Image credits (clockwise from left): Molesworth Station (Jonathan Kennett); Maungatapu Track (Jonathan Kennett); Queen Charlotte Drive (Jonathan Kennett)
This ride around the north-east of the South Island blends fabulous, remote roads with cycle trail to create an adventure packed with glorious landscapes, local history and satisfying small-town attractions.

From Picton, this route heads to Nelson via the infamous Maungatapu Saddle, then follows Tasman’s Great Taste Trail inland to Kohatu and onward to Hanmer Springs via the Rainbow Valley. After a restorative soak in the Hamner Springs hot pools, head over Jollies Pass and through the legendary Molesworth Station to wine-soaked Blenheim then take the long and winding Port Underwood Road around the coast and back to Picton.


  • glorious Queen Charlotte Sound views
  • Pelorus Bridge & Maungatupu Road
  • easy, scenic riding on the Tasman's Great Taste Trail
  • Rainbow Road to Hanmer Springs
  • optional side trip on the St James Cycle Trail for those looking to beef up the challenge
  • optional mountain biking on Hanmer’s awesome forest trails
  • the iconic Molesworth high country
  • quiet, scenic bays from around Port Underwood, the back road to Picton

Note that the Rainbow and Molesworth Stations have seasonal restrictions so check they are open when you want to ride. Between Picton and Havelock the Link Pathway parallels the Queen Charlotte Drive giving riders a slightly slower but car-free option.

The optional side-trip along the St James Cycle Trail is well worth it (

Connecting bikepacking routes

As well as the St James Cycle Trail, this ride links to a series of rides around the top of the South including the Hurunui Heartland Ride, and the Tour Aotearoa route which heads towards the West Coast via Picton and Nelson. At that point you can also hook into the Kahurangi 500, The Old Ghost Road, Old Ghost Road Roundabout, and the West Coast Wilderness Trail. And so it goes on!

A more detailed route description and map for this ride can be found in the Kennett Brothers guidebook, Bikepacking Aotearoa.