moderate to challenging
  • 12 days gravel riding
  • 11 nights hotel/motel/lodge/farm
  • 10 Dinners
  • 11 Lunches
  • 11 Breakfasts

12 Days$NZD

Trip Code: SOG6985

Trip highlights

  • Challenge yourself with 12 days of breathtaking gravel, trail and quiet sealed road riding
  • Enjoy incredible views of the Tasman Sea from the rugged West Coast
  • Cycle through the Volcanic Plateau
  • Experience Whanganui National Park by bike, jet boat and canoe, an adventure playground
  • Ride the Timber Trail, one of New Zealand's Great Rides and an amazing route through native bush
  • Immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Manawatu region and the isolation of the Wairarapa farming country
  • Check out parts of the East Coast few Kiwis have ever visited
  • Enjoy award winning Pinot Noir in one of New Zealand's top wine regions
  • Get to meet local Kiwis living remote lives and enjoy great local cuisine and hospitality

Explore remote coastlines, untouched hinterland and stunning back country trails on this remarkable gravel tour from Auckland to Wellington. We'll travel north to south and west to east experiencing the 'spine' of mountain ranges running through the middle, with gentle rolling farmland on both sides. The central North Island is dominated by the Volcanic Plateau, an active volcanic and thermal area.

Our journey begins with some awesome riding down the West Coast with views of the wild Tasman Sea. We then travel through beautiful farm country to the small town of Piopio and then across to The Timber Trail, one of New Zealand's Great Rides, following the path of old logging roads and tramlines.

From there we head into the Whanganui National Park and ride some remote trails through high country stations as well as jet boat and kayak on the Whanganui River. Crossing over to the Manawatu region, this is heartland New Zealand, offering an authentic Kiwi experience that's not to be missed. Here we ride in the shadow of the Ruahine Ranges before heading over them to the Wairarapa, a rural area with an off-the-beaten-track charm.

Our next three days take us through secluded farm country to the remote East Coast and then to the delightful country town of Martinborough, home of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Our final ride is round the wild South Coast and into Wellington Harbour where we'll take a ferry across to the city which marks the end of this amazing adventure.

We will meet our guides at 8:30am in the reception of the Parnell Hotel in Auckland. Please have your own bikes built up and be wearing your cycling clothing. After a tour briefing there will be the opportunity for a bike fit of hire bikes after which the bikes will be loaded and we'll head off on our trip. We start with a 1 hour drive out of Auckland and set off riding just beyond the small rural settlement of Onewhero in the Waikato region. On quiet sealed and gravel roads we'll enjoy delightful rural views through rolling farmland before descending to the Nikau cafe, an unexpected oasis given our remote location. After refuelling we're straight into a decent climb but the views out to sea are just reward. Ongoing undulations and stunning views accompany us all the way to the fabulous little harbourside town of Raglan where we'll spend our first night. Raglan is both a surfing mecca and a dramatically scenic area of black sand coastline and boasts a laid back vibe reflected throughout the small town.

Meals:  D

After breakfast, we ride from our accommodation and climb up from the township out to the coast. We follow the coast round the western flank of Mount Karioi (also known as The Sleeping Lady), a 2.4 million year-old extinct volcano. The trail travels along gravel roads as it meanders through private farmland with spectacular views of the Tasman Sea below. We'll climb 950m above sea level and the views of the west coast are amazing with raw swell energy crashing into large amphitheatres far below. Watch out for surfers driving this road in search of waves. The reward for all the climbing is a series of enjoyable downhill sections. We round the southern flank of Karioi, heading inland and then skirt Aotea Harbour, a natural inlet in the Tasman Sea coast. The last section continues the theme of undulating, remote gravel riding with great views through to the last 5 kms on the quiet highway which will take us into Kawhia, a smaller version of Raglan. It's a real gem of a place with small-town New Zealand charm. If you still have the legs we can take the 3km trip out to Ocean Beach where there are hot springs rising from the sand at low tide and we can dig our own hot pools!

Meals:  B,L,D

Quiet sealed roads and fabulous scenery combine to make Kawhia one of the best cycling regions in the country. It is hilly though! We start the day by heading back out along the Highway skirting the Kawhia Harbour. After about 15km we turn off the highway and for the next 25km the riding is relatively easy with only minor rises and falls, almost no traffic and some interesting rock formations visible from the roadside. The road then skirts the coast again before continuing on to Kinohaku and tackling the day's most significant climb - upto Te Anga. After a cracking descent we have 2 brief diversions in the next 7kms. First up, the Marakopa Falls, often described as the most beautiful in the country followed by the Mangapohue Natural Bridge which consists of two 17m limestone rock arches, a remnant of an ancient cave system. A steady climb follows upto a ridge line and the only gravel section of the ride! Ridge views accompany us for the next 10kms on gravel and then we're back on seal for the final 15km, including a final cracking descent off the ridge into the village of Piopio, best known for its role as a filming location in The Hobbit trilogy.

Meals:  B,L,D

The Piopio district has several breathtakingly beautiful cycling routes on quiet country roads through quintessential Kiwi heartland. World shearing record holders, Champion Axemen, and perhaps the greatest All Black of them all, Colin Meads, all rubbed shoulders in the rugged King Country hills around here. Today we'll tackle the first half of the Timber Trail, one of New Zealand's Great Rides and there's an optional 67km back country ride over to the start of the Trail. The 85km Timber Trail cycle trail was opened in 2013 and links new purpose built cycle trail, including a series of thrilling suspension bridges, with historic bush railway cuttings through the Pureora Forest Park. Here in the 1970’s giant 800-year-old Rimu and Kahikatea were saved from loggers by environmentalists chaining themselves to trees in front of the chainsaws - bringing world attention to the area. The trail now flows away from the scene of these confrontations and through towering virgin forest - gradually climbing high to the sub-alpine flanks of conical Mount Pureora. Down the hill and back in the remarkable bush, gravity is on our side - it’s a fun trail to let the bike roll and the scenery blur as we make our way towards Piropiro, and our roof for the night. Piropiro is half way through the cycle trail and home to the purpose build Timber Trail Eco Lodge.

Meals:  B,L,D

Heading out this morning to ride the remainder of the Timber Trail, much of it follows a historic bush railway, built to access the rich native timbers on the high slopes of Mt Pureora. Fortunes followed the steel, steam and timber path of the railway, and much of the 1930s North Island's houses were built from rimu felled here. Relics remain of rusty equipment and working timber villages, and it’s easy to hear the voices of history from the morning bush mist as we roll by. Around 10km from the end is the Ongarue Spiral, an engineering marvel which is now the only bikeable railway spiral in the world! The trail continues to Ongarue, mostly downhill except for a couple of short pinches along the final section through felled forestry blocks and farmland. At the end of the trail you have the choice to rest the legs or keep riding on some stunning gravel hill country roads. We'll reach the township of Taumaranui and then head South through the volcanic plateau’s back-blocks. This stretch crosses the Whanganui River and passes through picturesque farmland and scenic reserves to the small town of Owhango. From there it's a short drive to our overnight stop, National Park, a village close to the base of the active volcano, Mount Ruapehu.

Meals:  B,L

The Whanganui National Park is a special place which was created to protect the upper reaches of the Whanganui River. Once an important transport route for both Maori and early European settlers, the river flows from Tongariro National Park to the Tasman sea through wild lowland forests. We start from Owhango and head inland on a scenic, largely downhill back country gravel road with little traffic. This connects with Oio Road, another mostly quiet gravel road, with an overall ascent of 100m. It's undulating with a few challenging short sharp climbs and some fabulous downhills. The trail wends its way through quiet farmland, hugging papa cliffs and skirting the edges of the Retaruke river. At the road end is the small settlement of Whatahoro on the edge of the Whanganui River. Here we travel by jetboat to the Bridge to Nowhere, an iconic piece of Kiwi history built in the 1930's to facilitate vehicular access to the Wanganui River linking the settlers of the valley with the riverboat service. Today it just serves as a reminder of the ill-fated settlement of the Mangapurua Valley. The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge is close by on the edge of the river and our accommodation for the night.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning our adventures continue on the Whanganui River with a thrilling canoe journey through a landscape of remote hills and bush clad valleys. We'll pass through the scenic gorge of the Manganui o te Ao River and the Ngaporo and Autapu rapids should provide plenty of excitement. More exotic trees and farmland, an eel weir and the Paparoa rapid follow before reaching the boat ramp below Pipiriki village. After a picnic lunch, we'll get back in the saddle and head south along the Whanganui River Road, a fully sealed road but gently undulating with a couple of particularly gnarly ascents near the start and finish. The effort, however, is well worth it, not least of all for the elevated views along the river, but also for the many Maori and European heritage sites along the way. Between them, they tell quite the story of New Zealand’s early settlement, beginning with early Maori for whom the river was a primary highway. Major landmarks include Hiruharama (Jerusalem), a catholic church and convent built at the end of the nineteenth century and the restored Kawana Flour Mill, built in 1854. At the end of the ride we'll leave the Whanganui region and head over to the Manawatu, heartland New Zealand, which offers an authentic Kiwi experience that's not to be missed.

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we head off the beaten track (again!) on a scenic and often surprising journey through rural Manawatu, full of natural wonders, local history and country hospitality. You will be treated to some of the very best scenery New Zealand has to offer, including soaring white mudstone cliffs, deep gorges, ancient native bush, wetlands and lush farmland along the Pohangina Valley terraces, all with the dramatic backdrop of the Ruahine Ranges. We wind our way down into the beautiful Pohangina Valley, kept company by the River of the same name (plenty of swimming spots!) and the stunning scenery continues all the way to the quaint little countryside town of Ashhurst. After refreshments at the Herb Farm cafe we'll hop in the van to transfer across to the town of Pahiatua in the Wairarapa region.

Meals:  B,L,D

Castlepoint, a small beachside town on the rugged east coast, is the jewel in Wairarapa's crown and is guarded by a century-old lighthouse. Castlepoint had a very important role in the transport system of the day. Wool was the big export that was taken out to the ships by bullock teams. The lighthouse was built in 1913 to stand tall on the treacherous reef and help guide the ships in the night. It's quite an adventurous ride to get there! From Pahiatua we'll follow a mix of gravel and sealed roads through rolling Wairarapa farmland with minimal traffic except the odd tractor to disturb us. Once there it's worth the short trek to a view point with spectacular vistas over the peninsula and windswept coast. We'll settle into our beachside accommodation and then enjoy hearty country pub hospitality and more history on the walls of the Whakataki pub.

Meals:  B,L,D

If you thought yesterday was remote then see how you feel at the end of today! From Castlepoint we're heading for Glenburn Station, recognised as one of New Zealand’s truly iconic sheep and beef stations. It is a 14,000 acre property with 9km of Pacific coastline and we'll be staying on the property in the Cookhouse and Shepherds' Rest. The journey to get there is heaven for the gravel cyclist. Stunning gravel roads which often see no traffic all day. We'll enjoy some seal along the way as well as a flat white from the local store at Riversdale beach - not exactly the Gold Coast but great surf and a nine hole golf course with views of the Pacific Ocean from every tee! Dinner tonight courtesy of your guides so it might not be gourmet but it will be tasty and plentiful!

Meals:  B,L,D

Don't be fooled by the relatively short riding distance! The first 16km are on farm tracks along the coast which are a bit rough in places and may include some stream and river crossings, depending on the recent rainfall so be prepared for wet feet! This section is all on private land so it's a privilege to ride through this incredibly scenic slice of paradise which few others have visited. We transition back onto gravel for a windy, narrow section alongside the Paharoa River before tackling a 250m climb. Take care, especially on the descent as the road appears to be falling down the hill, along with massive trees hanging at almost 45 degrees and piles of stones and rubble alongside it. Once safely down it's a relatively easy roll on sealed roads through to the Pinot Capital of New Zealand (some say the World!), Martinborough. This beautiful little town has lots of hidden treasures and is easy to explore from our base, the historic Martinborough Hotel.

Meals:  B,L,D

The last ride of our trip starts with an on-road section through quiet farm country, heading across to the bottom of Lake Wairarapa and onto Lake Onoke to reach the shores of Palliser Bay. Lush pasture stretches out to the water’s edge. Shorebirds peck at paddocks. Sheep snuggle close in their flocks. Wind-bitten trees, including lone ti kouka (Cabbage Tree), add striking silhouettes to the scene. The next leg starts in earnest at Ocean Beach, a rugged stretch of shingle on the edge of the Cook Strait. This section is incredibly scenic but it’s also challenging, being fully exposed to southerlies whipping off the ocean, and northerlies barrelling over hilltops and funnelling down gullies. The trail surface is often rocky and sandy. If the weather is against us we'll switch to an alternative route. On a good day it's magnificent. Mountains plunge dramatically into the ocean, there are long-range views of South Island's Kaikoura Ranges and the coastline is riven with geological oddities, created by immense geological forces that raise the beaches out of the water with every big quake. The southernmost point of the trail is Turakirae Head, home to hundreds of kekeno (NZ fur seals). From there we're back on sealed road for the final 20km stretch to Day's Bay arriving in time for the ferry to take us across the harbour to the Wellington city, the final destination of our New Zealand gravel adventure.

Meals:  B,L


  • 11 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 10 dinners
  • 11 nights hotel/motel accommodation - mix of single vs twin share, ensuite vs shared facilities
  • 2 professional guides/drivers - first aid trained and with good mechanic skills
  • Private vehicle transport
  • 2 Jet Boat rides on the Whanganui River
  • 3 hr canoe on the Whanganui River
  • Ferry on Wellington Harbour from Days Bay to CBD
  • Water and snacks while cycling
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation
  • Trail maintenance fees paid for the Timber Trail
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure airport 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)
  • Other Optional activities
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)

About Your Leader

Our guides are one of our biggest assets and we pride ourselves on their level of quality and high standards. We provide you with two of our expert guides to maximise your enjoyment and overall experience. You’ll know you’re in safe hands as all of our guides are certified in first aid and CPR and many of them are trained bike mechanics. They come from all walks of life but our guides have a common desire to give you the best possible experience, fun and lots of fond memories to take home with you.


Trail Surface


moderate to challenging  

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. This tour is graded moderate to challenging. You will need to be a competent rider with stamina and a good level of fitness, you should be able to cycle comfortably for 6-8 hours or around 80-100km/50-60miles per day, day after day. There are some long undulating and hilly days on a mix of smooth gravel, dirt roads with some rougher corrugated and stony sections. There are some river crossings, so you can expect to get wet feet. You should be confident riding on roads with traffic, although the routes we cycle are quiet, you need to expect to see some vehicles. 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.

Departure dates

Want to organise a private group?

Fundraising events, sporting groups, family treats; learn how you can organise a Private Group from just 6 travellers.

Priceper person from


Options & Supplements*
  • Base PriceNZD$6495
*Prices listed are per person

Essential information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed North Island Gravel Explorer Auckland to Wellington trip notes which contains all the essential information you need to know before booking. Once you’ve booked, we will supply you with a Pre-Departure document which contains a detailed gear list and other important information to help you prepare for your adventure ahead.

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