Your can pitch a tent at camping grounds around the country for about NZ$0-15. Some camp grounds are privately owned whilst others are owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is also possible to free camp in many remote places (eg, picnic areas beside the road). Free camping is prohibited in some popular North Island holiday regions (Bay of Islands, Waiheke Island, Coromandel Peninsula). Camping is also prohibited in National Parks, except in designated camping areas. Many local and/or regional councils also operate camping grounds (sometimes called 'domains').
Most National Parks have "huts" which can be used for a fee. These are well away from roads though (to avoid vandalism) so you'll only find them if you go walking/tramping.
Camp ground cabins
Camp grounds often have small cabins available too. This can be very handy on rainy days.
All cities and most big towns have "backpackers" accomidation which are often close to the town centre. The cheapest rooms offer the chance to listen to strangers snoring.
Bed & breakfast
B&B's are often run by well traveled ex-professionals looking for a better life style. Find a copy of The New Zealand Bed and Breakfast Guide.
The usual assortment are available throughout the country, including the big international chains. Cost ranges from NZ$50-200+.
Baches & holiday homes (renting)
If you want to stay somewhere for a bit more than a night you might find a nice weekend cottage. Find a copy of New Zealand Baches and Holiday Homes to Rent.
Adventure Cycles, 9 Premier Ave, Western Springs, Auckland. Freephone 0800 BIKE-TOUR (0800 2453-8687)
City Cycle Hire, 73 Wrights Road, Middleton, Canterbury 8024, mobile phone 027 222 9893
What to expect
New Zealand has over 300 bike shops nationwide, ranging from huge bike "warehouses" to tiny "bike, mower and key cutting" shops. You'll find the former in Auckland and the latter in small town around the country. In remote areas you may find an isolated petrol station selling bike stuff too. In the cities you find shops mostly full of mountain bikes with all the usual USA brand names (Diamond Back, Marin, Gary Fisher, Specialized, GT, Giant, Raleigh and several others). Mountain bikes (or cheaper look-a-likes) make up about 90% of NZ bike sales. So for exotic road bike stuff you'll need look in city bike shops, rather than small town shops.
There are no bike mechanic training course in New Zealand so 99% of our mechanics are self taught - some are obsessive long-term hard-core bike nuts, others will be fresh out of high school. Obsessiveness is usually a big city thing.
NZ Yellow Pages predefined search on "bicycle"
When to come
Come December, January or February for the hottest weather. Either side of that for milder weather (and fewer tourists).
We have a temperate but changeable climate. Because we're an island nation (the furthest inland you can get is about 75km.) we don't have sharply defined seasons - summer is hotter than winter but that doesn't stop us from getting lousy weather during summer or clear skies in winter. The tricky part about cycling in New Zealand is that you can get "Four Seasons in One Day".
Summer runs from December to February, winter June to August. The mountainous regions get snow in winter (but also sometimes in summer too!).
Temperatures are pretty much always warmer the further north you get and range from highs of 30 degrees Celsius in afternoons in mid summer down 0 degrees Celsius nights in mid winter.
TV One National Weather Summary national summary
The Christchurch Press national summary with map
Intellicast 4 day forecast for Auckland
What to bring
Take a rain jacket/coat. You're going to get rained on at some stage - no matter when you travel. It might rain for an hour or for several days straight. In summer you can expect to be fine in shorts and a t-shirt for most of the time. In the evening you might want long trousers and a sweat shirt. Unless of course you come from a hot climate - in which case bring some warmer clothes. New Zealanders have reputation for under-heating their homes in winter, so visitors may
Various companies offer nationwide dial-up and/or wifi access: http://www.tourism.net.nz/visitor-information/internet-cafes-and-travellers-internet/Internet Cafes and Travellers Internet
All cities and touristy towns have Internet Cafes where you can go in and surf for about NZ$6 per hour.
Internet Cafes often also offer cheap international phone calls.
Pre-paid phones are available in all international airports, all cities and, most towns.
There are post boxes for sending mail near most shops. You can buy stamps from most dairies and petrol stations. All cities and big suburbs and towns (anything with 1000 people or more) also have Post Offices which you can have Poste Restante mail addressed to (they'll hold it for about a month).
Cycle Touring Tips
Take it easy
Some people ride 160 km (100 miles) a day - others 50km. Others spend a day off the bike for every four on. Some say it takes four days to get used to riding - after that your body gets used to it. Remember it's a hilly country, you might find 50 hilly km harder than 100km flat km.
Spend more time in the South Island
The South Island is better. It has more remote regions, it has more mountains, it has fewer cars and fewer people.
Do a small tour at home first
Every time I ride I learn more about the optimum setup for my bike and equipment. The only way to learn that is by doing it yourself. You should spend a week riding locally to learn how your bike and equipment is going to handle a longer cycle tour.
Finding ride partners
Dairies ("drug stores") are usually open from 8am till 8 or 9pm seven days a week - most are independently owned and operated. Dairies stock fresh milk, bread, newspapers, and groceries.
Most petrol stations are filling a similar niche as dairies - they stock the same sort of things with a bit more emphasis on junk food. Petrol stations tend to be open for longer hours than dairies or supermarkets, some 24 hrs.
You'll find a supermarket in cities, suburbs and towns. Open from 9am to 6-10pm (early for small towns, late for cities).
The "classic" fast food outlet in New Zealand is the fish and chip shop, which will usually also sell ham burgers and chinese meals. All the cities also have Macdonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, etc.
Pubs (public bars) sell crisps, chips, and meat pies and other small meals. Oh, and they sell beer too.
Coffee culture has hit New Zealand hard - most obviously in Wellington which has more cafes per capita than New York. You can get a cheap meal and a short black or hot chocolate. Mains are usually under NZ$20. Some cafes are licensed to sell wine and beer too.
Yep, we have restaurants with meals ranging from $20-200.
Getting in and out of Auckland
Airport into city
The easiest way to get from Auckland Airport to town is jump in "shuttle" (a large van and trailer that will take up to a dozen passengers into town) and ask to go to your accommodation. Otherwise you'll just spend 2-3 hours riding through suburban street which are pretty much the same as any other western city in the world.
New Zealand has a compulsory tax payer funded health insurance system - the result of which is (a) accident-related medical expenses are covered by the government, even for visitors, and (b) people don't sue over accidents here. (It's a civilized system.)
Chemists sell legal drugs.
In an emergency get yourself to the Accident and Emergency Ward of the nearest hospital.
Tap water is usually fine to drink. Sometimes it's got fluoride added. Water from rivers and streams is a bit more dangerous as we do have giardia (a parasite that can give symptoms such as; stomach pains, nausea and diarrhea) in many tourism hot spots, including National Parks. If in doubt boil the water for 5 minutes. Some say the risk of getting giardia is small if you take water from the surface of clear undisturbed streams.
See also: Safety
In New Zealand
The Information "Shop" Network, Tourist Information/Booking Agents
Maps of the whole of New Zealand and city street maps are produced by and various commercial organisations (Mobil Tourist Guidebooks, NZ Automobile Association Route Guides). These maps are available from tourist information centres and petrol stations.
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) produce a range of 1:50,000 which show elevation contour lines and almost all land details which make them great for off-road mountain bike trips. The 1:250,000 scale show elevation shading and are good for cycling touring throughout New Zealand. Topo maps are available from good camping and tramping stores.
Current NZ exchange rate.
New Zealand in Brief
On Public Holidays government agencies are closed, also; banks, offices, many shops. Public transport runs on a Public Holiday (reduced) timetable.
Bicycles are classified as vehicles so you need to obey the standard road rules - most importantly ride on the left side of the road. Also, you not allowed to ride a bike on motorways. This is especially relevant to those riding in and out of Auckland which has several motorways. Find yourself a copy of the New Zealand Road Code or its cousin, the New Zealand Bicycle Code, available in libraries and bookshops.
You must wear a helmet while riding on New Zealand roads. When tuning left you must give way to all other traffic. At night you must have lights. It has been observed that New Zealanders are not very good driving - one study revealed that 80% of drivers thought they were above average drivers.
Best to ride with a partner. The odds of any bad happening a very small, but...
Best to use a Kryptonite "D" type lock. In the big cities also lock it in a well lighted place (or outside a Police station if you're really worried).
Do a small trip at home
It's the best preparation. At least two or three days, preferably a week. At try to test your rain gear too - you'll need it at least once.
There are a few companies offering fully supported guided tours:
Transport within New Zealand
If you have serious problem you can try hitching. You're bike limit the number of cars that can take you but will probably engender more sympathy.
Shuttle buses are large vans with an enclosed trailer or minibuses. Bikes are usually not a problem, but they may charge $10.
Inter-city buses don't like taking bikes but they will. If you try to book a bus they tell you they can't guarantee the bike will fit on - I've never had a problem. They'll probably charge $10 for the bike.
Again $10 for the bike. Trains run from Auckland down to Wellington, Picton to Invercargill (via Christchurch). There's a train that goes form Christchurch to Greymouth too. Trains are my favourite bike alternative.
Several ferry ships run form Wellington to Picton - the main one being the Tranzlink (NZ Railways) ferry. It's cost you about $35 depending on the season, plus $15 for the bike if you ride on. If it's in a bag it should count as luggage and go free, or they may try to hit you with $4 excess baggage.
Planes go all over the place. Bike will usually get whacked with a $25 fee. It helps if you have a bike bag.
Yep, you can rent cars from all the main centers - all the usually multinationals, plus a few Australasian companies. Check the Yellow Pages.
Traveling to New Zealand
Get on the plane. Wait a long time. Get off the plane.
Not really an option unless you (a) have a private ocean going boat/yacht, (b) you hop on a luxury cruise. Unlikely.
Most of the roads are sealed (tar sealed, paved, blacktop) so skinny tyres are fine. There are a few more gravel (unsealed) roads in the South Island, away from the main routes. If you believe remote=interesting then bring a mountain bike with 1.75 inch wide combination road/off-road tyres. If speed and distance is important then you could use a strong road bike.
Most cycle tourist seem to be using mountain bikes which cope with the extra stain of panniers fine.
Bring or buy?
My personal preference is to stick with my beloved bike. Some airlines charge for bikes on international flights some don't. There's plenty of good bikes available to buy here though (all the usual USA brand names), so that's not a problem.
You can get a bike on a plane by (a) wrapping newspaper around the chain and turning the handlebars, (b) begging a bike box from a local bike shop, or (c) making/buying a bike bag of some sort.