NZ South Island - Routes

I’m looking for a few insider tips for routes on the South Island. We will fly out at the end of October to Christchurch and will have 10-11 days to get to Queenstown. I’d much prefer to take back roads and gravel roads. Nothing too rough though as my girlfriend doesn’t quite like it especially not with a loaded bike for the first time. Anything that you want to comment on is appreciated, nice roads, nice campgrounds, nice locations on our way that we shouldnt miss. We do have an idea or better she has and I would have prefered to go without a plan :wink: But no having a plan at all is not her idea of having fun :confused: This is what she has come up with so far:

Christchurch to Oxford
Oxford to Methven
Methven to Geraldine
Geraldine to Timaru
Timaru to Lake Tekapo
Wanaka to Queenstown

The focus is on having fun and taking our time, meaning 60-100ks a day depending on the route.

there aint a whole lotta roads in the Sth Island, so oftn you might be on the main roads.

Check out the route of the Great Southern Brevet for some ideas,
The Great Southern Brevet 2014: Archive - GSB 2012 Leg Descriptions

Why are you going north to to Oxford only to come south again? I’d go west to Darfield and south to Methven and then stay inland to get to Geraldine.

Also, I’d skip Timaru and instead go from Geraldine to Tekapo via Fairlie, Timaru is a boring town and boring roads to get there.

Thanks Mike! How are the main roads like, still enjoyable to ride on? I’ve never been to NZ before. I have actually no idea why she wants to ride north to Oxford and will need to check it with her when she’s back from overseas. Your idea seems to make far more sense.

The big roads aren’t too bad, state highway 1, which is major north south road is a bit shit, but in saying that I rode some of it from CHCH to Welly a few years ago and its far better than a freeway etc, 4 lanes but big shoulder.

The road thru Burkes pass from Fairlie to Tekapo is nice, can reccoment the Mnt John Observatory in Tekapo.

Similarly Lindis pass from Omarama thru to Wanaka is nice, and although major roads there are some diversions and not heaps of big traffic.

Take some warm clothes, Central Otago/Lakes can be really cold at night even in Nov.


You might want to sign up to Vorb (NZ’s main bike forum) and ask some questions over there. A fair bit of taking the piss goes on over there but no doubt you’ll get some helpful replies to queries too.

Oh and I think WCP has done a fair bit of South Island touring so wait for him to chime in.

Me, I’m a North Islander who’s only ever driven the South Island so I don’t have much to add to discussions of suitable routes in Central Otago. Sorry.

Na, not me. Interested in the thread though cos am planning to spend Feb on a bike on the South Island. There’s a good book with all of the new routes the government is funding in it. I’ve got it but it’s at home and can’t remember the name. Probably worth finding it eh.

Jonathan Kennett’s, The New Zealand Cycle trails.