For travellers keen to escape the everyday grind and get back to nature, a cycle tour through the pristine wilderness of New Zealand could be just the ticket. Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail – was conceived in 2009 as a healthy and enjoyable way for Kiwis and visitors to see the country, benefiting local communities at the same time.
Nga Haerenga (meaning ‘the journeys’) consists of over 20 cycle trails traversing the breadth of New Zealand, from the picturesque lakes and thermal hotspots of the North Island to the dramatic scenery of the South. The trails range in length and difficulty, with something to suit everyone from leisure cyclists to seasoned pros. We have rounded up four of the best trails in New Zealand to help you plan the perfect cycling holiday.
Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail (Otago/ Canterbury, South Island)
The 'Alps 2 Ocean' Cycle Trail is the longest continuous ride in the country, descending from the snowcapped slopes of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, to the town of Oamaru on the Pacific Coast.
The 300-kilometre ride takes in jaw-dropping vistas of the pristine Southern Alps, glacial lakes, dramatic limestone cliffs and ancient Maori rock art, as well as passing through a World Heritage National Park. With a mix of on and off-road riding and a variety of different sections to choose from, the trail is suitable for all abilities.
Te Ara Ahi - Thermal by Bike (Rotorua, North Island)
This 66-kilometre trail is a unique cycling adventure through the otherworldly thermal region surrounding Rotorua. Expect to see incredible geysers, bubbling mud pools and a whole lot of steam as you ride through four major geothermal fields: Whakarewarewa, Wai-O-tapu Thermal Wonderland, Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs.
Highlights along the way include the picturesque wetlands of Lake Okaro and the Te Ranga Hot Pools – the perfect place to soak those sore cycling muscles. This region is also rich in Maori history and traditional culture, along with rare flora and fauna.
Roxburgh Gorge Trail (Central Otago, South Island)
This one-day ride through ‘New Zealand’s Grand Canyon’ is a spectacular adventure suitable for the whole family. You’ll follow the Clutha Mata-au River through the awe-inspiring Roxburgh Gorge, where sheer bluffs rise up almost 350 metres on either side. The 34-kilometre trail also encompasses a number of historic mining relics, such as old schist huts built into the gorge’s rocky walls by Chinese miners in the 1800s.
The middle section of the trail is currently not accessible by bike, however riders keen to complete the trail can enjoy a scenic boat ride down the river before continuing on their bikes. For those looking for a longer cycling trip, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail connects to two other iconic South Island rides – the Clutha Gold Trail and the Otago Central Rail Trail, both rich in history and dramatic scenery.
Great Lake Trail (Taupo, North Island)
Recognised as a world class cycling destination, the Great Lake Trail follows the shores of stunning Lake Taupo – New Zealand’s largest lake located in the centre of the North Island. Riders enjoy 74-kilometres of cycling through beautiful native forest with spectacular views across Lake Taupo to Tongariro National park.
With a pumice soil surface, there is rarely any mud on the trail even in wet weather, making this a great option for all seasons. The Great Lake Trail takes two days to cycle in its entirety: however, with four entry points accessible by water taxi, there are a variety of trips possible.