Tour New Zealand’s wine regions by bike
What better way to connect with friends and family this summer than on a leisurely Great Ride discovering outstanding food and wine in one of New Zealand’s iconic wine regions, visiting wineries on your bucket list and unearthing new favourite tipples while basking in postcard-worthy vineyard landscapes.
A number of Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails either stop from cellar door to cellar door, or are close by – offering a refreshing finish to a big day on your bike.
Wineries Ride (Hawke’s Bay Trails)
New Zealand’s oldest and second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay, is home to more than 70 wineries with around half sporting cellar doors.
Looping around the Gimblett Gravels, Ngatarawa Triangle and Bridge Pa, the 36km Hawke’s Bay Trails Wineries Ride takes in ten or so tasting rooms where you can sample the Bay’s signature varietals – Chardonnay, Bordeaux-style reds and Syrah. Some also have cellar door restaurants offering delicious alfresco summer dining. And with gorgeous seasonal colours, free-draining terrain and great weather, the Hawke’s Bay Trails are wonderful for wine-touring at any time of year.
Gibbston River Wine Trail (Queenstown Trail)
Central Otago’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s southernmost wine region and New Zealand’s highest. It also boasts boutique producers of world-beating Pinot Noir, complex Chardonnay, and award-winning aromatics like Riesling and Pinot Gris. One of its six sub-regions is Gibbston – the ‘Valley of the Vines’ – that can be explored on the Gibbston River Wine Trail.
This easy 9km trail starts at AJ Hackett Bungy’s original jump site at historic Kawarau Bridge. What better way to strike up a thirst than by leaping off a bridge? From there the trail meanders between numerous iconic wineries such as Peregrine and Gibbston Valley, the latter perennially popular for its cellar door restaurant and wine-cave tours (and a bike hire depot, too). The Gibbston Tavern is also a highlight with its rustic vibe and beer garden, while Kinross has a delectable selection of wines from some of the region's top producers.
Waitaki Valley (Alps 2 Ocean)
The Waitaki’s Valley’s limestone soils and cool maritime climate produce wines that can be seriously sublime. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are the predominant varietals.
It’s a boutique wine region, with just 10 or so small winegrowers around the Kurow area. Ostler and River-T Estate have tasting rooms on the Kurow to Duntroon stretch of the A2O, but we also recommend you look out for Waitaki wines in restaurants and cafes all along the trail so you can enjoy a taste of this notable terroir.
Waimea Plains (Tasman’s Great Taste Trail)
Spread over the rolling hills and plains lining Tasman Bay, the Nelson wine region produces an enviable range including premium Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics. There are almost 20 tasting rooms, a few with cellar door dining, scattered amidst other enticing attractions such as gift shops, galleries, garden cafes and breweries. They don’t call it the Great Taste Trail for nothing!
Taking in the Waimea Plains’ pretty scenery, the easy 2–3 hour return ride between Stoke and Brightwater offers a lovely blend of sightseeing and tasting, with selected wineries a short detour from the trail. In Brightwater, be sure to check out the memorial to Ernest Rutherford, the New Zealander who was first in the world to split the atom.
Alexandra Basin (Otago Central Rail Trail)
The Alexandra Basin is one of Central Otago’s six sub-regions and another fine producer of Pinot Noir. Some of its 10 or so vineyards line up around the around the Clyde to Alexandra leg of the Otago Central Rail Trail, with Dunstan Road, Judge Rock, Legacy, Immigrant's Vineyard and Three Miners wineries great options for a cellar door tasting.
Thanks to local cafe and pub owners along the Rail Trail, there are plenty more chances to try wines from the local and wider sub-regions. What’s more, they’re often matched with signature Central Otago fare such as lamb, game, cheese, stone fruit and delicious wild thyme.
The Wairarapa (Remutaka Cycle Trail)
While not technically on the Remutaka Cycle Trail, the Wairarapa’s vineyards are just a cork’s pop away, so it would be a shame not to stop and smell the rosé (along with their sumptuous Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling).
The best way to hop on a wine tour is to get picked up from Cross Creek, on the Wairarapa side of the wonderful Remutaka Rail Trail. A host of local biking and wine tour operators can ferry you over to Martinborough – the heart of the wine region and hugely popular for wine-touring on two wheels – or further afield to the other sub-regions of Gladstone or Masterton.
Marlborough (Queen Charlotte Track)
Together with being the home of the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine region.
Boasting around 140 wineries and more than 30 cellar doors, Marlborough’s wine trail is the perfect way to imbibe in the region’s world famous Sauvignon Blanc, along with its deliciously fruity Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, aromatics and methode traditionelle sparkling wines.
A visit to the cellar doors for a tasting or lunch among the vines is a fantastic way to celebrate completing the Queen Charlotte Track, and tours are available by van, car or bike.
If you don’t have time to get to the cellar doors, you can sample some of Marlborough’s finest wine and fresh seafood such as Greenshell mussels and King salmon at resorts all along Queen Charlotte Track.