Lake Dunstan Trail | Natalie Tambolash
They say it’s a small world, but if you find yourself in New Zealand amongst bike enthusiasts: it’s a crumb-sized world. That’s because New Zealand is home to arguably the most beautiful cycling routes on the planet and if you spend enough time, your NZ riding bucket list gets pretty full, pretty quickly.
Now, we bet that we could guess at least a few of the routes on that list. No doubt the Alps 2 Ocean Trail is there, perhaps the Old Ghost Road and—with all the recent hype—definitely the Lake Dunstan Trail.
You’ve got these down for good reason! They’re absolutely epic rides, and that’s why we include each of them in our trips at Adventure South. But what if you’re looking for an adventure that hasn’t graced the top of every cyclist's wishlist? Something a bit more offbeat?
Well, we’ve got just the trip. Or rather, three trips. Each of these covers a vastly different area of New Zealand and while we hit the must-do tourist hotspots, we also take time to divert from the status quo and take you somewhere new.
Here’s our list of the top 3 off-the-beaten-path bike trips with Adventure South.
Kaikoura & Molesworth High Country Cycle
The Kaikoura Peninsula is one of the most highly sought-after New Zealand destinations. Often described as “where the mountains meet the sea”, Kaikoura’s mountains rise to over 2600 metres, while its underwater trenches sink as low as 1200 metres. The result is a stunning, unique landscape.
One of the first days of our trip includes a visit for lunch and a wine tasting at an award-winning vineyard in the Waipara Valley, one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. Later, as we make our way up the coastline, we’ll also head out on a whale watching cruise to see the incredible giant sperm whales, who congregate off the coast of Kaikoura for optimal feeding.
You want offbeat? How about cycling through New Zealand’s largest and most remote working farm: Molesworth Station. Our route takes us along the Molesworth Muster Trail, a journey through valleys and braided rivers descending into the thermal spa town of Hanmer Springs. Along the way, you’ll experience true Kiwi hospitality and hearty country meals at cosy farmstays. Once you’ve come out of station life, have a soak at Hanmer Hot Springs before heading back to the big city.
Timber Trail, Waikato and Great Lake Cycle
Cover three Great Rides of the Central Plateau with this trip, starting out racing against the mighty Waikato River, before ducking into the Pureora Forest. Come out the other side to explore Lake Taupo, the largest crater lake on the North Island.
As NZ’s longest river, the Waikato River passes through lush forests and farmland. The Waikato River Trails are a popular attraction with five sections and varying degrees of difficulty. You’ll also get to experience one of the Waikato River’s feeders on this trip: Lake Taupo. Located in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano, the lake itself is home to the famed Maori Rock Carvings, which can only be seen by boat. We’ll also see the Huka Falls and pay a visit to the Wairakei Terraces and thermal pools.
This trip includes a two-night stay at the Timber Trail Lodge in the heart of the Pureora Forest along the Timber Trail. Located smack in the middle of nowhere, the Lodge is the perfect place to unwind—and lose mobile phone reception! The Lodge is beautiful, sustainable, and completely remote. A truly unique experience.
Premium West Coast Wilderness and Kawatiri Cycle
It doesn’t get any more offbeat than the wild West Coast of New Zealand. This trip covers two incredible cycling routes along the West Coast with lots of optional add-ons, like the Tranzalpine train journey, brewery tours, and glowworm excursions.
Like we said, in general, the West Coast is pretty offbeat. But some of the most well-known must do’s in this region are the Hokitika Gorge with its beautiful turquoise waters, the Pororari River Gorge with its spectacular limestone, and the Truman Track through incredible subtropical forest. Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the famed Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, which we’ll most certainly stop to visit.
The West Coast itself is truly the “off-the-beaten-path” aspect of this entire ride. There’s simply no place on Earth quite like it. As you ride, you’ll be genuinely floored by the untamed wilderness of your surroundings. Find historic sites, experience wildlife like seals, dolphins, even penguins and maybe even stumble across some pounamu (green stone), treasured by Maori for its spiritual significance.
At Adventure South NZ, we don’t do cookie-cutter. Each of our 40 unique trips includes a little tourist flare mixed with backwoods hidden gems. Find out more and browse our trips here.