Great West Coast Cycle

Great West Coast Cycle

Trip Highlights

  • Embark on this 9 day road cycling adventure taking you from Christchurch to Queenstown
  • Wonder at Lake Matheson, famous for its sunset reflections of Aoraki/Mount Cook
  • Enjoy a breathtaking TranzAlpine train ride across the Southern Alps
  • Challenge yourself on the hill climb up Haast Pass
  • Ride up to 100km a day with full vehicle support
  • Discover Wanaka and the gold mining history of quaint Arrowtown
  • Experience a scenic flight, heli-hike or walk on the ice at Franz Josef Glacier (optional)

Trip Summary

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.

Trip Grading

To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the altitude, the amount of climbing, the types of roads and the length of the trip. The Great West Coast Cycle is graded moderate to challenging. You will need to be a competent road rider with stamina and a good level of fitness, you should be able to cycle comfortably for up to 6-8 hours or around 80km/50miles per day, day after day, with some extended uphill ascents. There are some long days and some steep sections. You should be confident riding on main roads alongside traffic which can be travelling at speed. This tour is not for beginners. 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.


We will meet in central Christchurch at Cathedral Junction at 7:00am. Your guide will drive you to the Christchurch train station in time for the 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: 76km / 48miles

Meals:  D

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: 135km / 84miles Suggested Shorter Option: Ross to Whataroa – 81km / 50miles

Meals:  B

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 – 2 hours). 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.

Meals:  B

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: 25km / 16miles

Meals:  B,L

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: 120km / 75miles Shorter Option: Fox to Lake Moeraki – 89km / 55miles

Meals:  B,L,D

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 km / 51miles

Meals:  B,L,D

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: 68km / 42miles

Meals:  B,L

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: 78km / 48miles

Meals:  B,L,D

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.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 8 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners
  • 8 nights hotel/motel ensuite accommodation on twin share basis
  • Professional qualified driver/guide
  • 2 professional guides/drivers on trips with 8 or more people
  • Private vehicle transport (except for TranzAlpine Train)
  • TranzAlpine train journey from Christchurch to Greymouth
  • Water and snacks while cycling
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • All beverages, other than breakfast
  • Bike hire (including helmet)
  • Water bottle (help us save the environment and bring your own bike drink bottle)
  • Optional activities (eg. scenic flights, sea kayaking etc)
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

Road bikes 2

ROAD BIKE (Additional Charge)

On road cycling tours our road bikes provide the ultimate cycling experience. The drop handle bars offer multi hand positions. Our bikes have wider 32mm tyres and disc brakes which are safer and better suited to NZ road conditions. They have a relaxed geometry and wide range rear cassette to suit people with varying levels of cycling experience and for longer cycle touring routes.


HYBRID BIKE (Additional Charge)

These bikes have the same narrower tyres and lightweight frames, only with flat handlebars 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, toe clips or MTB SPD (clip in) pedals. A bicycle helmet will be supplied with all bike rentals.


The Great West Coast tour led by Sue and Iain was amazing- spectacular scenery, great company, delicous meals and comfortable lodgings. Sue and Iain were awesome at accommodating the various levels of cycling expertise and experience in the group, as well as changes in the weather. Each day, they shared all the necessary information about the routes, rest stops, and points of interest. I think everyone in the group was able to do as much (or as little) cycling as they wanted on any given day.

Jean R, Ottawa, Canada, 18 Jan 2019

A lovely and different way to see South NZ. Roads are quiet, routes sometimes ( nicely) challenging , but you get a feel for what is doable - at your level. Accommodation was better than expected. But the 2 people who really made the ride were Iain and Sue, they looked out for everyone, had a great SOH, and were very knowledgeable about everything. The scenery was breathtaking and the guides just brought everything together plus we had an amazing group! This isn’t an easy ride, be road savvy and confident on your bike. There are some challenging narrow roads , some hair pin bends. Although you can get lifts in the pick up vehicle if you get tired, much better you prepare yourself in pre training.

Belinda G, United Kingdom, 08 Jan 2019

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

Wonderful trip in every way: itinerary, challenging climbs, guides, accommodations, bike rentals, additional activities, included meals, and compatible group. Sue, our main guide, was exceptional! We were very well informed on everything. She and Craig worked very well together and were delightful. My one recommendation is that the rental bikes should have compact gearing considering the 13-17% climbs. But, fortunately the climbs worked out OK and I loved them.

Jeanine, New York, USA, 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

Great experience on all levels. A well oiled machine!

Sara, Boston, USA, 14 Dec 2017

It's tough to point out what was 'great' when the whole trip was phenomenal. I'll try: Trusting in my experienced guides (the most important) & the fact they genuinely cared that we had the most memorable trip. The varied itinerary of places and additional activities The views - OBVIOUSLY! I was blown away. The every changing landscape blew me away. I also loved being away from 'civilisatiom' and in true countryside for so long. Magical and unique. Sue and Bas's constant desire to take care and please us however demanding the group may be. 10\10 to them.

Stefanie W, England, UK, 14 Dec 2017

Wonderful guides! They quickly determined everyone's cycling abilities and catered the amount of riding to each person. The scenery was always speculator' and we enjoyed the quirky spots they took us to for breaks and lunches as well as extra sightseeing. Some of the quirky places to stop along away were great. Who gets to hang out at a road side stop with a giant sand fly as a sign? 1st day it would have been great to overnight at the end of the ride versus sitting in the van for 90 minutes to our hotel. The views were great on the first days ride. But the ride was cut short because of the need to to drive back to the hotel. Pack light, you have chances to do laundry along the way.

Art, USA, 14 Dec 2017

I could not fault this tour. It was a balance of challenging rides and sightseeing. Everything was organised beautifully and we did not have to worry about a thing. Sue and Baz are wonderful and knowledgeable guides.

Georgie, Adelaide, Australia, 14 Dec 2017

We had a brilliant time with superb guides, Sue and Bas, accommodating our skill range, at 69 and 68, which didn't quite measure up to the terrific riders on this trip who were in their 20s, 30s and 40s and very strong cyclists. Yet we throughly enjoyed the trip, riding most of the way with a few "bumps" up the steepest hills in the van. The motels were fine, the food good, the company excellent and the prevailing sense of humor almost as good as the stunning scenery.

Steven W, Boston, USA

No criticisms. It was a great trip with extraordinary guides. Book it now. Life is short.

Mike, USA, 14 Dec 2017

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

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:9 Days
Starting Point:Christchurch
Grade:Moderate to Challenging  Click for more information
Trip Code:GWC
Prices From:NZD$2995
Public Holiday Supplement:NZD$50 
Bike Rental:NZD$400 
Single Supplement:NZD$795