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New Zealand's Best Cycling Tracks & Trails

10 Feb 2017
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It’s no secret that New Zealand is home to some of the best cycling tracks in the world! In today’s post, I’m going to share my favourite five tracks on each island and highlight the historic, majestic and cultural elements that can be found along New Zealand’s world-class mountain biking trails.

I’m pretty sure this post will get you excited about cycling in New Zealand!

 

 

North Island

Hauraki Rail Trail

Location: Thames Paeroa – Waihi Te Aroha
Grade: Predominately 1, some 2
Distance: 80 km, 2 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Omokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park

Simply the best way to experience the Hauraki/Coromandel District, this trail is one of the easiest in the country to cycle, perfect for families with young children. Open throughout the year, the best (and driest!) time to cycle is September to May. Lush green pastures with grazing cattle, magnificent bridges, mining relics, jaw-dropping views cut into cliff faces and the longest tunnel of any New Zealand cycle trail (bring a torch) are a few of the many wonders to be discovered. Be sure to stop at the Matatoki Cheese Barn and Ohinemuri Estate Winery along the way. The trip ends at Waikino Station where cyclists can load their bikes onto vintage trains for the 8 km journey to Waihi where world famous mineral spas can be found for a relaxing finish.

Rimutaka Cycle Trail

Location: Petone – Orongorongo
Grade: 2, 2-3, 3
Distance: 115 km, 2- 3 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Wellington’s Kiwi Holiday Park

This popular and historic trail begins with an easy riverside cycle path, gradually climbing and winding through the Rimutaka Ranges to the Wairarapa Valley ending in an exhilarating, more technically difficult ride ending where the Orongoro River and Pacific Ocean meet. This trail will take you past several great riverside picnic and swimming spots, the Pakuratahi Forest and the Wairarapa, famous for its vineyards and sheep farming. Keep an eye out for banded dotterel, Caspian Tern, bar-tailed godwit and the pied stilt, migratory waterbirds indigenous to the Wairarapa wetlands. If you are adventurous enough for the southernmost end of the trail – Turakirae Head is a unique geological formation of raised beaches and home to a colony of fur seals.

Great Lake Trail

Location: Waihaha — Whakaipo Bay 
Grade: 3 (Intermediate)
Distance: 71 km, 2 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: All Seasons Kiwi Holiday Park at Taupo

Opened in 2014, the trail was designed by engineers with extensive mountain biking experience to provide all-weather riding and a range of activities along the shores of gorgeous Lake Taupo. The lake is the largest in New Zealand and world famous for its massive scale as well as some of the best year-round trout fishing. There are three sections of the trail that can be ridden as standalone rides with Kinloch acting as a hub between two sections featuring cafes, picnic areas and toilets. This trail, with its hidden beaches, waterfalls and scenic vistas, is part of a network that has been accredited by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) as a pre-eminent cycling destination.

Twin Coast Trail

Location: Bay of Islands – Hokianga Harbour
Grade: 1, 2
Distance: 84 km, 2 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Bay of Islands Kiwi Holiday Park

This northern region enjoys a subtropical climate and thus this cycle trail is a perfect adventure throughout the year. Built on an old rail corridor and with a recent investment of $3 million in 2015/2016, this trail has a smooth surface, is flat and wide with gentle climbs and includes both off-road and on-road riding. Historically significant, this trail is located in a region which some of New Zealand’s earliest settlements. Riders should keep an eye for the series of hand-carved Pou installed along the route by local iwi recalling the history and stories of both Maori and Pakeha settlements.

Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike

Location: Rotorua – Waikite Valley
Grade: 2, 3
Distance: 48 km, 2 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park

The best time of year to experience this cultural trail is in the summer between November and April. The trail takes adventurous riders across the geothermal landscape, showcasing bubbling pools, steaming vents and geysers, and is also rich in Maori history and folklore. Be certain to plan some time at Te Puia (the New Zealand Maori Arts + Crafts Institute) and Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village that relies on geothermal power.

 

South Island

Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

Location: Kingston – Waiter Peak
Grade: 1, 2 (majority), 3
Distance: 180 km 4-5 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels

The region’s climate and trail’s easy gradient make it a wonderful way to explore the Southlands mountain range year round. Cyclists will be met with panoramas of snow peaked mountains and pristine Lake Wakatipu. The unique location of the trail allows for cyclists to escape into remote isolation without leaving the comforts of home as there are plenty of rest stops available in friendly rural townships allowing for shorter rides and off trek routes.

 

Otago Central Rail Trail

Location: Clyde – Middlemarch
Grade: 1, 2
Distance: 152 km, 1-5 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Dunedin Holiday Park

New Zealand’s original ‘Great Ride,’ the trail was named after the old railway line built between 1891 and 1907. This immersive ride through big-sky country will provide countless glimpses of the past railway and associated gold rush, from long tunnels, trestle and stone bridges, abandoned mining machinery and preserved gold mining settlements. T. Gilchrist General Store, in operation for over 100 years in Otureahua, and the smallest operating post office at Chatto Creek are both unique places for refreshment stops. Allow four full days for the ride, though alternatively there are over 20 townships that make great start and end points for single day journeys. The region is a year round destination for mountain bikers, but carry clothing sufficient to cope with a range of temperatures as you can experience four seasons in one day.

Queen Charlotte Track

Location: Ship Cove – Anakiwa
Grade: 3, 4
Distance: 70 km, 2-3 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Picton Campervan Park

Following in the footsteps of the earliest Polynesian and European explorers this 70km trail unwinds in the idyllic landscapes of the Marlborough Sounds which account for one fifth of New Zealand’s coastlines.  You can escape into the untouched natural environment as the trails entry and exit points are all accessed by boat. The maze of intricate waterways and secluded coves provide countless opportunities for picnic stops and swims as well as wildlife sightings. This is more challenging terrain and thus riders should have prior mountain biking experience and be in fit shape.

Tasman’s Great Taste Trail

Location: Nelson – Kaiteriteri
Grade: 2 (majority), 3
Distance: 38-175 km, 1-4 days
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park

This purpose built cycle path is accessible year round thanks to the region’s Mediterranean climate. Winding past vineyards and rural landmarks the trail will lead to a ferry which riders can load onto for a ten minute ride to Rabbit Island’s unspoilt wilderness. Be certain to stop for refreshments at Jester House while on the island. Other great stopping spots along the trail include HOP Federation Brewery and Mapua Warf, known for it’s smoked seafood and array of restaurants serving local produce.

Dun Mountain Trail

Location: Brook St. Entrance – Maitai Entrance
Grade: 3, 4
Distance: 38 km, 4-6 hours
Closest Kiwi Holiday Park: Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park

Dun Mountain Trail is an alpine trail designed for experienced mountain bikers. The trail winds its way to the top of Dun Mountain, which boasts a height of 878m, before it traverses back down to Nelson. The trail takes in views of the Waimea Plains and the spectacular Tasman Bay. A great resting place is Third House where cyclists can be treated to the sounds of bellbirds and amused by the inquisitive weka.

 

Share your adventures with me!

If you’re planning a cycle trip in New Zealand, I’d love to hear all about it. Feel free to share your plans in the comments area below. Better yet, send me a full trip report with photos and we’ll feature it on our website or Kiwi Holiday Park's Facebook page.

 

Photos

20061027_015 by Jon Sullivan, CC BY-NC 2.0
Mountain Bike Mt. Cook by Sara n Vernon, CC BY 2.0

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