Review: Henry cycles the Alps 2 Ocean Classic

Group photo on the Alps 2 Ocean | Vanessa Wilson
Group photo on the Alps 2 Ocean | Vanessa Wilson

Traveller Story: Henry's view on the Alps 2 Ocean

Trip: Alps to Ocean Classic 
Departed: late September

Henry and his travel partner, Penny, recently journeyed along the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail in New Zealand. Completing NZ's longest cycle trail with a huge sense of accomplishment, the cycle trail weaves through the 9 sections across the South Island, mostly easy terrain including canal paths, cross-country tracks, quiet back roads and old railway lines. 

Henry has one piece of advice after conquering the famous Alps 2 Ocean..  'Just do it' sign up now!

Read on for Henry and Penny's detailed itinerary of what it was like to experience the Alps 2 Ocean for the first time, including the trip highlights and challenges as well as his thoughts on the accommodations and meals.

Check point on the Alps to Ocean |  <i>Henry</i>

My travel partner, Penny was looking for a short adventure trip around the South Island of New Zealand and decided on Alps 2 Ocean with Adventure South NZ.. so I was the tag along. I didn't know what it would be like cycling through New Zealand late September, but the South Island's scenery was incredible! Highly recommend for everyone.
We are cyclists, so we already had a base fitness going into the trip although the longer days were a bit of a challenge. Most cyclists ride eBikes or mountain bikes but I was up for a challenge so it chose my first time riding a gravel bike to be the A2O. Being part of a guided and supported tour, indeed made the trip easier and both our guides, Teresa and Jon were excellent.


Cycling the Alps 2 Ocean 

Read on for a detailed look into what it's like to Cycle the Alps to Ocean. Henry and his travel partner went on the Alps to Ocean Classic 6-day itinerary.

Day 1: Arriving at Tekapo

The excitement of a new adventure. The Alps to Ocean ride, spanning 300+ km from NZ's Southern Alps to its coast.

Shoes are still clean, and the path ahead remains a mystery. The bus set off from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, making stops in Geraldine and Fairlie. We covered the first 20km's, legs warmer to Lake Alexandrina, navigating both road and gravel with the stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Wrapped up with a well-deserved meal and a glass of Central Otago Pinot..  


Day 2: Tekapo to Twizel 

The official start of the A2O journey from Lake Tekapo. The buzz of a multi-day event and my first on the gravel bike set the tone. New Zealand's vast landscapes, with its towering mountains and expansive terrains, are humbling. 

Cycling in New Zealand |  <i>Henry</i>

The highlight was gliding along the canal before merging with Lake Pukaki and tracing the shore of the lake for some unforgettable views. 


We wrapped up in the cozy town, Twizel. After a rejuvenating shower, the trek up to Tasman Glacier was on the agenda.
Extending beyond the bike: a slippery, snow-covered stair hike led us to the Tasman Glacier, where we felt impossibly small amidst the immense, snow-peaked ranges and crystal blue glacier lakes, with Mt. Cook presiding over the scene. The hike, demanding yet starkly beautiful, concluded with an impromptu snowball fight, adding a playful end to our day.

Tasman Glacier along the Alps 2 Ocean |  <i>Henry</i>

Day 3: Twizel to Omarama

The Queen Stage. Covering 84km, it wasn't merely the distance but the myriad challenges that made this day memorable.

Lake Ohau on the Alps to Ocean trail |  <i>Penny</i>

The day had begun with a small hiccup, as I took a wrong turn until the group set me straight. We set off from Twizel, aiming for Omarama, navigating through mixed and challenging terrain. There were muddy patches at the start, but as we cycled alongside Lake Ohau, the scenery was captivating, especially the stretch from Ohau Weir to Ohau Lodge amidst the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.


The ascent to Tarnbrae High Point proved challenging with its rugged ground, boulders, recent snow, and mud. Navigating the descent on my gravel bike was particularly demanding due to the narrow tires (eBikes and mountain bikes have thicker tires making them more suited to the terrain). Mid-route, we had an unexpected encounter with dive-bombing magpies. Magpies are known around Australia and NZ for swooping during nesting season in September.  Despite the challenge, Penny agrees the cycle to Tarnbrae was an epic climb.

We wrapped up at an Omarama pub, savoring a delicious rib-eye steak accompanied by a glass of red. 

Snow on the Alps 2 Ocean in September |  <i>Henry</i>

Day 4: Omarama to Kurow

Waking up in our accommodation, we set our sights on Kurow. Fresh off the challenges of the Queen Stage, another demanding segment awaited us, one that few seem to mention. 

The cold, overcast morning started with a twist: a river crossing right before the Sailors to Benmore route. Unfortunately, it meant wet shoes, something I absolutely detest. Pushing on, we tackled the gravel track that snaked between the mountains, offering a mix of steep climbs, cliff drop off on one side and cliffside views. 


Some riders didn't feel confident riding this section. The benefit of riding with Adventure South is they always have 2 guides on their tours so we were able to spilt the group up and still accomplish sections that we felt comfortable riding.

Penny: "I skipped the Sailors to Benmore segment as I wasn't comfortable nor confident with riding a rocky, skinny trail with a steep drop on one side. We regrouped with the rest after the segment and rode along Lake Benmore to our accommodation. It was undulating but much more fun."

Highlights from the Alps 2 Ocean |  <i>Henry</i>

Henry; Once past Benmore, the ride eased out, leading us through two dams and onto a welcoming bike path into Kurow. 
The evening was pure indulgence - wine tasting, a sumptuous local dinner with New Zealand pinot, and a delightful two-course meal courtesy of our accommodation's owner, Kate. Safe to say, Kurow was my favourite town; it was great accommodation, had a pub next door and wine tasting to finish off the day's riding.


Day 5: Kurow towards Oamaru 

Setting off from Kurow to Windsor, almost the entire route was on gravel, a terrain that naturally suited me, the puncheur*. 

We travelled along captivating paths, with river crossings that were thankfully tame on this day. But not all was serene, as leading the group made me the prime target for a feisty magpie. 


Our route was rich in both natural beauty and cultural significance: Maori paintings, a mysterious pitch-black old railway tunnel, the banks of the Waitaki River, vineyards, and a significant Maori rock art site by Duntroon. 

The sight of the grand Elephant Rocks and their majestic formations was a visual treat. Riding the old railway line, we journeyed through Raki's tunnel before a downhill cruise to Windsor.


The historic Burnside Homestead was our evening sanctuary. A savory rib-eye steak with pepper sauce at the Enfield pub, a round of snooker with fellow riders, and a surprise celebration for Kate's birthday with French champagne, orchestrated by John and Shelley, made the evening memorable. 

*Puncheur: A puncheur or puncher is a road bicycle cyclist who specialises in rolling terrain with short but steep climbs.


Day 6: Windsor to Christchurch

Our final ride to Oamaru was initially easy-going, yet 200m from our accommodation, the first climb presented itself. Admittedly, last night's celebrations lingered in my system and my body protested against the abrupt demand. 


The aim was a relaxed Z1 ride to the finish line, absorbing the memories of a week filled with epic rides and enriched connections with a few Kiwis. We regrouped before rolling into the historic town of Oamaru, all of us collectively feeling the accomplishment as we faced the 'Alps to Ocean' finish board. 

Penny: "Oamaru is an exceptionally charming little town."

After quick photos and rounds of congratulations, we strolled around town for a leisurely lunch. The drive back to Christchurch subsequently drew our adventurous chapter to a close. 


Henry's IG: @unevencranks
Penny's IG: @jeroxie

Experience the Alps to Ocean on a guided cycling holiday. 

>> Alps to Ocean Classic 6 day tour
>> Alps to Ocean End to End 7 day guided trip
>> Tastes of the Alps to Ocean 6 day foodie tour

Discover all cycling tours
>> Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail Trips

More Information

>> Watch a video on what to expect cycling the A2O
>> Read our Alps 2 Ocean Frequently Asked Questions 
>> Discover which Alps 2 Ocean itinerary is best for you.

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