Bikepacking the Northwest of NZ's South Island

I just came back from 10 days or so of Bikepacking around the North and West of the South Island of New Zealand.

I connected the Queen Charlotte track, the Heaphy Track and the Old Ghost Road with some extra little tracks and nice roads in between.

Thought I’d post up a quick report on the trip and some photos.

It’s a great trip and one I would Highly recommend.

I started in Wellington, took the ferry to Picton to start riding and flew out of Christchurch.

Queen Charlotte Track

The QCT starts at Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds, one of the sites visited several time by Captain Cook during his visits to NZ.
You need to take a water taxi from Picton to start the track, the water taxi can also ferry your bags to the campsite or accommodation you’re staying at.
Also to be noted is that the track crosses public and private land so you need to buy a QCT pass which is $18. Its a dual use track so there will be walkers to watch out for.

There are several Department of Conservation (DoC) campsites along the track as well as several private accomodation providers ranging from basic to very very flash. Most accom options have bars or restaurants.

I chose not to bring any camping gear and as partly due to huts being available on the other two tracks and the typically cold weather this time of year in NZ.

The track itself is 70kms long and I’d guess more than 95% rideable, the only sections that require walking are due to them being very steep climbs. Its not a technical track and the option to stay in great accom. and have your bags carried make it a good multi day MTB ride for new riders.

I chose to ride the track in two days, staying at Punga Cove (30kms along) in their basic cabins, you could easily ride the track in one day with an early start and decent fitness. But you an also make it three cruisy days by staying at Portage which is ~55km in.

The full length of the track is only open to bikes from March to November and the track ends at Anakiwa, 20kms away from Picton.

The weather was perfect and the views are awesome, good swimming in the warmer months to.

Ship Cove Jetty

Punga Cove

Punga Cove


Typical track

Linking the QCT to the Heaphy track

Best way to do this is ride along Queen Charlotte drive to Pelorus (great pies and a great river to swim in)

Then instead of riding the main road, go up and over the Maungatapu track to Nelson, its steep and you’ll probably have to walk but its way better than the main road. The descent is fast and loose and as its closed to traffic you’ll only see some bikes or a motorcycle.

From Nelson follow the Great Taste trail, which is an off road bike path to Rabbit island and take the ferry to Mapua where the Great Taste trail continues on back road to Motueka.

The Takaka hill separates the Nelson region from Golden Bay, its a decent climb up to the road to Takaka hill but from the top its a nice gravel road to Caanan downs and the start of the Rameka track which is a MTB/walking track downhill to Takaka.

The Rameka track probably had some of the best trails of the whole trip as they are worked on my MTBers in Takaka.

From Takaka its just the main road to Collingwood and up the Aorere valley to the start of the Heaphy track, but I endorse the Mussel Inn for a beer or meal which is in Onekaka, in between Takaka and Collingwood

This section took me two days of 70/80kms a day.

View from the Maungatapu Saddle

Apples on the great taste trail near Motueke

View from lookout on the Takaka hill looking back towards Motueka and Nelson

Canaan Downs

Rameka Track

Rameka Track


It can rain a bit

The Heaphy Track

The Heaphy track is a dual use walking/mtb track. 80kms long with 6 huts along it. You can ride it from May to Sept.
You need to pre-book any huts. The huts range from very basix old corrugated iron 6 bunk huts to flash modern 32 bunk huts with solar lights and gas cookers.

I rode into Brown hut which is at the Collingwood end and stay the night on the 30th of April so I could ride the track the 1st day it was open on the 1st. It is quite popular with several huts being booked out despite it being a sunday night.

Again you could ride the track in one day but I think 2 days is better to enjoy it. The best huts to stay in are Mckay or Lewis hut as they are around half way.

The Heaphy is unique to NZ tracks as it traverses a range of enviroments from Beech forest, tussock “downs”, Podocarp/broadleaf forest and coastal.

From the Northern end you climb up to 900m to the platuea of the Gouland Downs, ride across it for 20kms then have a great downhill to the west coast and ride 25kms along the coast out to the South/West coast end at Karamea.

The track was in great condition when I rode it and it was 98% rideable, but it can get very wet.

View from Brown Hut

Climbing in Morning sun

Typical track on the climb

Gouland Downs

Saxon Hut

Heaphy Beach

Nikau Palm Groves on the coast section of track

Coastal Track

Linking the Heaphy to the Old Ghost Road

Its 100kms of road from Karamea which is the southern end of the Heaphy track to Wesport which is hub from which most people do the Old Ghost Road. It would be an ok ride I guess but I was low on time so jumped in a shuttle.

From Westpost if you had time and the inclination (and it hadnt rained to much) the Denniston Shortcut which goes from Waimanagaroa to Inangahua - 15kms from the start of the Old Ghost road- would be great, its an old mining route which is now a 4wd track, but I was low on time so shuttled the 60kms up the Buller gorge to Lyell where the Old Ghost Road starts

The Old Ghost Road

This was the most spectacular and most challenging riding of the trip. For me it was ~95% rideable. Its 85kms and is open to MTBs all year, it would be rideable in a day especially in summer if your fit.

The OGR is an old gold mining route, it is reccomened you start from the southern/lyell end due to how the climbs/descents flow. Again its a dual use track so people will be hiking it and you need to book huts. There are 5 huts along the ride, 3 new ones and 2 old DoC ones. The new ones are pretty great.

From Lyell its 30km, 1300m climb to Ghost Lake Hut which is the most spectacular of the huts, you pass Lyell Saddle hut on the way up, but I’d reccomend staying at Ghost lake hut, great views and it gets most of the climbing out of the way on the 1st day.

Either side of Ghost Lake hut is ~5kms amazing alpine riding on a narrow, rocky windy track. In places my bars were scraping the rocks on the inside and pretty much over the edge of the track on the outside. Some sections are much easier and safer walked. But the views are so good its sweet to walk your bike and take it all in.

Once back down in the bush there are some great flowing downhills punctuated with a couple of small climbs, you pass Stern Valley hut and Goat Creek hut. Eventually you end up on the river flats of the Mohikinui river, where the Mohiinui forks hut is, I stayed there the second night although the next hut 3km along -Specimen point was much better (but full) - once past specimen point its 20kms of riding along the Mohikinui river out to Seddonville.

Climbing up from Lyell


Alpine track

More alpine track

Gets narrow

View from Ghostlake hut looking at the switchbacks further along

Skyline steps, 250 odd down the hill

Mohikinui River

Stream Crossing

After the Old Ghost Road

You end up in Seddonville which has a pub and a campground and not much else.

The Charming Creek Walkway -which you are allowded to ride- starts 10kms or so from Seddonville and cuts out about 20km of road riding back to westport.

It follows an old coal mining bush railway, which in spots is annoying as your just bumping over old sleepers but as it goes on it gets pretty cool with the railway cutting into the hill and some tunnels and bridges.

From westport its easy to bus or fly back to Wellington or Christchurch.

Awesome MikeD, awesome. I need a holiday in Enzed.

This is excellent

So so good. Nice one Mike!


Thanks for letting me ride vicariously through your post.

Wow. Looks amazing!!!

what was the punny/mechanical count?

I’m really envious, I have done sections of OGR when it was being worked on, but not the whole thing, it looks great- must get back.

A+ write up.


Bloody hell this is amazing