mostly gravel roads, often having them all to yourself. Once and awhile you can’t avoid touching some tarmac. Luckily, these roads are often quiet and drivers are getting more and more used having to share some parts of the roads with cyclists.

Sheep, lots of sheep
Shattered across the country you’ll find awesome cycle trails. Sometimes you’ll find yourself all alone on the road for hours, meeting only a lonesome wanderer, cyclist, or a group of wild horses or sheep, lots of sheep! A true recommendation on the North Island are the Motu Trails: ninety kilometers through the pristine eastern part of the island. The first ten kilometers you’ll cycle parallel the coastline with panoramic views on the volcanically active White Island. Next, bush awaits you and the land becomes hilly. Forty kilometers you’ll think you are in no-ones-land; a green oase of sloping hills, giant trees, opulent ferns and wonderful vistas. Still some energy left? Then the Pakihi Track is a must-do. This thrilling and demanding mountain bike track follows the meandering Pakihi Stream over a wee trail used by the indigenous inhabitants, the Maori, and takes you back right where you started from.

Unique landscape
With so many pretty things to choose from, making the ‘right’ choice can be quite a tough job. The experienced mountain biker can go wild on the Old Ghost Road. This 85 kilometer technical route is tackled in two days. Spending the night in a comfortable hut. You’ll follow the same route miners did long ago. Though they did it on foot… Encountering abandoned little ghost villages, making your way through dense rain forest, a deep gorge and refreshing rivers. And every tough climb is rewarded with gorgeous panoramas! Like to do it a bit easier and opt to see as much as possible of the country? Go for the Alps to Ocean trail. The longest, but arguably also the most beautiful New Zealand cycle route begins at the base of the Southern Alps, taking you all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A short but thrilling helicopter ride drops you and your bike at the start, Mount Cook, and your adventure takes you at least 300 kilometer (5 – 6 days) to the coastal village of Oamaru. Crossing a mixture of unique landscapes of alps, meadows, huge vast plains, glacier lakes, golden weed fields and limestone rocks. Awesome!

“Sometimes the only living soul you’ll bump into is a wandering sheep”

Cycle adventure
Mountain and Road bikes can be hired at many companies and are of an excellent quality. Shuttle busses take you to the start of the trail and they also pick you up once you finished. Need some help arranging your cycling adventure? There are plenty of companies willing to help book accommodation, transport and arranging any gear needed. You’ll be cruising mostly gravel roads, often having them all to yourself. Once and awhile you can’t avoid touching some tarmac. Luckily, these roads are often quiet and drivers are getting more and more used having to share some parts of the roads with cyclists.

Sheep, lots of sheep
Shattered across the country you’ll find awesome cycle trails. Sometimes you’ll find yourself all alone on the road for hours, meeting only a lonesome wanderer, cyclist, or a group of wild horses or sheep, lots of sheep! A true recommendation on the North Island are the Motu Trails: ninety kilometers through the pristine eastern part of the island. The first ten kilometers you’ll cycle parallel the coastline with panoramic views on the volcanically active White Island. Next, bush awaits you and the land becomes hilly. Forty kilometers you’ll think you are in no-ones-land; a green oase of sloping hills, giant trees, opulent ferns and wonderful vistas. Still some energy left? Then the Pakihi Track is a must-do. This thrilling and demanding mountain bike track follows the meandering Pakihi Stream over a wee trail used by the indigenous inhabitants, the Maori, and takes you back right where you started from.

Unique landscape
With so many pretty things to choose from, making the ‘right’ choice can be quite a tough job. The experienced mountain biker can go wild on the Old Ghost Road. This 85 kilometer technical route is tackled in two days. Spending the night in a comfortable hut. You’ll follow the same route miners did long ago. Though they did it on foot… Encountering abandoned little ghost villages, making your way through dense rain forest, a deep gorge and refreshing rivers. And every tough climb is rewarded with gorgeous panoramas! Like to do it a bit easier and opt to see as much as possible of the country? Go for the Alps to Ocean trail. The longest, but arguably also the most beautiful New Zealand cycle route begins at the base of the Southern Alps, taking you all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A short but thrilling helicopter ride drops you and your bike at the start, Mount Cook, and your adventure takes you at least 300 kilometer (5 – 6 days) to the coastal village of Oamaru. Crossing a mixture of unique landscapes of alps, meadows, huge vast plains, glacier lakes, golden weed fields and limestone rocks. Awesome!

“Sometimes the only living soul you’ll bump into is a wandering sheep”

GET TO KNOW NEW ZEALAND

Discovering New Zealand by Bike is also exploring its rich history

Cycle Nation
It is a bit odd that New Zealand is only now really beginning to promote itself as a cycling country. It all started some 15 years ago with the  Otago Central Rail Trail: New Zealands first ‘real’ cycle trail, through the heart of the South Island. To boost the regions tourism, a group of enthusiastic  Kiwis decided, together with the Department of Conservation, to build a cycle trail where once was a railway. The Otago Central Rail Trail was born: a route from Clyde to Middlemarch. Following the route where once lay the tracks, long ago build with blood, sweat and tears in the gold fever days. But when, after 16 years of building the job was finally done, the gold was finished. The track has been used for a while to transport wool, but from the beginning of the 1980’s became oblivion. Transport by road took over.

Success story
The Otago Central Rail Trail now is a success story. Thousands of people yearly cycle the 153 kilometers over the former railway line. It passes a landcape that makes you think of the Wild West. Lovely vistas, an ever changing scenery of rock formations, vast plains and sheep farms. The track passes 68 restored railway bridges and tunnels, sometimes stretching over 200 meter! Most people take four days to complete the trail. There is so much to do and see along the way! But the cyclist in good shape, or the tourist with a tight schedule, can also do it in two days. Resting is done in an authentic hotel, old post office or former school. And of course, you’ll be treated with the famous New Zealand hospitality and vitalised with nutritious meals.

Their very own trails
Of course, this succes didn’t go unnoticed. Not for long, other parts of the country started to build cycle trails. Old railway lines, ancient trade routes and other long forgotten trails were succesfully transformed into the most beautiful cycle trails. Result: 22 Great Rides. New Zealand has put itself on the map as an appealing cycle nation. And ambitions are sky-high. The government finances it with millions of dollars and new trails are added on a regular base. So there’s more than enough to choose from!

“a unique landscape that makes your thoughts unwillingly drift off to the Wild West”