Known as New Zealand's most famous and scenic multi-day cycle ride this spectacular trip from Christchurch to Queenstown is also regarded as one of the world's top five cycle touring routes. Averaging daily rides of up to 100kms, and many high alpine pass crossings including the spectacular Haast Pass, the cycling will take you past an ever changing landscape; from glacier country through to quiet sealed roads fringed with mighty podocarp rainforest and past dramatic coastlines before finally crossing over the Crown Range into the beautiful Southern Lakes district around Wanaka and Queenstown. Out of the saddle the highlights are equally spectacular. Your adventure begins with a memorable journey on the TranzAlpine Express train to Greymouth via the spectacular Waimakariri Gorge and lush forests of Arthur's Pass National Park and there is a free day built in for you to enjoy the many optional activities at the Franz Josef Glacier such as relaxing in the hot pools, enjoying guided walks or taking an optional scenic flight. This comprehensive itinerary truly is a cyclists ideal adventure.
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 Great West Coast Cycle is graded moderate. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and we suggest 60 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (either cycling or jogging) three times a week for the three months leading up to your trip. The tour is fully supported and if at any stage you feel like having a rest from cycling you will be able to ride in the support vehicle.
You guide will pick you up from your central Christchurch accommodation early this morning and deliver you to the train station for your TranzAlpine Express departure at 8.15am. We enjoy a scenic train journey across the Southern Alps and arrive at Moana on Lake Brunner around Midday. We will eat our lunch on the train and then we can get on the bikes immediately to follow an undulating and winding course through the picturesque Arnold Valley to Stillwater. A flat ride beside the banks of the Grey River takes us out to the coastal township of Greymouth. One of the trip's many highlights is the coastal riding as we head north along the coast to the famous Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. The coastline is wild, the rock formations are incredible and the rainforest is lush. The riding is pure quality – with enough hills to keep you honest. After visiting the Pancake Rocks we load up the bikes, hop on the bus and transfer to Hokitika and our accommodation for the night.
Hokitika is a quiet coastal town known for the crafting of Pounamu (greenstone) from the West Coast and is a wonderful place to walk along the beach at sunset.
Cycling Distance: 76kms/48 miles
Further south, the glacier country beckons and the road soon changes from rural countryside to one fringed with the mighty podocarp rainforests. Along the way we break for coffee at Ross, one of the early gold-mining townships and then onwards through Hari Hari and Whataroa until finally we reach Franz Josef Glacier township for the next two nights.
Cycling Distance: 135kms/84 miles
Suggested Shorter Option: Ross to Whataroa – 81kms/50 miles
Time for a day off the saddle and Franz Josef Glacier is a great place to enjoy this. With hot pools, ice climbing and lots of short walks – there are plenty of options. You could also relax and catch up with your diary or read a book. Flight-seeing is very popular here either in fixed wing planes around the mountains (up to 40 mins) or a helicopter flight to land on the snowfields high above the village (1.5 - 2hrs). There is also an option to enjoy some sea-kayaking into the rainforest at the nearby Okarito Lagoon & bird sanctuary. Additional costs for optional activities apply.
This morning's start is flexible depending on the weather and what people would like to do. There are a number of options – if the previous day's weather hasn't been friendly and you were wanting to take to the skies to see the glacier or enjoy some sea-kayaking you can do your activity this morning. In the afternoon we ride through to Fox Glacier (optional). The distance to Fox Glacier is only a matter of 25 kms but that ride crosses three strenuous passes, each followed by an exciting and exhilarating downhill. The ride is worth the effort with the last downhill into Fox leading straight into one of the village cafes or bars. In the evening we take a short walk around nearby Lake Matheson with its famous sunset reflections of New Zealand’s highest mountains.
Cycling Distance: 25kms/16 miles
After a couple of ‘relaxing’ days we head off again on some lovely flat roads. We reach the coast at Bruce Bay before turning inland again, skirting the beautiful Lake Moeraki and then out to the Knights Point coastline. Eventually we roll into Haast township and a final night on the west coast.
Cycling Distance: 120kms/75 miles
Shorter Option: Fox to Lake Moeraki – 89 kms/55 miles
Haast Pass presents another cycling highlight. For some 50 kms the road slowly rises as the mighty Landsborough River joins the nearby Clark Valley. Countless waterfalls cascade from the mountains towering above the road and the lush rainforest changes to beechforest higher up the valley. A final serious climb takes us to the summit of the pass at 678m. From here there is a 20km ride down into the beautiful township of Makarora and a well-deserved conclusion to the day's ride. If the descent does not provide enough excitement there is a thrilling jet-boat ride nearby taking you deep into the Mount Aspiring National Park.
Cycling Distance: 82 kms/51 miles
There are dramatic changes in the landscape today as we enter the dry arid country on the eastern side of the ranges. Today we cycle alongside spectacular lakes as the road rolls down into the headwaters of the Otago valleys and then climbs along the shore of Lake Wanaka before taking us into the bustling resort township of the same name. The afternoon is free to enjoy some shopping or just to relax alongside the lake.
Cycling Distance: 68kms/42 miles
This morning we cycle out of town for 25km to the historic township of Cardrona, with a chance to stop for a coffee in the old pub with its beautiful gardens. From here the last serious climb of our tour takes us to our highest point, 1070m, at the top of the Crown Range for some spectacular views. A wicked drop down into Arrowtown follows before we break for lunch. We have time to enjoy this historic gold mining town before our final ride into Queenstown, known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. The town is situated alongside a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Relaxation and shopping here are fantastic.
Cycling Distance: 78kms/48 miles
Our tour ends today after breakfast. We are happy to help with extra accommodation bookings (additional cost applies) if you would like to spend more time in Queenstown after your tour.
ROAD BIKE (Additional Charge)
On road cycling tours our road bikes provide the ultimate cycling experience with their narrower tyres and lightweight frames for increased efficiency and speed. The drop hand bars offer multi hand positions to provide muscle relief and comfort. Our bikes are fitted with compact crank sets and wide range rear cassettes to suit people with varying levels of cycling experience and for longer cycling routes.
HYBRID BIKE (Additional Charge)
These bikes have the same narrower tyres and lightweight frames, only with flat handlebars and bar ends (so you can change hand positions) to give the performance and speed of a road bike. The geometry allows you to sit in a more natural upright riding position that provides the best control of the bike with a well-placed centre of gravity and in a posture that reduces strain on the rider's neck and back.
TANDEM BIKE (Additional Charge)
Our tandem bikes for road cycling tours are ideal for experienced cycle partners to enjoy the journey together. The riding position on our tandems is similar to being on a mountain bike but we fit road tyres to make them perfect for the sealed roads.
For bicycle specifications please contact us.
Bikes can be fitted with flat pedals, toes clips or MTB SPD pedals. A bicycle helmet will be supplied with all bike rentals.
Wonderful trip. Dave and Brett were amazing guides and made us feel like family. They were super! Meals were really great, hotels were great!
Lee and Seth Cohen, Lee and Seth Cohen, 16 Feb 2018
The distances covered and climbs were good - quite challenging but not superhuman. The accommodations were just right - nothing fancier is needed and in several places, they were the best in town. The food was just right also. Sue and Craig made the trip enjoyable from A to Z. About the only thing we would change would be to make the first day's cycling a bit shorter (Moana to Pancake Rocks) or perhaps given a bit more time to complete it.
David H, USA, 16 Feb 2018
Great trip, good mix of accommodation. Picnic lunches were fun. Guides coped with different skill levels. Dave and Brett were fantastic guides - knowledgeable, experienced, friendly and contributed to group camaraderie.
Peter G, Sydney, 16 Feb 2018
Guides were super accommodating. If you didn't feel confident in making the total ride, they worked out a plan to pick you up when needed. Guides were also very good with explaining New Zealand history, customs and various vegetation along the way.
Marilyn, Perth, Australia, 16 Feb 2018
Cycling was great. Challenging but OK. The guides took great care and were always makings sure we were happy and things on track. Accommodation on the whole was good.
Bruce and Jo, London, UK, 16 Feb 2018
Definitely the best cycling holiday we have done to date. Our criteria was 'door to door' cycling with as little transfer in the bus as possible. Bikes I would suggest, as a bike mechanic, that all the bikes with caliper brakes as an upgrade. Also suggest that the crew also carry proper cable cutters and good spare cables. This trip offered us the best possible option to see the South Island after driving the North.
Steve P, UK
Dave and Peter were great. Adding non cycling events were greatly appreciated. Scenery was terrific. Lack of shoulders on the roads was a low point.
Marge and Dave B, USA
Really enjoyed the trip in so many ways. The paper maps issued each day are good but could be improved by the addition of distances on the map. (Ride with GPS) feature and by display of gradient. Dave and Pete were great. Both putting in a lot of effort into activities for us in the non-cycling time, thanks.
Paul and Linda R, UK
Excellent guides & leadership. Exhilarating rides. Enjoyed the camaraderie of a fun group.
Jerry P, 20 Jan 2018
Our guides were knowledgeable on many historic and natural aspects of the region - perfect mix with the challenging cycling - which is part of why we chose this trip. Accommodation fine and the food as well! We were very lucky with the weather and great group!! Only negative - need new brakes.
This wonderful trip started with a train ride from Christchurch to Greymouth - beautiful scenery and a great chance to get to know other cyclists on the trip. Daily rides were doable, with just the right amount of challenge - our guides (Bas and Sue) took extreme care to prepare us for the safest, most enjoyable route from town to town. And, if we didn't feel up for the miles or topography, the sag vehicle was always just a short distance away. Accommodations were clean and efficient, with an emphasis on giving us a real feel for New Zealand and its beauty. Meals were varied and good quality.
Patricia (Trip Advisor), California, USA, 22 Dec 2017
We completed the Great West Coast Cycle guided by Sue and Bas on December 15, 2017. The trip was just amazing. Sue and Bas planned our days well, and were extremely flexible when opportunities to improve the ride became apparent. They were both attentive to the needs of the group, and they greatly exceeded our expectations. If we return to New Zealand, we will certainly ride with them again.
Alcantra (Trip Advisor), Melbourne Australia, 15 Dec 2017
Per Person, Twin Share