Cycle Touring

Your priorities should be

  1. The West Coast (South Island)
  2. Nelson (South Island)
  3. Queenstown (South Island)
  4. Rotorua (North Island)
  5. East Cape (North Island)
  6. Coromandel or Bay of Plenty (North Island)

If you have less than a month in New Zealand, spend it all in the South Island.

Try to avoid

  • Auckland - it's just a big city much like any other. Go to the South Island - it has better scenery and quieter roads.
  • The Canterbury plains are flat and therefore boring
  • Highway 1 between Auckland and Wellington - the road has little room for cyclists and is full of cars travelling at 110km/hr.
  • Running out of time - it's better to spend more time doing less than sprinting around the country.

Quiet roads

For many people a great deterrence to cycling is the speed and volume of traffic. So we have created a list of great roads and tracks that can be used to avoid busy roads. "Quiet Roads" are those that on average have less than 1000 cars per day.

Kawhia Harbour to Awakino

This is 120 km of quiet road. In 2008 only 15 km was still gravel. 46 cars passed us! Three is a lovely motorcamp half way down the coast at Marakopa.

East Cape

This is one of New Zealand’s classic cycle tours. It is all sealed now and the traffic numbers are up a bit, but it is still well worth doing. East Cape is the first place in New Zealand (and some argue the world) to see the sun. Including side trips this trip will take in 340 kilometres.

Old Motu Coach Road

Matawai (near Gisborne) to Opotiki (Bay of Plenty) This is a wonderfully scenic 77 kilometre long trip, mostly on a gravel road. There are a couple of big hills, but it is mostly downhill. You can ride back to the start around East Cape (see above).

Mountain Bike ‘shortcuts’ suitable for cycle touring.

These tracks range from intermediate single track to good pylon roads that are usually closed to the public. Adventurous cycle tourers with mountain bike skills will love these rides.

Ninety Mile Beach

Cape Reinga to Kaitai during low tide (CNZMBR) A very hard and wide sandy beach. Actually only 90 kilometres long.

Takahue Saddle Road

A narrow and scenic gravel road just south of Kaitia. May have to walk for 100 metres.

Tutamoe Range Crossing

An adventurous ride on a now disused forestry road.

Great Barrier Island

You need to catch a ferry from Auckland to the island. Then there is a good 52 km loop tour on rough roads.

Stony Bay, Coromandel

A 7-kilometre 4WD track enables cyclists to complete a ride right around the Coromandel Peninsula (2 days) on mostly quiet public roads.

New Plymouth Walkway

This is an ideal way to ride around the centre of New Plymouth. There is a wide smooth walkway almost all the way along the coast. It is partly gravel, but mostly concrete. In 2008 it was 13 kilometres long, but there are plans to extend it.

Taupo to Huka Falls

This is a 4 kilometre long, easy mountain bike track. From Huka Falls you can continue on to Rotorua.

Rimutaka Rail Trail

An ideal route for tourers heading to Wellington is to cycle from Featherston in the Wairarapa to Upper Hutt via an old Rail Trail. It is 18 km long and generally an easy track.

Hutt River Trail

This is a generally smooth and flat off-road path that can be used to get away from the traffic while heading towards Wellington. There are a few short rough bits. It is about 25 kilometres long.

Cape Palliser

The ride around Cape Palliser at the southern tip of the North Island is a favourite weekend tour among locals with mountain bikes. It is mostly on gravel and sealed roads, but there is 1 kilometre of sandy unrideable beach.

See also:

Background information


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