Do something Autumn by bike!

Published 2022-03-24

If you’re looking for silver linings, look no further than cycling which has proven a huge benefit to more and more people during the pandemic. Now that Autumn is upon us, let’s keep on rolling – for recovery, relaxation and reconnection.

Autumn is an awesome season for a cycling holiday, thanks to settled weather, colourful foliage and peaceful days in New Zealand’s popular hotspots. Add in fresh air, wide open spaces, and quality time with friends and family, and you’ll be on the right track for good health and happiness.

All 23 Great Rides of New Zealand are open through Autumn. Here are a few top trails for the season.

A laid back holiday on the Hawke’s Bay Trails

With more than 200km of mostly off-road riding, the Hawke’s Bay Trails make for an easy and adaptable biking holiday where you can stay in one place and venture out on a variety of rides.

Among the many rides for children, beginners or those of limited ability is Napier’s Marine Parade Explorer. Suitable for all sorts of bikes, wheelchairs and pushchairs, it passes a junior bike park, mini-golf, sunken garden, playgrounds, cafes and the National Aquarium.

Grownups will enjoy the Wineries Ride, and the Puketapu Loop which follows a lovely riverbank to reach a classic country pub. Autumn is particularly pleasant time to explore the rural Heretaunga Plains thanks to cooler temperatures and brilliant colours.

For some awesome Autumn deals, check out Takaro Trails on, including their memorable two-night/two-day cycling Baycation.

Cycling amongst the vines on the Hawke's Bay Trails

All-ages adventures on the Queen Charlotte Track

With the mid-summer madness over, Autumn is a top time to visit New Zealand’s biggest marine playground. And there’s arguably no better way to get to know its ins and outs than on the Queen Charlotte Track, 70km of mostly singletrack riding with the added pleasures of comfortable lodges, hot meals and bag transfers, not to mention the bonus of a scenic boat cruise.

The variety of activities on offer make this a brilliant option for social and family groups, with individuals able to bike certain sections, walk, or simply laze away the days.

Other attractions on offer include kayaking, walking and leisurely resort lunches at Furneaux Lodge, Punga Cove, Lochmara and Portage.

Plan your Queen Charlotte Track adventures here, and check out these great Punga Cove and Furneaux Lodge packages.

Hopewell's Lookout on the Queen Charlotte Track – one helluva selfie spot! (MarlboroughNZ–@Barekiwi)

The Queen Charlotte Track – a Great Ride and a fabulous walk (MarlboroughNZ).

Around the Mountains – a gentle epic

Make the most of crystal-clear air and quiet times around Queenstown by heading out on the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail this Autumn. A mostly gently graded cross-country journey of 186km, it traverses the magnificent Mavora Lakes high country and rural Southland, and features a cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw steamship.

Ride the whole trail in a leisurely 3–5 days making the most of local hospitality in Mossburn, Lumsden, Athol, Garston or Kingston – all pleasant country towns to base yourself for shorter trips on the trail.

Perfect for those a bit short on time or who like to ride at a faster pace, Bike Fiordland’s three-day package starts and ends in Queenstown, and takes in all the scenic and historical highlights with the bonus of a night in Te Anau. Ebike options are available too.

Cyclists can also take their Around the Mountain adventure sky high with Air Milford's new 'Ride from the Sky' package – a superb combo that includes a scenic flight from Queenstown deep into the Von Valley, a 32km ride to Walter Peak Station for a farm demonstration and gourmet barbecue, and a cruise on the venerable TSS Earnslaw back to Queenstown.

A scenic cruise on the TSS Earnslaw is a memorable way to start this Great Ride (Destination Queenstown)

Meandering along the mighty Waikato

The Waikato River is a lovely destination for Autumn cycling with its rich palette of parkland, wetland, forest and rural landscapes. Meandering more than 100 kilometres along its banks, the Waikato River Trails are a great way to survey the scenery along with the striking hydro power stations and dams, suspension bridges and small riverside towns that give this trail its special character.

This Great Ride is accessible from various points close to State Highway 1, making it easy to stop for a ride during a road trip, or factor it into your fun-time list for your Central North Island holiday.

Ride for an hour or two, or all day, ticking off highlights including Arapuni’s cute Rhubarb Cafe and very cool swing bridge, the views along Lake Maraetai, and the Dam Cafe at Whakamaru. Riverside Adventures offers bike hire, shuttles and tours including their popular half-day Karāpiro Bike Tour and an exhilarating twilight glowworm kayak trip.

The Arapuni Suspension Bridge – 152m long and over 50m high! (Waikato River Trails)

Explore out east on the Motu Trails

Beyond its obvious attributes of glorious beaches, bushy ranges  and idyllic countryside, the eastern Bay of Plenty also boasts a variety of outdoor activities perfect for a restorative Autumn holiday. The Motu Trails are the perfect hook, a trio of fantastic rides ranging from an hour-long doddle to a few big days out. 

Starting from Ōpōtiki, the hero ride is the gentle and family-friendly Dunes Trail from which you can readily duck down to the beach to get some sand between your toes. Intermediate bikers can venture inland on the historic Motu Road, which climbs through lush hill country into the Raukumara Ranges. It intersects with the network’s third trail, the challenging Pākihi Track, which winds down through a densely forested valley on classic mountain biking singletrack.

There are plenty of ways to slice and dice this Great Ride, with local bike hire, transport and tour operators ready to help you along. Cycle Gisborne offers multi-day tours with the option to add in the popular Rere Falls Trail Heartland Ride.

Biking the beautiful Rere Falls Trail Heartland Ride with Cycle Gisborne (Mead Norton Photography)

High and dry on the Great Lake Trails

If you fancy some fun, flowing, free-draining singletrack with some heavenly hot pools on the side, Taupō’s Great Lake Trails are just the ticket for an awesome Autumn adventure. 

With four sections of trail that can be ridden in various return rides and loops, there’s enough to keep you happy for several days. Park and ride from the pretty lakeside town of Kinloch or the Orakau carpark, or ride the whole trail over a couple of days with a shuttle drop-off and scenic boat connection.

For intermediate riders, our pick is the Otaketake–K2K Loop, a memorable 4–6 hour mission with lake views, forest, rocky outcrops and the chance of a refreshing dip in the lake. Competent kids can tackle the classic Headland Loop (2–3 hours), which has eye-popping views across the lake.

Taupō has stacks of other great riding including Craters MTB Park, the Huka Trails and the Waikato River Trails just 30 minutes’ drive away.

Check in with trail partners FourB and Adventure Shuttles for bike hire, transport and tours.

High above Lake Taupō on Great Lake Trails (Cam Mackenzie)

Go with the flow on the Roxburgh Gorge & Clutha Gold Trails

These twin Great Rides line the Teviot Valley, which goes into sensory overload in Autumn thanks to the golden foliage contrasting with vivid blue waters of Lake Roxburgh and the Clutha Mata-au River.

Tracing the water’s edge most of the way, the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold trails serve up not only fabulous scenery and fascinating gold-rush tales, they’re also a chance to visit the sweet wee settlements of Lawrence, Millers Flat and Roxburgh, which all have welcoming cafes and comfy accommodation. Notable historic landmarks include Roxburgh Dam, Lonely Graves, Horseshoe Bend Bridge and Big Hill Tunnel. While you’re down this way, explore Alexandra and Clyde with all their interesting sights and seemingly endless bike trails.

Great Ride partner Trail Journeys offer a self-guided tour of the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold taking care of bike hire, transport and accommodation.

Family fun beside New Zealand's mightiest river on the Clutha Gold Trail (James Jubb–Tourism Central Otago)

Our Find Your Ride page has the lowdown on all 23 Great Rides of New Zealand. Get planning and do something Autumn by bike!

Enrich your biking adventures with the Great Rides App

Created by passionate New Zealand 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 (and some bonus rides too).

With more than 1500 pages, it’s stacked with maps, video fly-thrus, elevation profiles, trail section descriptions and photos, along with details of trail services such as bike hire, shuttles, food and accommodation. It also boasts offline tracking using mobile GPS and once a trail is downloaded it works totally offline without needing mobile coverage! 

Find out more and download the fabulous new version for free here.