Cycle trail experts share their advice It can feel like a mission to unravel all the opportunities found on each Great Ride and to plan the logistics of your travel. Eight trail providers offered their tips to Eleanor Hughes
Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail
This trail can be ridden all year around, even in winter. Steph Godsiff, from Northland Experiences (which runs a fully supported tour) says temperatures in Northland average around 16° .
Supported or self-guided, Godsiff suggests cycling over two days, starting each day in Kaikohe, the mid and highest point of the trail, giving a downhill cycle to either coast. Jump aboard the vintage diesel train running along 4km of the trail and through Kawakawa where the must-see Te Hononga Hundertwasser Memorial Park is situated. In Kaikohe, there’s Pioneer Museum and Park, Firehouse Museum and Ngawha Hot Springs, just out of town, to visit.
Mangungu Mission House, site of the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, is at the end of the Horeke Trail; with the unique rock formations of Wairere Boulders a few kilometres away.
The best way to ride the Great Taste Trail is anti-clockwise, giving more balanced cycling days and more downhill.
The Remutaka Trail, 114km from Petone to Orongorongo, is best ridden clockwise to take advantage of the gentle incline to the Remutaka Summit and to gain the most benefit from the prevailing nor’west wind.
Stuart Edwards, of Green Jersey Tours, recommends riding this diversely scenic trail, mixing urban, river, wild mountain and coastal trails, from February to June. Wind is the biggest factor, especially the southerly on the South Coast.
The trail takes most independent cyclists two or three days but Edwards suggests exploring the many Wairarapa villages, which will be easily accessible from the trail when New Zealand’s longest suspension bridge connects Featherston and Greytown in February 2022.
Around the Mountains Trail
Mike Barnett from Around the Mountains Cycling, recommends riding the Around the Mountains Trail between October and the end of April. At 700m above sea level, between Walter Peak and Mavora Lakes, it can get very cold in winter.
Barnett suggests beginning from Walter Peak and then taking the Earnslaw from Queenstown across Lake Wakatipu to ride with the prevailing wind.
The company offers guided tours and warns independent cyclists that the gravel section between Mavora Lakes and Centre Hill can be very dusty. Many cyclists choose to shuttle over this. A stop-over in Te Anau gives the opportunity to walk the Milford, Kepler or Routeburn Tracks, or to visit Doubtful or Milford Sound before cycling on.
Queen Charlotte Trail
On the picturesque Queen Charlotte Trail, Martyn Carr from Wilderness Guides says riding from Ship Cove to Anakiwa works best with water taxis and luggage transfers. He recommends riding the trail in late summer, when the weather is drier; April through June when it’s less crowded.
Carr says to take time to enjoy breathtaking views of turquoise water hemming the bush-covered inlets of the sounds and have a meal or drink at Punga Cove’s waterside café.
Before cycling, consider a cruise to Motuara Island Scenic Reserve, home of rare birds. Once finished, it will be possible to ride to Picton via the 25km pathway track.
Tasman’s Great Taste Trail
This trail forms a 177km loop around the Nelson Tasman region. Andrew Schwass from Kiwi Journeys says the best way to ride is anti-clockwise, giving more balanced cycling days and more downhill. With most hospitality operators shut over winter, riding is best done in the late settled summer, while early autumn is perfect for experiencing seasonal fruit.
There are many ways to ride the 140km-plus of Queenstown Trails.
Lisa Cooper of Around the Basin recommends starting with a shuttle and riding back to a Queenstown base or taking a shuttle back later in the afternoon after exploring wineries. In winter, there will be crisp days and snow-capped mountains, while spring brings new growth and bird-life. Summer can be busy, and autumn is Cooper’s favourite season; unreal colours, beautiful light and it’s still warm. Spots not to be missed include Edgar Suspension Bridge, Southern Discovery Suspension Bridge, Kawarau Bungy Bridge and the three river gorges (Kawarau, Shotover and Arrow rivers).
Hawke’s Bay Trails
The Hawke’s Bay Trails consist of over 180km of off-road, flat, limestone trails crisscrossing the region. Karen Greenslade from Tākaro Trails suggests riders stay in Ahuriri, a seaside village 4km north of Napier, where many trails start and finish.
Ride south along the Pacific coast to the art deco architecture of Napier, onto Waitangi Park’s protected wetlands, coastal Haumoana and Te Awanga with three enticing wineries, and finish at Cape Kidnappers. Here, a visit to the world’s largest gannet colony is a must. Another ride takes cyclists through the Ahuriri wetlands to more wineries: Mission Estate, New Zealand’s oldest winery, or renowned Church Rd Winery. Connecting with the Puketapu loop trail, it follows Tutaekuri River through apple orchards to rural Puketapu’s local pub.
There are over 20 wineries – most offering food – accessible from the trail. The Art Deco Trust is worth a visit, running a walk and talk on the city’s history and the impact of the 1931 earthquake.
Greenslade says summer is the best time to ride, but autumn and spring offer milder temperatures with fewer cyclists.
West Coast Wilderness Trail
Riding from Ross to Greymouth on the 133km West Coast Wilderness Trail is recommended by Hilary Weller of Pure Trails New Zealand, as it favours the prevailing winds. April and May are the best times, as the weather is settled and fairly mild.
For most, the ride between Hokitika and Kumara is a highlight passing Lake Kaniere, through rainforest, and with views of the Southern Alps. In the area, Hokitika Gorge, with its vivid turquoise water, is a must-do.