Kick your New Year into gear!

Published 2021-12-16

These four fabulous rides are perfect for summer holiday fun with friends and family. With two in the North Island and two in the South, you're never far away from ticking more of the 23 Great Rides off your bucket list.

Head downstream on the Waikato River Trails

Go with the flow along Aotearoa New Zealand’s longest river taking in striking hydro power stations and dams, tranquil lakes, regenerating wetlands and thrilling suspension bridges.

The ride from Atiamuri to Mangakino is a grand day out (38km, 3–6 hours). It features dramatic bluffs and stunning lake views along with flourishing riverside planting and the 70m Mangakino Suspension bridge. This section of trail is grade 3 (intermediate) with some steep bits and tight corners, but most average riders can handle the jandal and there’s no shame in getting off and pushing!

Stupendous views over Lake Maraetai on the Whakamaru section (Waikato River Trails)

If you’re after a more gentle outing the return journey between Whakamaru and Mangakino is a great option (24km, 2–4 hours). Enjoy a pit-stop or post-ride refreshments at Whakamaru's Dam Cafe or Mangakino’s Bus Stop Cafe.

The friendly locals at Riverside Adventures and Mangakino Shuttles can sort you out with bike hire, shuttles and advice.

Hello from the 70m Mangakino Suspension Bridge! (Waikato River Trails)

Get rolling on the Remutaka Cycle Trail

This Great Ride on the capital’s doorstep trail is a real crowd-pleaser with cruisy riverside biking, a journey along an historic railway and a wild Cook Strait section that’s a contender for New Zealand’s best coastal ride. The easy detour into Wairarapa wine-country seals the deal.

Maymorn is a good place to kick off a 2–4 day adventure, starting with the gentle climb up the forested Remutaka Incline, and whizz down into the Wairarapa through spooky tunnels and regenerating bush. Stay in character-filled country accommodation on the trail or base yourself in Martinborough for a day (or two) of indulgence. Biking is the perfect way to explore the town’s cellar doors.

Complete your Remutaka ride with the Wild Coast section (Ocean Beach to Orongorongo: 18km, grade 3–4/easy–intermediate, 3–4 hours). This is a remote and ruggedly beautiful place where the ranges plunge dramatically into the ocean and views stretch across to the South Island on a good day. The scenery – and possibly the wind – will blow your socks off!

The Remutaka's wonderful Wild Coast section (Tim Bardsley-Smith)

Green Jersey offers an awesome range of itineraries including bike hire, transport, accommodation and friendly local advice. Consider a mid-week break to avoid the weekend crowds in Martinborough.

If you're looking for something short and sweet, try the return ride on the Remutaka Rail Trail. The pretty Hutt Valley River trail offers endless options, too, featuring off-the-bike attractions like the Dowse Art Museum, Petone’s cafes and shops, and Upper Hutt’s Brew Town – an essential pit-stop for craft beer lovers.

Exploring Martinborough's wineries by bike (WellingtonNZ)

The Alps 2 Ocean made easy

Keen to experience Alps 2 Ocean’s jaw-dropping scenery but don’t want to bike the full 300-plus kilometres? Check out these unforgettable day rides – local shuttles make logistics a doddle!

With its friendly vibe and brilliant twinkling night skies Twizel is a lovely base for knocking off some of the A2O’s prettiest sections. The leg between Lake Tekapo and Twizel (54km, Grade 2/easy, 4–5 hours) is one of these, showing off the Mackenzie Country’s striking contrasts of surreal blue lakes and canals, surrounded by golden tussock land and bound by mountains.

For a shorter day out get dropped off at Tekapo B Power Station – one of the grandest lookouts along the whole A2O – then follow Lake Pukaki’s shoreline to Pukaki Dam and across tussock-covered flats to Twizel (24km).

Cycling beside Lake Pukaki (Rachel Gillespie)

Further along the line, Omarama is another fine place to stay with riding options in both directions, and wonderful outdoor hot tubs to soothe cycle-weary limbs. Head south down Waitaki Valley to Otemamata (35km, grade 2–3/easy–intermediate, 3–4 hours) taking in the spectacular new Lake Benmore section, or get dropped off at beautiful Lake Ohau and bike back to Omarama via Tarnbrae, the A2O’s highpoint at 900m above sea-level (45km, grade 3/intermediate, 4–6 hours).

Twizel-based Jollie Biker and Lakeland Explorer in Twizel, and Omarama’s Trail Adventures, can help with bike hire, transport and accommodation.

The new Lake Benmore section is a sight to behold (Tourism Waitaki)

The Clay Cliffs, near Omarama make a worthy detour (NZ Cycling Journal)

Around the Mountains Cycle Trail

A contender for New Zealand’s most gorgeous Great Ride, this 3–5 day epic passes through the Southland’s rural heartland and majestic mountain country around Queenstown, but can easily be broken up into a selection of satisfying day rides. 

From Queenstown, kick off your journey in style with a scenic cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw before tracing the lake’s western shore, and heading south towards the stunning Mavora Lakes (50km, grade 3/intermediate, 5–6 hours).

Soak up the Lord-Of-The-Rings-worthy landscapes before getting a shuttle onwards to Mossburn or Lumsden for some honest southern hospitality. Alternatively, head to Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park, and also the start of the pretty Lake2Lake Trail that winds beside the Waiau River to Manapouri.

The scenery between Lake Wakatipu and Mavora Lake is difficult to beat (Chris McLennan)

Athol to Kingston (30km, grade 1–3/easiest–intermediate, 2–3 hours) is  a more cruisy option. Visit Athol’s lovely gallery before heading off on the trail, which soon meets the graceful wooden suspension bridges nicknamed the Golden Gates. Beyond the wee town of Garston, with its Coffee Bomb pit-stop, the trail passes historic Fairlight Station and heads down ancient glacial moraine before finishing in Kingston on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

The trail’s official partners will happily get you in the saddle.

Why not coincide your visit with the Race The Train event on January 15th – a fun ride or run alongside the Kinsgton Flyer steam train!

Pretty Southland countryside near Athol (Chris McLennan)


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 it for free here.