New Zealand. Photo by Randy Law of Flying Kiwi Tours Use of this photo is via a Creative Commons License via Flickr.
New Zealand

With its well-established cycling trails, incomparable scenery, and rugged natural topography, New Zealand is a biker’s delight. If you want some excellent tips and tricks for cycling your way around this gem of a country, you may find those below to be useful.

New Zealand. Photo by Randy Law of Flying Kiwi Tours Use of this photo is via a Creative Commons License via Flickr.
Cyclist in New Zealand. Thanks to Randy Law of Kiwi Flying Tours for the use of this photo via Flickr

 Planning A Cyclng Getaway In New Zealand

  1. Planning: choosing destinations, avoiding crowds

New Zealand has a small population relative to its size. When tourists visit in the summer andchildren are off school, main highways anddedicated cycle trailscan get busy. If you prefer less busy trails, consider booking outside of the busiest mid-December to mid-January holiday period.

Also, don’t forget to include the incredible South Island in your cycling plans – although the North Island also has great biking trails, its population is 3 times larger. Thus, tracks in the South Island will be less crowded, and many contain glorious scenery that even the locals prefer over most found higher north in the country.

  1. Join a cycling tour

Cycling solo can be plenty of fun, but you’ll learn so much more if you join one of the many biking tourson offer across the country. Tour companies will lead you directly to the local sights, such as great vineyards, if you’re in wine country, and they’ll often also cater for your food and drink.

  1. Know the rules

Like most countries, New Zealand has some unique legislation for cyclists. In particular, not wearing a helmet whilecycling is a punishable offence. It’s best to cover your head with a helmet before you get pinged — legally and physically! Also, don’t forget that everyone rides on the left side of the road in this country – including cyclists!

  1. Get the right gear

New Zealand has innumerable newly-established or rough-gravel trails, which means that you’d be smart to invest in some wide tyres beforeembarking on your cross-country cycling adventure. That way, you won’t be restricted from exploring less-travelled tracks!

However, apart from absolute essentials like the proper tyres, this tip really means that you should only carry the essentials. Much of the terrain in the Land of the Long White Cloudis extremely hilly, so if you overpack for a long ride, you’ll likely live to regret it.

Cyclists in New Zealand
Cyclists in New Zealand. Thanks to Mountain Bike Mt Cook, New Zealand for the use of this photo via Flickr.

Biking routes and destinations

On the South Island

  1. Cardrona, Queenstown

Cardrona is an Alpine Ski Resort on the South Island famous for its pristine ski-fields (slopes?). However, what you may not know is this destination morphs into an epic mountain biking park during the summer months.

Situated near Queenstown at the bottom of the South Island, Cardrona park boasts a variety of trails for all abilities and skill levels. There are also some great food and beverage outlets nearby, so you can fuel up between rides and have plenty of exergy and motivation to get back out on the dirt.

  1. St James Cycle Trail, Hamner Springs

The St James Trail is close to the famed Hamner Springs. This is a truehigh-country trailand not for the faint-hearted. Expect 1-2 days of sore legs tempered by stunning sights for a true Kiwi cycling experience!

On the North Island

  1. The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, Ruapehu

Ruapehu is a National Park on the North Island. Found close to Whanganuiin the lower North Island, the Mountains to Sea Cycle trail is 317 kilometres long, crosses two national parks, and takes around 3-5 days to complete. The sheer beauty and variety of the terrain you’ll traverse on this stunning track will render you speechless.

  1. The Great Lake Trail, Taupo

In the centre of the North Island, the Great Lake Taupo is a long-standing favourite with national and international cyclists alike.  Once you experience the 71km-long Great Lake Trail, you’ll understand why. This trail will take you all the way around the lake via numerous waterfalls and bays and give you photos to savour for years to come.

When to Go

Cyclists are usually able to enjoy riding through New Zealand’s beautiful, natural scenic routes and even urban trails for most of the year. The only times when cyclists are urged to stay indoors is during severe weather in any season, such as heavy snows or thunderstorms.

Before you set off on your cycling trip, check the weather forecast and consider how it will affect the terrain that you will ride. Always tell at least one other person where you going, and make sure you pack enough drinking water for the length of your trip.

The NZ Transport Agency is actively working to promote the health and social benefits of cycling and to consistently improve the trails and cycling options available to all people in New Zealand. As long as you ride in accordance with NZ’s cycling road rulesand have a respectful attitude to your fellow cyclists, you will be welcome!

How to Get There and Get Around

You can take a direct flight to the North or South Island if you are only planning to cycle in one part of New Zealand. For the North Island, international travellers usually land at Auckland Airport – and at Christchurch Airport for the South Island.

You can also take domestic flights between New Zealand towns and cities on both Islands, with the major national airline Air NZ offering flights between 20 domestic destinations, including Taupo, Wellington, and Queenstown.

Another option for travelling between the North and South Islandsin good weather is via a ferry from Wellington (at the south of the North Island) to Picton (at the top of the South Island).  You can choose between two companies: the Interislander and Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries.

Schedules vary depending on the weather and season – but for example, the InterIslander usually offers five trips between the islands each day.  Once you are in the country, you will have ample choices of companies from which you can rent a car or van to transport your bikes and gear between trails and destinations. 


Cardrona, Queenstown:

The Great Lake Trail, Taupo:

The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, Ruapehu:

The St James Cycle Trail, Hamner Springs: 


All photos in this story are posted with permissions conferred by the originators via Flickr using a Creative Commons License.

We thank Randy Law of Kiwi Flying Tours ( and Mountain Bike Mt Cook, New Zealandfor posting these photos for reuse using a Creative Commons License via Flickr.


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