Cycle Touring in New Zealand is a blog about cycle touring in New Zealand including route maps and descriptions of the best cycle routes together with general information on cycle touring in New Zealand.
This is a description of a cycle ride in the Nevis Valley from Garston to Bannockburn in March 2019.
I've had an interesting five days cycling in Southland and Otago. Can't give you the full story of course, but here's a brief outline. I took the steamer across the lake from Queenstown to Walter Peak Station, which immediately put me onto 60km of farm road with virtually no traffic. About one farm vehicle each hour. I cycled south to the Mavora Lakes through magnificent tussock country, ringed with mountains. Just beautiful. One 40min hill en route but I was able to cycle it.
A night camped in the beech forest at the lake edge, then south to meet the main road at Mossburn, helped by a strong tailwind. Another night in a quirky campground at Atholl, then early next morning I started the big climb over the ridge to the east, to gain access to the Nevis Valley. I couldn't cycle it, had to push, 2.5hr to the summit. But the view was worth it. Then a long descent into the Nevis, the road is a 4-wheel drive track and very rough. In the valley floor the fords started, the first few were a novelty but that wore off. Most were only ankle deep but the biggest was thigh-deep and I managed to fall into it while carrying my bike across. Too surprised to swear!
There's a gorge section and below that, I found a great campsite underneath the first (willow) trees I had seen for half a day. Next day on across the Lower Nevis Valley which you can't follow too far (another gorge, impassable) so the only way out is to climb again to the east, over Duffers Saddle (the highest pass on the NZ public road network). Couldn't cycle it, had to push, 2hr. The descent into Bannockburn on the other side is about as steep as a road could be; I had to stop three times to let my wheel rims cool down, too hot to touch due to the friction of the brake pads.
Next day after passing through Clyde and Alexandra I headed into the hills again on (another) bad road and ended up high in the tussock country at the Poolburn Lake. Here the weather broke, and overnight a front passed through with strong winds and heavy rain. I couldn't find a place sheltered enough to pitch my tent, but happily, I found a (locked) hut on the lake shore with a sheltered verandah so I set up there.
Today I planned to continue along the range to the southeast, but the road defeated me. All morning to struggle 17km. So I took the option of a farm road to get off the range, and I'm now living in luxury in the Ranfurly campground. Tomorrow I'll head south towards the Catlins. All on tar-sealed roads, (or perhaps on the Otago Rail Trail).
There are some important things to remember when travelling by air with your bike.
The first thing you need to know is the policy of the airline you are travelling with in relation to the carriage of your bike and in particular to the weight maximum allowed per passenger. Their sporting goods carriage policy can usually be found on the airlines website. Not all airlines have the same weight restrictions so check that the airline you are thinking of using has a reasonable maximum for each passenger before booking.
Airlines usually require bikes to be carried in a bike box while some airlines are not so strict and will allow bikes to be wrapped in plastic. This is good option when on the return journey as it may be difficult to source a bike box from a bike shop. While my wrapping does not look that good it has served its purpose well with the advantage that it less likely to be thrown as is the case with a bike box in my experience.
It is very important to weight your bike and all your panniers and to know your exact combined weight before you get to the airport to ensure that you do not exceed the airline overall weight limit. If you exceed the weight restriction the charges on the excess will be very high. Of course if you take to much gear you will also have to carry all of your gear on your bike which is another strong incentive to take the minimum in gear on your bike tour.
You need to include all of your bike gear such as pumps and tools and cooking gear in the panniers and not in your carry on luggage. If they are in the carry on luggage they will almost certainly be confiscated by airport security. And of course you cannot carry cooking gas bottles or similar on aircraft at all. You need to research the availability of these items at the destination where you start your cycle tour.
New Zealand Cycle Touring RoutesThis blog includes details of the cycle touring routes that I have ridden over the past few years. The objective of this blog is to provide cycle tourers with information on the best cycle touring routes in New Zealand.
From my experience there are different types of cycle tourists. Some are keen on achieving goals such as riding from the North Cape to the Bluff while others may concentrate on seeing the best scenic parts of New Zealand. Which ever group you fit in this blog should provide you with valuable information to enable you to plan your route.
Part of the enjoyment of cycle touring is riding on roads that have adequate shoulders or have low traffic volumes and the blog includes strategies to avoid busy roads that have high traffic volumes and inadequate provision for cyclists,
In planning your cycling route it is important to have an idea of what to expect on the ride and based on the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words images of what you will see on the cycle routes have been included. The route descriptions are not intended to provide a turn by turn route description.
To give you a general idea of what to expect when cycling around New Zealand the links below show images and descriptions of some of the rides that I have done. I have included the Nevis and Molesworth rides in the South Island. These rides are on shingle roads and while the scenery is magnificent there are some significant climbs. You can stick to the tarmac and still see lots of great scenery. Happy pedaling!
The New Zealand Cycle Trails project has resulted in the creation of dedicated off-road cycle trails in both the north and south islands. Originally the cycle trails project was intended to create a continuous cycleway from the North Cape to Bluff but this was not realistic given New Zealand's topography.
What has been created are cycleways in the regions and these projects have had a significant impact on both the local and national economies and no more so than for the struggling rural regions faced with declining populations. The cycle trails are located in some of the most scenic parts of New Zealand with accommodation and cafes along the way catering for all types of riders.
The good news is that there is now an app for both Android and Apple IOS devices that provides detailed information and maps on each of the New Zealand cycle trails. This is a well-designed app that is easy to read which is important when you are on your bike. You can download only the rides that you want to and all of the information that you will need to do the ride can be found in one place and is available to you while on the ride. You can find out all the essential things you need to know about each ride with the minimum of effort.
There are options for cycling around Northland. The first consideration is where to start the ride. If you are cycling up from Auckland I strongly advise against cycling up the main road to Whangerei as the carriageway is to narrow to provide a shoulder for bikes and the high volume of cars and heavy trucks. It is better to take an alternative route or to catch a bus from Auckland and to start your ride in Whangerei. Route from Auckland North:
The first option to see Northland on a bike is to ride the Pou Herenga Tai Twin coast cycle trail which goes from the Bay of Islands to the Hokianga Harbour. Details of this ride can be found on the following link. It will give you a good taste of what Northland has to offer.
If you wish to see the whole of Northland then the following route will allow you to do this.
I have just completed a 750 kilometre ride around Northland that started in Whangerei and went up the east coast and then to Cape Reinga and then went down the west coast to Dargaville. From there we cycled back to Whangerei. There are some big hills to ride up but there are some great beaches and places to stay on the route.
On the first day from Whangerei to Whangaruru we went on a back country route which avoided the main road. It was shingle which can be difficult to ride on.
If you stay at camping grounds these usually have choices of camp sites and huts which are ideal for cycle touring. On the second day we headed to Kerikeri a distance of 76 kilometres and on the following day we rode to Matauri Bay. This is a great beach with a camping ground on the foreshore. There was big hill out of Matauri Bay as we headed to Cable Bay via Russell and Waitangi.
There is a spectacular coastline to ride along and there are some big hills. We then rode out to the Karikari Peninsula which is a very worthwhile optional side trip. From there we went to Awanui on our way up to Cape Reinga.
Cape Reinga is the place to start if you are doing an New Zealand end to end cycle ride.
After you have reached the top it is time to head down the west coast to Dargaville and there some very interesting places and towns to visit. You need to catch the ferry from Kohukohu to Rawene. Opononi is a very attractive seaside town. On the way down this coast again there are some big hill climbs.
We rode the 82 kilometres from Dargaville on back roads wherever possible to avoid the traffic.
This round trip while fairly demanding because of the hills was a excellent cycle touring route provided you have sufficient time to enjoy the towns and beaches that you visit. It is best done at a leisurely pace.
The development of the cycleways in Auckland has been proceeding at a reasonable pace and for those wishing to ride around the city, there have been a number of cycleways but no way of linking the cycleways so that cyclists are able to do a circular route mostly on cycleways. This situation has changed with the opening of the new Waterview Cycle and walkway.
Starting in the city centre you can cycle ride up the Grafton Gully and join the North Western cycleway and then connect to the Waterview cycleway which follows Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek) between the suburbs of Mt Albert and Waterview. The first section runs between Great North Road at Waterview across the 90-metre-long Alford Street Bridge and into the Unitec campus.
At the end of the Waterview Cycleway, you can connect to the cycleway that runs alongside the South Western Motorway which finishes near Onehunga. To complete the circuit back to the city centre ride up the Onehunga Mall and through Cornwall Park. You also have the option of continuing on the cycleway that runs from Onehunga to Penrose before heading back to the city centre. This ride is not completely on cycleways but a high percentage is. Finding your way along this route is not easy and there is a need for improved signage.
As I cycle around New Zealand I have designed cycle touring routes that avoid busy roads and include towns with camp sites. These maps are included below for the benefit of other cyclists. If you want some advice on the best routes for cyclists for the places you wish to visit just send me a message on the contact form bellow.
North Island - Te Awamutu to Taihape I caught the bus from Auckland to Te Awamutu and then rode to Taihape on the following route. Route from Te Awamutu to Taihape
This route goes from Te Awamutu to Taihape and goes via Mangakino, Tauramanui and Ohakune all towns that have camping facilities and are not on state highway one.
Cycle Touring in New Zealand - Recommended Northland Route - Northland - Wellsford to Whangarei
This route has been designed with the objectives of staying of State Highway one wherever possible and also so that the route includes most of the attractions that the north has to offer. To get to Wellsford from Auckland you ride from Auckland Central out on the north western bikeway and then up the west coast
The route goes up to Wellsford and then goes up the east coast to Mangawhai and Laings beach which is a spectacular coastline to ride up. The route then takes you across to Dargaville on the west coast using back roads.
This route was designed by Kit O'halloran based on a ride that he did. He has included a short ride up the 90 mile beach but this can be left out by travelling on the road. Make sure that you visit the Matakohe Timber museum which is interesting. He can advise further on accommodation and changes to the route if it is too long.
Cycling North from Auckland When riding north from Auckland one of the main considerations is that the State Highway is a very busy narrow road and in places with minimal shoulders for cyclists. The best strategy is to keep away from main highway one by going up the west coast. However there is one section,from Wellsford to state highway 12, which is a distance of 28 kilometres which is unavoidable. When you travel this section make sure it is not a public holiday or a school holiday.
The recommended Northern route set out above involves taking a longer route up the East coast to Waipu Cove rather than riding on State Highway One for 28 kilometres.
Cycling South from the Coromandel to Tauranga
The State highway one from Waihi to Tauranga is a very busy stretch of road and you need to ride this section very carefully. The map below sets out a route that does not go on the state highway 2 for the first part of the ride.
On state highway 2 into Katikati there is a shoulder which you can cycle on but great care must be taken as the road is used by a large number of trucks.
The road after Katikati into Tauranga is also very busy and there are three bridges that do not have a shoulder to cycle on. The strategy here is to wait until the road is clear of traffic before crossing these short bridges. We stayed in Katikati overnight and we were told that a large number of residents work in Tauranga so the road is always busy first thing in the morning which it was.
The most memorable bike trips are always preceded with thorough and careful planning. Obviously, any ad-hoc ride can be very enjoyable but a well-planned trip can lead to the best rides where you do not spend most of the time finding your way and then missing the best bits. And weekends are very precious. In this post, I would like to present an alternative to all the other route apps that are available to plan your next cycling trip:
This planning tool can help you to plan tour bike routes. It does not provide a rocket science solution. Rather it has one job and one job only, i.e., make bike route planning easy and simple.
Why use BikeRoll?The main goal of BikeRoll is to make bike route planning as simple as possible. It has a clean and intuitive user interface with no unnecessary buttons and never used features. Nevertheless is it free, there are no premium plans (not even user registration), every feature is available to everybody.
The most distinctive feature of BikeRoll is its color-coded elevation profile. The disadvantage of ordinary altitude maps is that they do not give you enough information about the real difficulty of a particular ascent. The hardness of any slope depends on the length of the route and it is just too much processing for the human brain to figure out the power and stamina needed. Just by taking a quick look on the BikeRoll’s elevation profile, one can have a pretty accurate overview (based on the colours) about the difficulty of the route, e.g., blue is easy, yellow is a bit harder, and red is getting tough. It requires a bit of practising (biking the planned routes) but trust me, it is worth the time.
A non-distinctive, yet very useful, the feature is that the planned routes can be saved and accessed later. What makes BikeRoll unique is that all the saved routes can be listed and accessed easily and fast. Even though BikeRoll has no user registration, a Facebook or Google login is required to authenticate the author of the routes.
When biking any route, especially in the forest, it is easy to get lost. BikeRoll offers real-time tracking directly in the browser on your smartphone. No app install is needed, your actual position is always updated on the map and you can see instantly if you are off the track. Note that BikeRoll will not record the track its goal is just to keep you on the road. The planned route can be downloaded in GPX format so its data can be used on a smartwatch tracker.
Every bike trip can be ruined by bad weather. We all know how extreme heat, cold, or rain can result in painful cycling. To prevent such unpleasant events, an instant five-day weather forecast is always displayed in the area where the route is planned. Even if such a rough (daily) weather report may not be sufficient, it gives you a general overview that can be very helpful.
BikeRoll is available in multiple languages. The importance of this feature may not be appreciated by native English speaker but for anyone who does not speak English, this can make the difference. At this point, it supports eleven languages and new ones are always added when volunteers are found to do the translations. Note that this post is not meant to be a thorough presentation of BikeRoll, it rather gives you at a glance why you should give it a try. For a more detailed tutorial please visit:
This ride around Mount Taranaki takes in all of the highlights of the Taranaki province. Taranaki is dominated by Mount Taranaki which is snow covered and dramatic volcanic cone. On the ride around the mountain you may not always see the mountain because of cloud but it but it is always there. Taranaki is a farming area with dairy farming the main activity. When you cycle around Mount Taranaki you will encounter lots of hills as the countryside can best be described as undulating and you will also have to deal with the winds coming from all points of the compass. One memory of our ride in Taranaki was the wind assisted ride into Hawera which was slightly downhill where we reached speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour without peddling.
Mt Taranaki Ride Video
Cycling around Mount Taranaki 2016 - YouTube
We started the ride in Stratford and went in the anti-clockwise direction around the mountain and on the first day went to Te Wera Valley Lodge and stayed there for two nights. This enabled us to ride to Whangamomona but this is an optional extra but well worth doing as you travel on the Forgotten Highway. There are two saddles to climb as you ride to Whangamomona and of course you have to ride them on the way back.
Cycleway into New Plymouth
The next section of the ride crosses to the coast to Onaero Bay. From Onaero Bay the route takes you into New Plymouth using the cycleway that runs along the coastline from the Bell block. This is a fantastic cycleway that significantly enhances the foreshore along the coast and the city. The only problem is navigating from the road into New Plymouth onto the cycleway. The road signage and maps need to be improved to make the route to the cycleway obvious. The highlights of Taranaki include the gardens both in New Plymouth and also the gardens in the surrounding areas. The route includes a visit to the Pukeiti Gardens which are just out of New Plymouth going south and are well worth a visit. New Plymouth has good cafes and there is the impressive Govett Brewster Art Gallery to visit.
Rather than cycling through a region one alternative is to do rides from a central location within the region. We selected Te Awamutu as a central point in the Waikato region and we did four rides from this location. The total ride distance was 290 kilometres.
Once you leave the main roads in the Waikato the secondary roads are ideal for cycling with excellent surfaces and little traffic. One positive effect of the new Waikato expressway has been to reduce traffic on the secondary roads so that the roading infrastructure becomes more like the roading hierarchy in France where cyclists ride on secondary roads and do not go near motorways and there is also minimal local traffic.
The main Waikato geographical features include the Waikato River, Mount Pirongia in the west and Sanctuary Mountain in the East.. There is also a volcanic cone near Te Awamutu being Mount Kakepuku. The rides include some foothills so there are climbs and downhills included in the routes.
The Waikato region is a very green and fertile farming area and the four rides will take you around most parts of the region.
Waikato Day - One - From Hamilton to Cambridge and back in a round trip taking in Lake Karapiro.
This ride started and ended in the Hamilton gardens so we did this ride on the way to Te Awamutu.
The route uses quiet secondary roads with the most difficult part of the ride being getting in and out of Hamilton.
We visited Cambridge and Lake Karapiro and the Avantidrome which is just out of Cambridge on the route.
The Cycleway between Cambridge and the Avantidrome
The day two ride goes from Te Awamutu to Otorohanga partly on the main road which has a high volume of large trucks and care has to be taken over this section. There is a climb out of Otorohanga to Honikiwi and then there is a long downhill through a scenic and isolated valley.
Day three heads east from Te Awamutu towards Sanctuary Mountain and then goes to Cambridge which makes a good destination for a coffee stop.
Waikato Day Four
The final day involves taking a car from Te Awamutu to the starting point of the ride. This was a very good days cycling with in the most part quiet and smooth roads. All of the routes would be very good for training on.