Cycle as much or as little as you like on this family cycling adventure, joined by other families and guided by a cycling family. Combine two of the South Island's most popular cycling trails - the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail and Otago Central Rail Trail. Enjoy more than just cycling on this itinerary with the chance to soak in thermal hot pools, try your hand at curling on ice, discover superb mountain scenery, dramatic limestone landscapes, learn about the discovery of gold and explore small local communities along the way. Commencing with picturesque canal rides alongside striking turquoise water with stunning mountain backdrops and concluding with gentle trails amidst rolling sheep country interspersed with stone architecture and golden history, there is something for all interests. Designed for families with children aged seven to fourteen years, the trip departs from Christchurch and finishes up in vibrant Queenstown where those who thrive on activity may choose to have an extended stay.
To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the altitude, the number of pass crossings and the length of the trip. The South Island Family Explorer is graded introductory. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and we suggest 30 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (either cycling or jogging) three times a week for the three months leading up to your trip. The main factor for the rail trail is that the cycling is on hard packed gravel - if you can get in some cycling on gravel before your tour it will make the experience a lot more fun.
Early this morning you will be collected from your central Christchurch accommodation and taken to our depot for a bike fitting and tour briefing. We then drive south to the rural township of Fairlie for lunch and a refreshment break. After lunch, we drive to Lake Tekapo Village from where we take our first short ride to get used to our bikes. From the alternate start on the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, one of New Zealand's most popular Great Rides, we pedal on quiet roads (closed to vehicle traffic) that follow the turquoise blue waters of the canal system. On return to Tekapo we check into our accommodation and there may be time for an optional soak in the Tekapo Springs hot pools (own expense) or maybe a game of family cricket in the park if anyone still has enough energy. Tonight, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant before settling into our accommodation. After dark (which is quite late in summer) a visit to the Mt John Observatory (own expense) may be possible (subject to availability).
Cycle distance: 23km
After breakfast, we gear up for another ride on the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. We enjoy some flat easy riding along the shores of Lake Pukaki, taking in the spectacular mountain vistas as we go. From the road end, Mt Cook beckons so we load up and drive towards New Zealand's highest mountain (3754m). Stunning views of the 26 km long Tasman Glacier and Mt Cook are our reward for a short walk, before we drive back to Lake Pukaki for a final ride on the cycle trail across the extensive tussock-lands of Pukaki flats to Twizel, where we stay tonight. Twizel was built for the Hydro project in the 1970’s and in recent years has been rejuvenated as a holiday and rowing destination, surrounded by rolling tussock hillsides.
Cycle distance: 20km
This morning we fuel up with a hearty breakfast and get ready for one of the longest rides of the trip. Our first ride of the day takes us along the dedicated lake-side trail around the edge of Lake Ohau, with panoramic views of the Ben Ohau Range. We continue riding around the lake’s edge to the homely Lake Ohau Lodge where we stop for a well-deserved lunch. Having refreshed and refuelled our bodies we embark on the ascent over the golden tussock-lands of the Tarnbrae Track with breathtaking views back towards the valley from the highest point (900m) on the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. We load up the bikes near an historic woolshed on the other side of the high point, where the Quailburn Road begins. For anyone feeling super strong there is an optional easier cycle from here into Omarama, where we will meet you. From Omarama we drive past Lakes Benmore and Aviemore to the settlement of Kurow at the head of the picturesque Waitaki Valley, where we spend our final night on the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail.
Note: There will be several opportunities today to take the support vehicle if anyone needs a break from cycling.
Cycle distance: Twizel to Lake Ohau Weir 20km (optional)
Lake Ohau Weir to Lake Ohau Lodge 19km
Lake Ohau Lodge to Quailburn Road 18km (for strong riders)
Quailburn Road to Omarama 23km (optional extra for very strong riders)
After breakfast, we take a scenic 3-hour bus journey through to Naseby, now a delightful historic village well known for the unusual sport of curling but once a thriving gold mining town. We will participate in a round of Curling on Ice - a great chance for some friendly family rivalry! After lunch it is time to embark on our second cycle trail of the trip and New Zealand's original Great Ride, the famous Otago Central Rail Trail. Today’s shorter ride takes us from Wedderburn through the ever-changing landscapes of the Ida Valley and Poolburn Gorge, providing unforgettable views of rugged mountains, crystal clear rivers, and steep winding gorges. We cycle across the impressive Poolburn viaduct and Manuherikia Bridge and through the 229m Poolburn tunnel, a reminder of the once thriving railway line that was closed in 1990. It’s then back to school as we spend the night in the converted Lauder School House, now comfortable characterful accommodation.
Cycle distance: 35km
This morning we take things more slowly and are back onto the bikes after breakfast for our last ride on the Otago Central Rail Trail. From Lauder, we cycle through to historic Clyde, with brilliant views of the Dunstan Mountains and Raggedy Range and a picnic lunch along the way. Clyde was once a wild, rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners in the mid 1800's. Today it is a small village perfectly located for exploring some of New Zealand's best cycle trails. There is time to relax while we load up the bikes for the short drive back to Alexandra. We have a chance to stretch our legs at the park this afternoon before having dinner at leisure at a restaurant/cafe of your choice.
Cycle distance: 44km
This morning we drive from Alexandra to Queenstown (approx 1.5 hrs) and depending on how everyone is feeling, there will be time for an extra ride on the Queenstown trails either near Arrowtown or on the outskirts of Queenstown. Trip arrangements end early afternoon in Queenstown upon drop off at your pre-booked accommodation (own expense; this night is not included in the tour price). We suggest spending a couple of extra days in Queenstown to make the most of the exciting activities on offer in the Adventure Capital of New Zealand.
Per Person, Twin Share