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The Ultimate Cycling Guide to New Zealand

Looking for adventure? Bike across the gorgeous terrain of New Zealand with help from Skyscanner Australia’s cycling guide.

New Zealand draws the adventurous to its shores like bees to honey, and if you are feeling like you need an adventure of your own, then planning a cycling trip around New Zealand’s extraordinary islands might just be the ticket.

A cycling tour is eco-friendly, exhilarating, meditative, and allows you to explore the more hidden attractions of New Zealand. If you’ve never attempted a cycling tour before, never fear, we cover all the basics.

What is the main cycling route in New Zealand?

The main cycling route—the New Zealand Cycle Trail—is actually 22 different trails which highlight varying aspects of the country’s incredible landscape. From mountainous trails, to lakeside ones, to off-road experiences, and ones that amble gently through vineyards, there is a trail for every fitness level and every interest.

Are the cycle paths signposted clearly?

Yes, they are. A map will help you keep on track, or you can use the Great Rides App, which can help you plan your ride, keep tabs while you’re on the road, and choose your next route.

How long are the cycle routes in New Zealand?

It depends, there are single day and multi-day cycle tours, and you can choose to take your route slowly and stop at multiple locations or ride the route at a high tempo.

Are there guided cycle tours available in New Zealand?

There are lots of companies that run guided tours that you can choose from if you’d prefer to have some expert direction whilst you ride. You will need to choose a trail first in order to source the right tour company.

What kind of bike is best for a cycling tour of New Zealand?

For most trails in New Zealand you’ll want to go for a mountain bike, though some of the easier trails are accessible on a normal upright bike. If you go for expert trails, you will need a full-suspension mountain bike.

Are there toilets on the cycling trails of New Zealand?

Yes. You can find where the toilets are on the cycling maps. Make sure you bring toilet paper and hand sanitiser with you if you are cycling in the wilder and less populated parts of the country.

Are there accommodation options on the cycling trails of New Zealand?

Yes. You can find all sorts of accommodation options that will suit all budgets – such as campsites, bed and breakfasts, and hotels.

What are the best cycling routes in New Zealand?

You can find a full list of cycling routes here, but we’ve listed our favourites by level (easy/intermediate/advanced), one for each island, so you can start compiling an itinerary.

Easy cycling routes in New Zealand

North Island: Te Ara Ahi Cycle Trail.
Length: 48km
Time: 1-2 days
Best for: Maori heritage and New Zealand’s geothermal terrain.

Starting in Rotorua, you can explore the hot springs, geothermal formations and the cultural significance of Whakarewarewa and Te Puia. Then cycle the impressive Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

South Island: Queenstown Trails
Length: 15km/10km
Time: 1 day
Best for: lakeside touring, mountain views and wineries.

Starting in Queenstown, bikers can explore the lovely shore of the Lake Wakatipu, and see more of the Adventure Capital of New Zealand before arriving in the pretty neighbouring town of Frankton. Or start at the Kawarau Bridge, enjoy the mountainous backdrop of the Remarkables and tour the wineries of Otago – just don’t drink and drive!

Intermediate cycling routes in New Zealand

North Island: Timber Trail
Length: 87km
Time: 2 days
Best for: forests

This trail explores the Pureora Forest Park, running from Pureora to Ongarue, and riders will be treated to some stunning ancient forested enclaves and some thrilling suspension bridges.

South Island: Tasman Great Taste Trail
Length: 38-175km
Time: 1-4 days
Best for: beaches, breweries and vineyards

This trail hugs Tasman Bay from Nelson to Kaiteriteri – the entrance to the glorious Abel Tasman National Park. You can do the whole trail, or drive to the smaller towns along the way and bite off smaller chunks.

Advanced cycling routes in New Zealand

North Island: Pakihi Track/Motu Trails
Length: 44km
Time: 1 day
Best for: sea views and backcountry

The Motu Trails are three routes in total that vary in difficulty and scenery, from mountains and valleys to serene coastlines. The most advanced, the Pakihi Track, winds its way through native New Zealand bushland and forest, and offers up spectacular views and the chance to spy some indigenous wildlife.

South Island: Dun Mountain Trail
Length: 43km
Time: 1 day
Best for: mountain and downhill biking

This more advanced trail takes fuller advantage of the suspension on your mountain bike by taking you up the old Dun Mountain Railway pass, and then pays off all that hard work with an exciting 20km downhill track that would please any thrill seeker. 

For more trails and information you can visit the New Zealand Tourism site or the AA guide to the best cycling routes for 2020.

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For cheap flights, finding affordable hotels, or if you need to rent a car to get to these spectacular bike trails, go to our website or download our handy mobile app.