Top 5: South Island Cycle Trails to E-Bike

Greymouth | West Coast | Lachlan Gardiner
Greymouth | West Coast | Lachlan Gardiner

Whether you're looking to bike solo, or as a group, New Zealand's South Island has an incredible range of dedicated cycle trails for e-bikers. From turquoise lakes to rolling farmland, mighty gorges and fascinating history, there's so much to explore. 

Read on to find out about 5 of our favourite South Island cycle trails to ride by e-bike. 

1. The Roxburgh Gorge Trail

At 21km, the Roxburgh Gorge trail makes its way from Alexandra to Lake Roxburgh Dam with an added 13km jet boat transfer to join each end of the trail on the Clutha Mata-au River. 

Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Central Otago |  <i>David Wall</i>

The trail can be cycled all year round but it really comes to life during Spring and April with the hillside covered in purple wild Thyme in Spring and the golden colours of Autumn providing a striking golden contrast against the rocky landscapes in Autumn. 

Length: 21km (1 days)
Difficulty: 90% easy, 10% intermediate
Start Point: Alexandra
End Point: Roxburgh Dam
Ideal for: Intermediate cyclists or experienced riders that enjoy striking landscapes and gold mining history.

2. The Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail

A spectacular cycle journey through the Mackenzie Country and Waitaki Valley, taking you from the snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. Along the way, you’ll encounter some of the South Island's largest glacial lakes, turquoise canals, rolling farmland and the famous Elephant Rocks.

Following a mix of dedicated cycle trail, sealed, and unsealed backroads, the 322km Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail is the longest and arguably most diverse cycle trail in New Zealand. Around every corner is a new landscape, as you explore Aoraki / Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki, Lake Ohau, Lake Benmore the Waitaki River. 

You'll enjoy warm and comfortable hospitality in the small and remote townships along the way.

The Lake Ohau inlet |  <i>Daniel Thour</i> Cyclists at the top of the Tarnbrae High Point |  <i>Ross Dunn</i> The Glacia fed water of the Tekapo Canals |  <i>Daniel Thour</i>


Length: 322km (5-7 days)
Difficulty: 47% Easy, 53% Intermediate
Start point: Aoraki / Mt Cook Village or Tekapo Village
End point: Oamaru
Ideal for: Experienced riders who are looking for longer ride and enjoy cycling around lakes, canals and through rolling farmland. 

View trips that feature this trail ---> 

3. Lake Dunstan Trail 

As New Zealand's newest cycle trail, there's no surprises why the Lake Dunstan Trail is becoming so popular. An hour from Queenstown, the trail is beautifully engineered and follows the teal coloured waters of the Kawarau and mighty Clutha / Mata-au Rivers between Clyde and Cromwell. 

Along the way, you'll encounter Cromwell's Heritage Precinct, Bannockburn's wine country and a coffee boat in the middle of the gorge. Information boards telling the story of the regions rich pioneering and Maori history are also scattered along the trail.

For a multi-day ride, combine this trail with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Clutha Gold and/or Otago Central Rail Trail for the perfect e-bike holiday.

Stunning blue waters on the Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Lisa Jones</i> Hugo Bridge on the Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Lisa Jones</i> Lake Dunstan Trail, Central Otago |  <i>Ross Mackay</i>

Length: 55km (1-2 days)
Difficulty: 38% Easy, 62% Intermediate
Start Point: Smith's Way or Cromwell
End Point: Clyde
Ideal for: Moderate level cyclists looking for striking scenery, good coffee and wine. Cyclists need to be confident riding on narrow trails, and up switch-back hills. 

View trips that feature this trail --->


4. West Coast Wilderness Trail

There’s no better way to get up close to the West Coast’s lush rainforest, pristine rivers, tranquil lakes and rugged beaches, with the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps a truly sublime backdrop. 

Easy to reach and to ride, the spectacular multi-day trail retraces old packhorse tracks, tramlines, railways, water races, historic bridges, linked by flowing singletrack. Many natural wonders are revealed along the way, while small towns and heritage sites offer a chance to delve deep into the region’s fascinating history.

Cycling through the West Coast wetlands in New Zealand |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

Length: 133km (4-5 days)
Difficulty: 70% Easy, 30% Intermediate
Start/end point: Ross or Greymouth
Ideal for: Introductory cyclists and families looking for a leisurely and inspiring multi-day cycling holiday. The section from Kumara to Kawhaka Pass involves a short climb, but there’s no shame in walking – you’ll get a better appreciation of the views. 

View trips that feature this trail --->


5. Otago Central Rail Trail

The 152km 'Rail Trail' is one of the most well known cycle trails in New Zealand and is high up on many Kiwi's bucket lists. Starting from the quaint settlement of Clyde, the trail features a number of tunnels, viaducts and bridges as it follows an old Railway line to Middlemarch. 

The trail head is a short drive from Queenstown and can be combined with the popular Lake Dunstan Trail or Roxburgh Gorge Trail. 

Cycle over the grand Poolburn Viaduct |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

There’s so much to see and do on and near the trail, including spectacular railway bridges and tunnels, abandoned gold diggings, and historic architecture from art deco municipal buildings to rustic farm yards. There’s also plenty of opportunity to taste Otago’s celebrated local flavours in country cafes, wineries and more.

Length: 150km
Difficulty: Introductory
Start Point: Clyde
End Point: Middlemarch
Ideal for: Introductory cyclists and families looking for a slow paced ride through rural New Zealand

View trips that feature this trail ---> 


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