New Zealand Great Rides – so hot right now

Published 2022-07-11

With the borders open and New Zealand’s cycle trails better than ever, now’s the time to book a holiday where you can see the best of the country by bike.

From short, easy rides to more challenging multi-day adventures, the 23 Great Rides are New Zealand’s premier cycle trails. Collectively known as Ngā Haerenga – ‘the journeys’ – they are as diverse as they are beautiful, serving up an irresistible blend of scenic grandeur and striking natural wonders.

As well as showing off the scenery at the perfect pace, Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand are an invigorating and environmentally sustainable way to reach some of New Zealand’s most famous attractions. Whether you want to go wine-tasting in Hawke’s Bay, star-gazing in Tekapō, kayaking in Abel Tasman or bungy jumping in Queenstown, it’s always more fun to get there by bike!

Eye-popping mountain scenery on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail (Tourism New Zealand).

Great Rides for everyone

The 23 Great Rides are an unbeatable way to have fun while getting to know New Zealand better. Spread throughout the country, they follow a mix of old railways and other off-road trails combined with custom-built cycle paths and flowing singletrack.

Half- and full-day rides on the trails are now incredibly popular, with two brand new Great Rides – Whakarewarewa Forest Loop and Lake Dunstan Trail – offering two spectacular options for visiting bikers (and ebikers!).

You needn’t be particularly fit, or skilled, to enjoy a Great Ride. There are plenty of easy options including family rides and leisurely rides to country cafes and wineries. A nationwide grading system makes it easy to choose one that's right for your skills and fitness. Most Great Rides are graded from easy to intermediate (grades 2–3), which means there's plenty of wonderful options for occasional cyclists or riders just looking to explore and have fun.

Family fun and great riding for all ages on the Clutha Gold Trail (James Jubb/Tourism Central Otago).

Great Rides can be ridden on all sorts of bikes – hybrid or upright bikes for the easiest rides, with mountain bikes more suitable for rides of Grade 3 and above. Ebikes are brilliantly suited to many Great Rides, with ebike hire springing up around popular trails. If you. haven't discovered the joys of ebiking yet, hiring one on an easy day ride is a great place to give it a whirl.

Taupō's grade-3 (intermediate) Great Lake Trails are best suited to mountain bikes (Sarah Bennett).

One Great Ride is never enough. Once you've enjoyed an easy day ride you'll soon be looking for the next one, perhaps testing yourself on new terrain or embarking on one of our classic multi-day adventures such as the Timber Trail, Otago Central Rail Trail or Alps 2 Ocean. Our training plans, developed in collaboration with bike coach Janet Stark, are a fun, achievable way to get ready to ride.

Out on the trail, clear wayfinding markers, maps and other signage make it easy to relax and enjoy the ride. Storyboards at significant places share local history and bringing the landscape to life. The Great Rides App is great to have on hand, helping with everything from choosing and planning a ride, to tracking your adventures and finding services on the trail. 

For more information on staying happy and healthy out on the trail, read our Riding Safely and Biking Etiquette blogs.

Bikers and walkers can both enjoy The Old Ghost Road (Richard Rossiter).

Comfortable accommodation, great food and wine, shopping and other visitor services are usually never far away, with most trails passing through towns and small settlements where cyclists are warmly welcomed.

Enjoy laid-back days around world-class wineries on the Hawke's Bay Trails.

Most Great Rides can be cycled all year round. Spring and autumn are fantastic alternatives to summer thanks to fewer riders on popular trails along with colourful foliage. Winter riding is also a treat thanks to crystal clear air and snow-capped ranges – not to mention hot pools, roaring log fires and comfort food showcasing New Zealand's fantastic ingredients and produce.

Tour operators are passionate about their trails and ready to help you make the most of your Great Ride. They offer everything from half-day, self-guided rides through to fully guided multi-day trips with everything taken care of – including bag transfers, thank goodness!

Some also offer package trips taking in several Great Rides, departing from major airports, with options to add in other popular activities such as hiking and kayaking. Group trips are a speciality, with flexibility around riders’ individual abilities and energy levels. You can read more about trips guided trips here.

Supported and guided trips are a great option if you just want to sit back and enjoy the Great Rides (Timber Trail/Lee Slater).

The New Zealand Cycle Trails and individual trail websites have a wealth of information on what each trail offers, how to plan and book your trip, and what to expect once you’re there. You can also read about the many fun events held on the Great Rides – a fantastic way to meet the locals and like-minded cyclists!

For even more inspiration, read 10 reasons to go on a Great Ride.