Biking holidays on a budget

Published 2023-03-16

The cost of living crisis needn’t mean you forego Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand adventures. Cycling is a rewarding hook for a holiday that won’t break the bank, which is why more and more people are taking to the trails. Whether you’re a Kiwi family looking for fun times together, or an overseas visitor wishing to explore Aotearoa, we hope these tips from our seasoned cyclists help you get more out of your Great Ride.
Start planning now

Whether it’s booking travel, accommodation or activities, start planning well in advance. As well as grabbing bargain rates and earlybird discounts, you’ll give yourself more time to get all your other logistics sorted.

Check out the 23 Great Rides and this handy map of the whole network – useful places to start your research.

Get pedal ready

If you have your own bike already, allow plenty of time to get it ship-shape. Gaining some basic mechanical skills will save you money, for sure, so it’s worth doing a short course or hitting YouTube for instructional videos. As a minimum, learn to sort a puncture and lube moving vital parts.

ee fixes a puncture on the Remutaka Cycle Trail (Sarah Bennett).

Lee fixes a puncture on the Remutaka Cycle Trail (

Look for bargain buys

If you’re in the market for a new bike, start looking now. Keep your eyes peeled for bike store sales, or look for something pre-loved on TradeMe, community noticeboards or in secondhand shops. Whether you purchase new or used, try before you buy if possible and seek a second opinion from people in the know. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for basic tools and other necessities such as lights, backpacks and bike locks. Helmets and chammy bike pants are best bought new so look out for bargains.

Sarah's Santa Cruz MTB (credit Sarah Bennett)

Buy right and you'll learn to love your bike... a lot! (

Sort out a bike rack

You’ll need a bike rack or trailer for self-drive bike holidays, so buying secondhand or borrowing one from a friend are your best hacks here. Don’t forget to check you have a suitable towbar. A support driver is a blessing: someone who’s happy to run you to trail-heads or pick you up if things go pear-shaped.

Use public transport

Savvy travellers can get to or from some Great Rides on public transport. Great Journeys New Zealand scenic trains, for example, connect to the Mountains to Sea Ngā Ara Tuhono, West Coast Wilderness Trail and Queen Charlotte Track, but you’ll need to book early to secure their limited bike carriage spaces. Keep an eye out for their special deals such as their Easter promotion, which is offering children’s fares for $25.

Bikes can go on InterCity buses as oversize luggage, as long as they are packaged up and you’ve alerted them when you make the booking (Ts n Cs apply). Bikes are also permitted on many town bus services, as well as local shuttles catering specifically to Great Ride visitors.

Lee at Maymorn Station on the way to the Remutaka Cycle Trail

The Remutaka Cycle Trail can be accessed on the Wellington–Wairarapa train service (

Camp, holiday park and ride

Cycling and camping go hand in hand, especially as there are so many neat campgrounds and holiday parks on or near the Great Rides. Many places have good-value cabins and apartments, as well as tent and campervan sites, while a significant number are even holiday park ‘Cycle Hubs’ offering bike facilities such as secure bike sheds, wash-down areas, great local intel and contacts for mechanics. 

Visit the Holiday Parks New Zealand website to find out more. We're proud to have HPNZ as a national partner; cyclists are always welcome at their member holiday parks!

Bouncy cushion at Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park (

Bounce your way to good times in New Zealand's holiday parks (

Pack a picnic

Cycling is guaranteed to work up your appetite, but you needn’t always be reaching for your wallet to feed the troops. Trailside picnics are the perfect way to soak up the scenery along the way, with the Great Rides flush with parks, picnic areas and other beauty spots where you can whip out the bread, cheese and chippies for the kids. Save your pennies for a hot pie or ice cream at the corner dairy. It will never have tasted so sweet!

Central Otago peach (

Pick up some local produce like this Central Otago apricot for your picnic (

Go for a free ride

Thanks to a host of funding partners, volunteer groups and other supporters, the Great Rides are free!

Jim Robinson at Pakihi Hut Motu Trails (

Motu Trails manager Jim puts in the hard mahi so you don’t have to. Thanks Jim! ( 

Do day rides

Although the New Zealand Cycle Trails are famous for their amazing multi-day adventures, the 23 Great Rides offer endless day rides to suit most abilities and interests. Base yourself close to the trails in budget accommodation – or stay with whānau and friends – and ride ‘hub and spoke’ style on various short rides from there. By doing return rides or loops you’ll also avoid the cost of fuel or shuttle transport for drop-offs and pick-ups.

Go local

You needn’t go far for a Great Ride holiday. With 23 from Northland/Te Tai Tokerau to Southland/Murihiku, chances are there’s one near you. As the old saying goes, ‘don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country’ … well, here’s a chance to see it in a whole new way.

Lake Hayes, Queenstown Trails (

Well, this is a rather nice local ride – Lake Hayes, Queenstown Trails (

Download the free Great Rides App

Need help picking, planning and plotting your next adventure on the Great Rides? Why not download the upgraded Great Rides App?! It's free, easy to use and works offline too.

Created by passionate rider and cartographer, Gary Patterson, the Great Rides App is a Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails' national partner, and the only mobile app featuring all 23 Great Rides, plus plenty of bonus rides too. Find out more about the app and Gary's amazing work in this fascinating article.

Amongst its many pages are stacks of maps, video fly-thrus, elevation profiles, trail section descriptions and lovely photos, along with details of trail services such as bike hire, shuttles, food and accommodation.

Download the Great Rides App from:


The new-and-improved Great Rides App – easy to use and free to download!

Looking for more Autumn cycling inspiration? Check out these blogs:

Autumn – a fine time to ride

Great Ride updates – Autumn 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle – Great Rides update

Discover all 23 Great Rides of New Zealand here.