TRAIL ALERT: The Lower Shotover/Kimi Ākau Trail is closed due to a large slip. Visit the trail's official website for more details.
Surrounded by sheer mountain ranges, this trail threads through the Wakatipu Basin on a mix of lakeside paths, country lanes, quiet roads and cross-country cycleways. It links Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley – with countless sights and activities to enjoy in between.
Discover early settler history in buildings, bridges and gold mining sites. Get an adrenaline buzz with a bungy jump or jet boat trip. Enjoy memorable family time, sweetened with ice cream and other special treats. And get a taste of Central Otago’s famous flavours at countless cafes and cellar door restaurants.
The Queenstown Trail can be ridden as a multi-day adventure, stopping overnight along the way, or tailored as day rides to suit a range of ages and abilities. Either way, it’s a fabulous way to see the sights while soaking up the scenery – and made even easier thanks to convenient bike hire, shuttle transport and cycle tours.
- breathtaking mountain views
- lake, river & rural scenery
- wine tasting & cellar door restaurants
- bungy jumping & jet boating
- historic buildings, bridges & other early landmarks
- cafes, pubs & boutique shopping
- relaxing, mostly gentle riding
- family fun – from sweet shops to spotting farm animals
Visitors are spoilt for choice on this trail network, which lends itself well to both multi-day trips and day rides, all well supported by bike hire and tour operators.
Helpfully, the network is presented as a series of aptly named trails, all of which can be linked together for a rewarding multi-day tour of the Wakatipu Basin. The official website has suggestions for a two- and four-day itinerary.
Day rides are also popular, tackling one trail as a one-way or a return ride, or combining other sections of trail to form a loop. The most popular ones are listed here; more suggestions can be found in the Day Rides section below and on the trail website.
Frankton Track & Kelvin Peninsula Trail
15km, Grade 2/easy, 1–2 hours
The perfect ride for novices, families or those of questionable fitness, this ride offers varying viewpoints around Lake Wakatipu, with a dramatic back-drop of the Remarkables and surrounding ranges. Starting conveniently at Queenstown’s colourful municipal gardens, it also offers plenty of places to stop for rest and refreshments.
The trail hugs the lakeshore through to Frankton where it passes the marina and crosses the picturesque Kawarau Falls bridge where the lake drains into the Kawarau River.
Just across the bridge, the Hilton Hotel is a good place to turn back for the return ride (after a coffee break, or course), or riders can continue skirting the shore all the way to Queenstown Golf Club from where the additional Kelvin Peninsula Loop offers even more views as well as notable trailside sculptures. The welcoming golf club cafe is a lovely place to wait for a shuttle pick-up.
Jack’s Point Trail
12km, Grade 4/advanced, 2–3 hours
Eager riders can add this on to the Kelvin Peninsula Trail (above), or start it from nearby Jardine Park where there’s ample car parking and a neat loop track for the kids to practice on.
This ride is not for the fainthearted, with some steep climbs, fast descents, and tight bends – some folks may need to get off and push in places. Older children with a head for heights should have no trouble completing it.
The trail traces an undulating route through the tussock and schist of Lake Wakatipu’s eastern edge, with spectacular views across to iconic Walter and Cecil Peaks.
The final climb up and over Jack’s Point Golf Course delivers riders to the door of its super-stylish restaurant and bar – perfectly positioned for a well-earned long lunch before catching a ride back to town or returning via the same route.
Lake Hayes Trail
8km, Grade 3/intermediate, 1 hour
No visit to Queenstown is complete without seeing New Zealand’s most-photographed lake with its kaleidoscopic colours and exquisite mountain vistas, lying in the heart of the Wakatipu Basin and easily accessible from Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley.
A lovely jaunt in itself, this short loop can also be added into longer adventures including the Arrow River Bridges or Gibbston River trails. It’s also just a short ride away from Amisfield Winery & Bistro, offering the chance factor even more local flavour into this quintessential Queenstown experience.
Arrow River Bridges Trail
16km, Grade 2/easy, 2–3 hours
Gold rush-era Arrowtown is the starting point for this delightful ride taking in an interesting mix of bridges – with the purpose-built, 80m-long Edgar Suspension Bridge a highlight – as well as country lanes and old byways. It ends at the gateway to the wine-soaked the Gibbston Valley and the start of the Gibbston River Trail.
There views are ever-changing as trail meanders along the Arrow River – tumbling in some places, tranquil in others, and eventually spilling out into the Kawarau Gorge.
This leisurely journey ends at the historic Kawarau Bridge, the world’s original bungy jump site where brave souls can swap their helmet for a harness and go for glory. A calming glass of wine can be enjoyed at the wineries nearby.
Gibbston River Trail
9km, Grade 2/easy, 2 hours
This easy meander is a great way to visit the wineries lining the ‘Valley of the Vines’ while soaking up its famously spectacular scenery. Fit riders should consider combining it with the Arrow River Bridges Trail or another Queenstown Trail for a big day out, while valley-based bike hire and good shuttle connections make it easy to tailor tours to suit everyone – or just jump on a bus home if you run out of puff.
The trail stretches for 9km between AJ Hackett Bungy at Kawarau Bridge, through to the Kinross Cottages tasting room. In between are iconic Central Otago wineries such as Peregrine and Gibbston Valley, the latter perennially popular for its cellar door restaurant and wine-cave tours (with a bike hire depot, too). The Gibbson Tavern is also a highlight with its rustic vibe and beer garden.
The beauty of this trail network is the ability to combine, shorten, and otherwise mix things up to create rides of various lengths and levels of difficulty – from easy to epic. Here are a few suggestions; the trail website has more.
23km, easy–intermediate, allow 5 hours
This trail dishes up a delicious mix of vistas and vineyards as it meanders along the picturesque Arrow River, zig-zags across five bridges, and cuts down country lanes to the Kawarau Bridge bungy jump where you can pop your cork with the big bounce. Then you’ll be ready for a glass of bubbles (or perhaps Pinot Noir) in the Gibbston ‘Valley of Vines’.
27km, easy–advanced, allow 5–6 hours
Follow the Frankton, Kelvin Peninsula and Jack’s Point trails for a fairly long and partly undulating ride that will certainly work up an appetite for lunch. Fortunately, there are several options along the way including the swanky Jack’s Point Golf Club at the end of the ride where you can meet your pre-arranged pick-up.
40km, easy–intermediate, allow 6–8 hours
Starting in Queenstown, this epic day trip takes in some of the best parts of the Queenstown Trail including lakeside and river scenes, interesting bridges, bungy jumping and wine tasting. Pack a picnic or hold-out until you reach the valley and enjoy the various dining options alongside amidst the vineyards. Return shuttle transport back to Queenstown can easily be pre-arranged.
TRAIL STATUS & ALERTS
For current trail status and any alerts – such as temporary track closures and detours – check the trail website or Facebook page.
FITNESS & SKILLS
The beauty of the Queenstown Trails is that riders of most ages and abilities will find a trail to enjoy. The terrain is wide and smooth, and mostly graded 2–3 (easy to intermediate) with some slightly harder riding around Jack’s Point.
It’s worth noting that Queenstown is at the lowest point of the Wakatipu Basin, so any ride from Queenstown will involve at least some climbing. The Basin’s wide, open spaces make wind direction a factor, too. Locals will be only too happy to advise you on where to ride, when.
TYPE OF BIKE
The trails are finished in smooth gravel and well-maintained. For safety and comfort, front or dual-suspension mountain bikes with rugged tyres are recommended; e-bikes are also permitted.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
Although the trails are well signposted and meet many roads and settlements, carrying a map will enhance the experience by pinpointing landmarks and assist with timings for shuttle pick-ups, etc. Maps can be downloaded from the trail website.
You can also download the awesome Great Rides App to see where you are on the trail. It's free, works offline and has heaps of useful information, including trail descriptions and photos, trail services, food and accommodation.
The Queenstown Trails can be ridden at any time of year, each season blessed with a distinct colour palette – golden autumn foliage and snow-white winter peaks being particularly dramatic.
Hot and dry in summer, and icy in winter, this is an extreme mountain environment where conditions can change quickly. Riders should therefore always check the forecast and pack clothing appropriate for the conditions. Sunscreen and a helmet visor are essential in the summer months.
FOOD & DRINK
Cafes, restaurants, wineries and taverns feature frequently along the Queenstown Trail, and between them offer a chance to taste local flavours – from world-famous Central Otago wines and stonefruit, to amazing home-baking, artisan dairy, game meats and locally roasted coffee.
Some stretches of trail, however, have little to offer in the way of refreshments, so plan your foodie pit stops ahead of time (making restaurant reservations in the busy summer season), and pack plenty of snacks and drinks to get you from A to B. Water bottles can be filled at various settlements; be sure to carry plenty on hot summer days.
Cellphone coverage is good across the whole trail network.
Toilets are located at regular intervals along the trail, in towns and other convenient locations.
DOGS & HORSES
Dogs are allowed on the trails but must be kept under control at all times – check out QLDC's rules and regulations around dog walking in the district here.
Horses are generally not permitted on the Queenstown Trail, except for approved shared-use sections.
A popular holiday destination for generations, Queenstown and Arrowtown are well set up for visitors.
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Queenstown is the central hub for all the action, including cycling adventures, but rides can be launched from all around the trails including the smaller settlement of Arrowtown
Queenstown airport sits conveniently near the middle of the trail network. It’s also possible to reach Queenstown on a series of spectacular road trips such as the Southern Scenic Route; and Central Otago Touring Route through to Dunedin, which is another major air gateway to the deep south.
Nationwide Intercity buses service Queenstown and other highway stops through Central Otago. Local buses and shuttles service smaller destinations throughout the region.
BIKE HIRE, TRANSPORT & TOURS
Given Queenstown’s ‘adventure capital’ status, it should be no surprise that the trail is very well supported by bike hire (including e-bikes), shuttle transport, and cycle tours.
Casual bike hire is readily available in key hubs – Queenstown, Frankton, Arrowtown and Gibbston. Many accommodation providers also have their own bikes, so do ask.
As the Queenstown area is pretty busy most of the year round, it is recommended that you book cycle tours in advance, particularly during peak season (December–April). Shuttles should also be arranged ahead of time; none run to a pre-arranged schedule and demand for transport is often high.
Several national bike tour companies offer customised tours of popular South Island cycle trails including Queenstown, the Otago Central Rail Trail, and the Alps 2 Ocean. Christchurch and Queenstown popular departure points.
Find bike hire, transport & tours
Queenstown and Arrowtown are both great bases for cycling adventures, providing a broad range of accommodation within a short riding distance of the trail. There are also plenty of options near the trail throughout the Wakatipu Basin, and in Gibbston although capacity is limited in this popular area. Other popular bases within an hour’s drive include Wanaka and Cromwell.
Great Rides of New Zealand national partner Heritage Hotels has a beautiful property – Heritage Queenstown – overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Use the code 'NZCYCLE' when you book and get a 10% discount.