The joys of Spring cycling on the Great Rides

Published 2022-09-15

Bright spring days are the perfect antidote to a long, listless winter – especially when enjoyed on one of New Zealand’s Great Rides. So, now’s the time to get going – whether you’re heading out locally or venturing further afield to try something new. There’s so much to see and do!

Fragrant blossom and frolicking lambs are sure to lift the spirits. So are longer days for rest and relation, time with friends and family, or back-to-nature time in the great outdoors. Or maybe you fancy setting some fitness goals for the summer to come?

Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand are guaranteed to put some spring in your step, and power to your pedals. Whether you’re looking for local riding, a weekend adventure, or an active holiday, now’s a great time to get out on the trails. Here are just a few of the terrific adventures you can enjoy this spring season.

Pretty as a picture on the A20

Ride through a riot of colour in the Mackenzie Country and Waitaki Valley when spring brings an array of wildflowers into bloom. They make the Alps 2 Ocean one of the most photogenic Great Rides and a top option for lovers of big-sky scenery.

At more than 300km long, it's one of the longest Great Rides. The full 4–7-day journey is a big but achievable challenge for those looking for a long-distance ride.

Trail towns such as Twizel, Tekapo and Oamaru are well positioned for ebike charging and café stops, but also make great bases for biking holidays where you can head out on day rides.

Shuttles and tours make it all easy and cater to groups of mixed riding abilities. Adventure South NZ’s new Ocean to Alps Cycle trip heads from the Otago coast to Aoraki/Mt Cook, a journey inland that maximises the mountain views.

Cycling beside the A2O's hydro-canals in a springtime riot of colour (Stacey Goodson).

Hooray for spring and family fun on the Alps 2 Ocean (Holly Woodhouse).

The Motu Trails – beach, bush and beautiful backroads

If you’re looking for a variety of rides with spectacular scenery and nature on tap, head to the beautiful eastern Bay of Plenty to ride the Motu Trails.

Ōpōtiki is a cool wee town for a holiday break and offers easy access to the Motu’s quartet of trails including the Dunes Trail. An ever-popular half-day ride suitable for the whole family, it also has beach time and ice cream for a spring and summertime vibe.

Cycle Gisborne specialises in flexible tours and other local logistics, covering all sections – including the Motu Road, and Rere Falls Trail Heartland Ride through to Tairawhiti Gisborne, plus an option to tackle the more-challenging Pakihi Track – a NZ MTB classic! They can sort hire, accommodation, baggage transfers and shuttles, as well as guided tours around Ōpōtiki and Gisborne, and the chance to explore Eastwood Hill Arboretum and the famous Rere Falls and Rock Slide.

Check out their Raukumara Traverse tour, suitable for folk with some biking skills and decent fitness, including teens – e-bikes are available!

Soothing oceanside scenes on the Dunes Trail (Mandy Hague).

Cruising past the Rere Falls with Cycle Gisborne (Mead Norton Photography).

Explore more along the mighty Waikato River

Spring sees the Waikato region thriving with lush farmland, flourishing native bush and birdlife, making it a splendid season to enjoy outdoor activities alongside Aotearoa’s longest river.

The Waikato River Trails are a great reason to explore this rural heartland. With more than 100 kilometres of riding, this Great Ride offers mostly easy to intermediate riding, great scenery and adventures to suit all ages.

Riverside Adventures are a brilliant one-stop-shop for holidays and adventures around this Great Ride. As well as accommodation, bike hire and shuttles, the owners also run freedom and guided tours including family-friendly half-day Karapiro bike trips, and exciting twilight glowworm kayak tours.

Among popular day rides are the Waipapa and Maraetai sections, featuring highlights such as the Mangakino suspension bridge and lovely lake views. If you want to stay nearby, check out the new Lake Maraetai Lodge in peaceful Mangakino village.

The Waikato River Trails have plenty of places to reflect and admire NZ's longest river (Waikato River Trails).

Riverside Adventures' glowworm/kayak tour – an illuminating off-the-bike activity on the Waikato River Trails (Riverside Adventures).

A big sky ride Around the Mountains 

Kick winter to the kerb on this multi-day ride that’ll test your mettle while serving up some of the most epic high-country scenery on the whole Great Ride network.

The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is commonly started in Queenstown, from where you cruise to Walter Peak Station on the historic Earnslaw steamship or the new, locally owned ride-on-ride-off Barge Services, who are flexible and ideal for groups.

The Von Valley and Mavora Lakes area will reset your senses with their remote, big-sky vibe. Emerging in Southland, enjoy a series of delightful rural towns including Lumsden where you find the trail’s newest café, ROAR Coffee Roasters.

The great news for riders is that the historic Kingston Flyer steam train is restarting a Sunday sightseeing service this spring after a break of seven years. It makes for a very special add-in to your itinerary, complete with photogenic Fairlight Station and cozy Kingston Flyer Cafe & Bar where the trail finally loops back to Lake Wakatipu.

Ride in either direction, or detour off the trail for a day or two to explore Fiordland and Milford Sound. Local shuttles can pick you up from any of the Southland trail towns, and Mavora Lakes, for the scenic drive to Te Anau and beyond.

Spring is literally in the air with Air Milford, which offers a day trip combo of scenic flight, high-country bike ride and dining at Walter Peak station before a lake cruise back to Queenstown on the TSS Earnslaw.

Flying straight into epic Around the Mountains scenery with Air Milford on their Fly, Ride, Dine & Cruise tour.

The Von Valley – an Around the Mountains and Great Rides of New Zealand scenic highlight (Chris McLennan).

Verdant plains and vineyards on Hawke’s Bay Trails

If you like wine-touring by bike with al fresco dining on the side, head to the Hawke’s Bay Trails this spring when the grapes will be budding up on the vine. So will the apples, kiwifruit and other orchard fruits, all blossoming with summer promise and making a divine backdrop to rides across the Heretaunga Plains. The trails are ten years old this November and better than ever!

Tantalise your tastebuds as you visit the region’s cafes, pubs, restaurants and cellar doors along more than 200km of mostly off-road riding across the Heretaunga Plains. Coastal Wine Cycles can get you in the saddle for a self-guided tour of cellar doors, country cafes and other culinary hotspots.

If the Bay’s famous art deco architecture is in your sights, head to Napier City Bike Hire & Tours. For a bit more of a leg stretch with glorious coastal views, ask for directions to the Ātea A Rangi star compass near Clyde.

The trails stretch to all corners, taking in Crab Farm, Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak. For multi-day packages taking the best of the trails, check out the self-guided tours and five-day, fully guided deluxe tour offered by Tākaro Trails.

Explore some of New Zealand's most bountiful vineyards by bike on the Hawke's Bay Trails.

Blue skies, easy riding and friendly faces – all signatures of the Hawke's Bay Trails.

Looking for another type of cycling adventure?

Check out these blogs for more Great Rides inspiration:

Explore New Zealand's amazing landscapes by bike 

Perfect Great Rides holidays with family and friends 

Relax and re-energise on the Great Rides

Looking for a challenge? Get going on a Great Ride


Discover all 23 Great Rides of New Zealand here.