My South Island NZ Bike Tour Advice Thread

On the advice of WCP, I’m starting a thread, seeking out advice and tips of all manner.

I’ve booked flights, flying into Wellington boxing day night, and flying home Monday 9th Jan from Queenstown. So I have 2 weeks to make my way to Queenstown.

I’m 90% sure I’ll be taking the straggler with front panniers and maybe some extra bike-packing add-ons (As I have everything ready to go already), but I also have the option potentially of a hardtail/bikepacking bags. Still deciding.

I am keen to check out Wellington, as I’ve heard good things about the city, but apart from that, I’ll be all South Island, and thinking West Coast.

I’d like to spare a day or 2 either side of riding to spend in Wellington and Queenstown, so I’m anticipating 10 riding days.

I’ve spoken with a few lovely people already, but now flights are booked, it’s time to get my plan on.

Many thanks and cups of camp coffee in advance :slight_smile:

For me Lake Rotoroa is a must do, it’s bloody amazing and has a pretty good little camp site.

Woop, sweet Amy, It’ll be a great trip.

I’d follow the Tour Aotearoa Route but skip Big River/Waiuta track.

Your straggler with the biggest tyres you can fit would be totally fine.

The other option is to ride the rainbow rd (a 4wd drive rd) or the Molesworth rd (2wd gravel) to Hanmer springs, but the ride to CHCH from there sucks (I’v done it many times). Then you’ve got another 200kms of average roads from CHCH to get into the Mckenzie country for the good stuff to Q-town.

Unfortunately in NZ there is often only once choice of road -the highway, the Westcoast is a bit like this but not as hectic as the East coast.

Wellington is choice, consider renting a MTB and riding Makara peak MTB park (there is shop 1km away from the trail head)

Otherwise ride up Mnt Victoria, drink good coffee, wander up Cuba St, ride up Holloway rd in Aro valley, ride up to the Brooklyn wind turbine, have a beer at Garage Project also in Aro Valley.

ahhhh Thanks MikeD! I knew you’d be a wealth of info.

Rainbow road is pretty great though, and it’s only 90km of highway (with an OK shoulder and plenty of river stops along the way) to connect back to TA route from Hanmer Springs.

I guess with only 10 riding days, the TA route would be quicker and the same value for money. Agree about Lake Rotoroa :slight_smile:

It’ll be worth getting to Queenstown early and looking around there.
Catch the TSS Earnslaw over the lake, then ride the 50km to Mavora Lakes, where you can camp, then ride back.
Apparently the ride to Glenorchy is nice too.

Glenorchy isn’t tops and mix of road/trail all the way.

I was going to suggest this. It was a highlight for me.

A different overall option might be to ride to Blenheim from Picton, and then up the Molesworth and back down the Rainbow to St Arnaud (we did this in the opposite direction). Then you can rejoin the Tour Aotearoa route.

Another thing we did to save time was catch a bus. We didn’t really want to do this, but it meant skipping some highway riding to ride more dirt. I’d do this if it meant the difference between riding to Mavora Lakes or not. Just a thought.

Dunno if I’d recommend riding hanmer springs to springs junction at boxing day/Nye time, that’s probably the most hectic time on that road with heaps of people down south heading up to Nelson etc, but it can be OK if you get it done early before Christchurch traffic reaches there.

Is spectacular though

Have you got accom sorted for Q’town? If not, get on it as it’s absolutely chockers around then.

And sunscreen, lots of sunscreen.

Did CHCH to Queenstown early this year via the ‘lakes’. Most of the riding I did was pretty average due to highway and some Gail force winds around one of the passes however I had two highlights. Parts of the Alps to Ocean Trail near Pukaki and the the day from Wanaka to Queenstown. Actually just the part after stopping at the Cardrona hotel (must) then the decent down the south side of the Crown Ranges (then there’s a bit of shit, followed by a nice gravel trail into Queenstown itself).

When in Queenstown ride to the top of skyline and play frisbee golf.

Also there’s a biggish bike shop about a kay from the airport. Picked a bike box up from them and rode to it the airport and packed my bike down there.


Even better is to spend a morning with one of the shuttle services and ride Rude Rock up at Cardrona. Its amazing.

Not yet. I might try and contact some peeps through work who work in bike shops and see if they’d be keen for some kinda couchsurfing/warmshowers kinda thing. I only really need somewhere to roll out my sleeping bag.

And good tip with the sunscreen!

I’ve been doing some further planning for my trip and have nutted out some details.

Would be keen to hear any suggestions or ideas regarding the route chosen (loosely following TA from Wellington to Queenstown), and recommendations for places to stay. I’m on a strict budgie, so campsites/caravan parks and hostels are what I’m thinking. Looking to book accom for Wellington and Queenstown very soon, as they are the easy ones to lock in.

Also is there any recommendation on going InterIslander or BlueBridge Ferry? Im looking to get an overnight ferry to save a night accom and start riding early from Picton that day.

Here is my proposed itinerary thus far

Looks good!
The only thing is that the sandflies are bad at Lake Rotoroa so be prepared with a face net and long clothing.
From what I gather, the two ferry companies are pretty much identical in the service so just choose a time that suits you.
Also, Pelorus campsite may be pretty busy and loud at that time of year so if you want peace and quiet it may be worth heading up Maungatapu Road and stealth camping somewhere along the river .

Thanks Adz, hmmmm maybe I’ll have to reconsider Lake Rotoroa? My idea was to spend NYE by the lake soaking up the vibes. I guess I’ll only be there for one night.

I’m pretty sure I’ll just stop in Pelorus Bridge as I anticipate I’ll be there mid-morning, so probably push on further into the afternoon. Just wasn’t sure where else to stop between there and Nelson.

If your going on the road (not the Maungatapu track -which is nice but verrryy steep) Cable bay before Nelson is nice orDelaware bay.

I’m gonna go the track! I’ll probably be walking most of it, but eh, all part of the adventure!

Sik. It’s great.