- Cycle from the Southern Alps to the Pacific on New Zealand's South Island.
- Ride on New Zealand's original great ride, the Central Otago Rail Trail.
- Explore the university town of Dunedin and the beautifully located Queenstown.
- Taste award-winning wine and Kiwi cuisine.
- Extend your stay with an optional overnight cruise on Milford Sound.
New Zealand's quiet country roads and bike trails offer abundant opportunity to see the country’s amazing landscapes and laid-back lifestyle up close.
The snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and turquoise blue glacier-fed lakes provide the perfect backdrop as we begin our cycle tour. Ride through the Mackenzie Basin as majestic Mt. Cook sits high on the horizon. We pass lush green pastures, sandy beaches, rugged hills, and volcanic landforms en route to the Pacific Ocean.
Continuing, we cycle our way through the historic port city of Oamaru and the vibrant university town of Dunedin on its scenic harbor. Pedal inland through the Central Otago region’s rolling hills, award-winning wine, and original great ride—the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Our tour ends with a heart-pumping finale summiting the Crown Range as we enter beautiful Queenstown. Along the way, our nightly accommodations let us visit with locals and gain insight into Kiwi culture.
Extend your cycle tour with an optional Milford Sound Overnight Cruise extension for an exceptional Kiwi adventure.
- Day 1 - Begin with a short but challenging ride on the Banks Peninsula.
- Day 2 - Pedal along braided rivers and pastoral landscapes.
- Day 3 - Cycle past New Zealand's highest peak, Mt. Cook.
- Day 4 - Elephant Rocks, Steampunk headquarters, and otherworldly sightings.
- Day 5 - Explore the coastal cities of Oamaru and Dunedin today.
- Day 6 - Cycle the Otago Peninsula, home to Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Albatross.
- Day 7 - Ride into the impressive Central Otago region, home of award-winning wine.
- Day 8 - Glimpse New Zealand's gold-mining past and taste today's "gold"—wine.
- Day 9 - Ride to Wanaka, a hub for winter and summer outdoor activities.
- Day 10 - Cycle New Zealand's highest paved road before cruising into Queenstown.
- Day 11 - Depart for home or extend with an optional tour to Milford Sound.
Trip Itinerary and Details
Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Day 1 - Begin with a short but challenging ride on the Banks Peninsula.
Arrive in Christchurch this morning. Please arrive in time to meet our group transfer from the airport at 9:00a.m. From the airport, we head to our bike depot for an orientation. There, we get acquainted with our guides and fellow travelers while we are fitted and become familiar with our bikes. This afternoon, we take our bikes for a test ride on the Banks Peninsula, about an hour outside of Christchurch. Banks Peninsula is an area of about 440 square miles and encompasses two large harbors and many smaller bays and coves. We begin at Lyttelton. From there we cycle along the road that follows the shoreline and passes through small settlements like Governor's Bay. Get plenty of rest the night before because although short in distance, this ride is a bit challenging for our first day. Tonight's lodging in Christchurch is located across from Hagley Park and only a 20 minute walk from the botanical gardens and the remarkable Re-Start Mall in Christchurch's business district. Additional nights can be arranged upon request. Lunch and dinner included.
Cycling: 17 miles; Hours in the saddle, 1.5; Terrain: rolling hills on paved roads.
Day 2 - Pedal along braided rivers and pastoral landscapes.
After a continental breakfast, we load up our gear and drive to Temuka. As we leave Christchurch, we drive through the Canterbury Plains. This area, New Zealand's only "flat" land, is wide open country with braided rivers teeming with trout and salmon. The Canterbury Plains is also rich in sheep and dairy farming and today's ride finds us traveling through a mostly pastoral landscape. After 2 ½ hours of driving, we hop on our bikes in Temuka. On these low traffic roads, the only thing to slow us down is a possible sheep crossing. Lunch awaits us at a comfortable and casual café on the grounds of a boutique winery nestled just off of a quiet country road. Upon arrival in Fairlie, our final destination today, we are met by our homestay guest hosts who prepare a hearty local meal and provide comfortable lodging for us tonight. All meals included.
Cycling: 29 miles; Hours in the saddle, 3.5; Terrain: Paved roads with a gradual uphill climb.
Day 3 - Cycle past New Zealand's highest peak, Mt. Cook.
We begin today's adventure by driving from Fairlie to Lake Pukaki, a large alpine lake fed by the braided Tasman River. Glacial lakes in New Zealand are world renown for their distinctive bright turquoise blue color. On a clear day, good views of Mt. Cook can be seen from the southern shores of the lake where we begin our ride. Here, we find a section of the "Alps to Ocean Trail". We ride along a hydro canal, formed as part of a hydroelectric project. Later, our route becomes a little more relaxed as we cycle gradual downhill roads that lead us to Lake Ohau. As we cycle along the southern edge of Lake Ohau, we have more opportunities to see the magnificent snow-capped mountains off in the distance. We arrive at Lake Ohau Lodge, our accommodations for this evening. The lodge is perfectly situated on the lakeshore with views of Glen Mary Glacier, Mt. Cook and the Ben Ohau Range. All meals included.
Cycling: 32 miles; Hours in the saddle, 3; Terrain: mostly flat paved roads and cycle trail.
Day 4 - Elephant Rocks, Steampunk headquarters, and otherworldly sightings.
From our lodge at the lake, we cycle a scenic and quiet paved road back to the highway. From here we load our bikes and drive a short distance in order to cycle a different section of the "Alps to Ocean Trail" (this section of the trail is a paved road). We build up our appetites for lunch as we cycle to and over the impressive Benmore hydro dam. From the Otemetata saddle we descend to yet another lake, Lake Aviemore, where we enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch. Afterwards, we head east towards the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, we come upon an otherworldly land of limestone outcroppings known as Elephant Rocks. Taking time to wander around them is the best way to appreciate these unique rocks and perhaps find the "elephants" among them. We continue on to our lodging in the port city of Oamaru, where the historic district of grand Victorian buildings ranks as one of New Zealand's most impressive. All meals included.
Cycling: 48 miles; Hours in the saddle, 4; Terrain: undulating hills on paved roads.
Day 5 - Explore the coastal cities of Oamaru and Dunedin today.
Oamaru, New Zealand's ninth largest city has traditionally played an important role in the handling of imports and exports. Limestone buildings have largely contributed to this harbor city's charm by giving it an appearance of permanence and stability. Because limestone is easily carved and molded, the 19th century architects and stonemasons reveled in the creation of the then fashionable classic forms of columns, facades, and archways. With the closure of the port and a shift of business to a different area of the city, Oamaru's Victorian Precinct, located next to the harbor, remained largely intact. Once the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust was established, buildings were preserved and restored to their former glory and today they house shops, restaurants and galleries. This morning, after a leisure breakfast in our rooms, we have time for a visit to the Farmer's and Street Markets in the Victorian Precinct.
After exploring on foot, we get on our bikes and follow the coastal road out of Oamaru. This road provides breath-taking views of white sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean. We dismount in Waianakarua where the coastal road traffic increases and drive part of the way. Our first stop is the perfectly spherical Moeraki Boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach. Believed to be at least 60 million years old, each boulder weighs several tons and can be up to six feet high. Our cycling route continues inland to Palmerston through the Trotters Gorge. We end our final ride today with a challenging climb to the top of the pass and then some short steep down hills and a flat stretch to Palmerston where we load our bikes and drive to Dunedin. When we arrive in the university town of Dunedin, we find our way to a charming boutique hotel, the Brothers. Formerly a residence for Catholic brothers, this stately home has been transformed into a comfortable hotel that has retained much of its original grandeur and charm. The Brothers will be our accommodations for the next two nights. All meals included.
Cycling: 29miles; Hours in the saddle, 2.5; Terrain: rolling hills with paved roads.
Day 6 - Cycle the Otago Peninsula, home to Yellow-Eyed Penguins and Albatross.
The Maori explorers began arriving in the areas surrounding Dunedin about 1100 AD. By the time the Scottish settlers arrived around the mid-19th century, they found the site of modern day Dunedin rich in Maori history. The rough, tough and enterprising whalers added another element of diversity to this burgeoning Otago harbor. The cultural mix of Maori, whaler and Scot gave early Dunedin a character all of its own – along with the world's steepest street to New Zealand's smallest bar. With a reputation for fine arts on top of a colorful student life, unique cuisine and quirky events, Dunedin has a creative edge. Setting it apart from other New Zealand cities are the finest examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. Dunedin's railway station, recently voted as one of the world's most beautiful train stations by Condé Nast Traveler, is said to be the most photographed building in New Zealand. Many of these striking buildings can be explored on foot. Tomorrow's activities will afford us an up-close view of the train station.
Today's ride takes us just outside the city to the Otago Peninsula. The peninsula is home to Larnach Castle and to a colony of yellow-eyed penguins, perhaps the world's rarest penguin species. Our day begins with a heart-pumping hill climb, but the rest of the day is mostly flat. Perched high atop Otago Peninsula, we find our way to Larnach Castle. In this peaceful setting, we enjoy a picnic lunch and a walk around the gardens. We continue our tour with an exhilarating downhill and on to the small village of Portobello. After reaching the end of the peninsula, we find the only mainland breeding colony of the royal albatross. We return to our hotel in time to enjoy a night on our own in Dunedin tonight. Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Cycling: 44 miles; Hours in the saddle, 3.5; Terrain: mostly flat with one challenging hill on paved roads.
Day 7 - Ride into the impressive Central Otago region, home of award-winning wine.
After breakfast, we transfer to Dunedin's magnificent train station. This is our departure point for a spectacular train trip that will take us from the hustle of Dunedin's city center through the rugged Taieri Gorge. Our journey on board the historic Taieri Gorge Railway offers dramatic scenery and vantage points that cannot be seen by car and are only accessible by train. Once we arrive in Pukerangi, we find ourselves in the Central Otago region. Known as New Zealand's gold rush country, this ever-changing landscape includes vineyards, rugged snowcapped mountains, crystal blue lakes, and steep winding gorges. Our route today begins on paved roads with some undulating hills. We ride to the town of Hyde where we embark on New Zealand's original great ride, the Otago Central Rail Trail. This section of the trail is one of the most scenic. We'll pass by tunnels and bridges that once were the secret preserve of railway workers. We witness the natural beauty and look in awe at some early feats of the first settlers of this region. Our final destination is Ranfurly, recently recognized for its Art Deco buildings that have been restored to their former glory. All meals included.
Cycling: 46 miles; Hours in the saddle, 3.5; Terrain: undulating hills on paved roads and then mostly flat with gentle uphill on hard packed trail.
Day 8 - Glimpse New Zealand's gold-mining past and taste today's "gold"—wine.
Today we'll experience a good portion of the Otago Central Rail Trail, which takes us through the remarkable Central Otago landscape. Here among mountain ranges and pastoral valleys we encounter remnants of a prosperous gold mining past. With views of the Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range, we cycle to Clyde, a quaint and peaceful town that borders New Zealand's third largest hydro dam. This was once a wild and rollicking "canvas" town bustling with gold miners, shop keepers and ever-present dancing girls. Dunstan House, significant as a social gathering point for the thousands of miners, was the first hotel built in Clyde. This unique hotel restored with an ambiance of yesteryear is our accommodation for the night. Be sure to ask the proprietor to show you the trapdoor in the dining room floor from where the early-20th-century showgirls would appear to perform their routines. The "gold" that can be found in this region today is wine and before dinner, we have an opportunity to try award-winning Pinot Noir with a private wine tasting at a local winery. All meals included.
Cycling: 55 miles; Hours in the saddle, 5-6; Terrain: mostly easy but head winds likely on hard packed trail.
Day 9 - Ride to Wanaka, a hub for winter and summer outdoor activities.
As one of the historic gold mining locations of New Zealand, the Central Otago region is full of Kiwi colonial history. It's hard to imagine how the early settlers carved out a life for themselves in this rugged but exceptionally beautiful region. Today's ride takes us from the Central Otago region to the town of Wanaka. Named for the lake that it borders, Wanaka is a hub for winter and summer outdoor activities. Wanaka is nestled below towering mountains and provides a tranquil setting for our evening. We will recharge our batteries and prepare ourselves for the ultimate challenge on our final day of riding tomorrow. All meals included.
Cycling: 46 miles; Hours in the saddle, 4.5; Terrain: some easy undulating hills with gradual uphill on paved roads.
Day 10 - Cycle New Zealand's highest paved road before cruising into Queenstown.
Today is the culmination of all our hard work as we make our way to Queenstown via the Crown Range Road, New Zealand's highest road. We begin with a gradual uphill and conserve our energy for the steep and winding final push to the Crown Range's summit at 3,530' above sea level. It's all downhill from there. We end our epic ride in Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town and the setting of many scenery backdrops for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Treat yourself to a cold one in this small but sophisticated town only 20 minutes away by car from Queenstown. In Arrowtown, we load up our bikes and find our way to our hotel in Queenstown, the world's adrenaline capital. Surrounded by majestic mountains and hugging the shores of the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown's stunning scenery is inspiring and revitalizing and the perfect place to celebrate your achievement. All meals included.
Cycling: 36 miles; Hours in the saddle, 4; Terrain: Steep uphill climb on paved roads.
Day 11 - Depart for home or extend with an optional tour to Milford Sound.
After breakfast, there will be one group transfer to the airport. However, no visit to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to Milford Sound. Extend your stay with a memorable overnight cruise. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the "eighth wonder of the world", Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages and is breathtaking in any weather. The overnight cruise provides a unique experience in that once all of the day tourists have departed, the peacefulness and beauty are yours to explore without the crowds. Breakfast included.
Explore even more with an optional Milford Sound Overnight Cruise Extension.
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule listed above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.
Our trip price includes bicycles perfectly designed for the terrain we encounter during our two-wheeled tour of New Zealand's South Island: High-quality, reliable Trek 7500 aluminum-frame hybrid bikes. Bikes are equipped with a rear and/or front rack bag, odometers, and a collapsible "Create Space" side flags. Should you wish to bring your own seat and pedals, your guides will gladly mount them on your bike at the beginning of the trip.
All accommodations; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; cycling guides; support vehicle; bikes (Trek 21 speed hybrid touring bikes, equipped with a small handlebar bag); sightseeing as noted in the itinerary.
Round-trip airfare, airport/hotel transfers, 1 dinner, travel insurance, excess baggage charges, alcoholic beverages and items of a personal nature. Please bring your own bike helmet.
Please check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
Seasons in New Zealand are the opposite from those in North America. We operate our trips late spring through summer, which run November through the end of March in New Zealand. Daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nights cool off to the 50s. The weather is variable and changes often. Rain can be expected at some point on the trip; the west coast is notably damp so adequate rain gear is essential.
This trip is rated Moderate . Although a support vehicle will be available, participants should be experienced cyclists who enjoy spending much of the day (3-7 hours) on their bikes. Some stretches of road will have traffic, but those routes are kept to a minimum. The countryside in New Zealand varies from flat plains to mountainous so a regular conditioning program beginning at least three months prior to departure is strongly recommended. Cycling, walking/running and a daily stretching regimen are all great ways to prepare for this adventure. Some of the most important qualifications for any trip without standard tourist facilities are a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude.
If you are traveling alone and specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the full single supplement noted on the trip itinerary. If you wish to share accommodations, we will assign you a roommate if one is available. If a roommate cannot be found, you will be asked to pay a reduced single fee which is one-half of the full single supplement. Please be advised that there are a limited number of single accommodations available.
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
New Zealand Cycling – South Island Gear List
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff.
- Trek 7500 hybrid bike, 21-speed
- Flat pedals (basket cages optional)
- Rear and/or front rack bag
- Safety side flags
- Water bottle cages (2)
- Valid passport
- Airline tickets
- One piece of luggage, wheels and a retractable handle are recommended
- Daypack or carry-on bag
- Luggage tags and locks
- Security wallet or money belt
- Sweater and/or light jacket and/or windbreaker
- Long pants
- Long sleeve shirt
- Sun hat
- Cycling jerseys, short and long sleeve
- Cycling tights or pants
- Cycling shorts
- Cycling raingear, jacket and pants, waterproof and breathable
- Cycling vest
- Arm and/or leg warmers
- Cycling gloves, both short and long fingered
- Headband, sweatband, beanie, etc.
- Cycling socks
- Cycling shoes (see "Things to Consider")
- Walking shoes or sandals
- Sport/cycling sunglasses
- Sunblock and lip balm
- Toiletry kit
- Personal first-aid kit
- Water bottle(s) or hydration pack
- Camera, memory, batteries, charger
- Electrical adapter plug/converter
- Ear plugs
- Reading and writing materials
- Watch with alarm or travel clock
- Laundry bag, cord and soap
- Bike rear view mirror
- Shoe and pedal system
- Heart rate monitor
- Saddle (without the post) or gel seat cover
- Favorite energy snacks / drinks
Things to Consider
- Always pack essential items such as your passport, REI Adventures trip final bulletin, money, eyewear, medications and a change of clothes in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage is delayed.
- We recommend bright-colored bicycle clothing for visibility and safety.
- Always test your clothing layers before a trip. Your outer layer should fit easily over the inside ones without binding.
- If you are not bringing a shoe and pedal system (optional), you will need a shoe designed for cycling or cross training to be used with the provided flat pedals (toe clips are optional). Consider these features: lightweight, closed toe, designed with stiffer soles to provide more efficient energy transfer as you pedal. Stiff soles protect your feet while riding and support the full length of your foot to reduce cramping and fatigue.
- If you bring your own saddle, please bring only the seat and not the seat post. Seat posts are not universal and will likely not fit the bike you'll be riding. You are welcome to bring a gel seat cover for use on the provided saddle.
- Formal attire is not required at restaurants. Comfortable, casual clothes are appropriate for sit-down meals. We suggest bringing slacks, shorts that are mid-thigh or longer, skirts, or summer dresses in fabrics that are easy to wash and wear.
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.
Conclude your New Zealand Cycling adventure with an overnight cruise in iconic Milford Sound
Milford Sound Overnight Cruise Extension
Activity: Overnight Cruise
Following the New Zealand Cycling – South Island tour, continue your adventure with a relaxing cruise that showcases the natural beauty of Milford Sound. Highlights include:
- Spacious viewing decks and comfortable dining area
- Twin-share cabins with private bathrooms
- Three course evening meal and cooked breakfast
- Kayaking and tender craft (small boat) activities included
- Specialist nature guide on board
- Wildlife viewing
Price: from $450
Scheduled Trip Dates:
Scheduled Trip Dates:
Scheduled Trip Dates:
REI member: from $450
REI member: TBA
REI member: TBA
150% of the double occupancy rate
- Total Days: 2
- Group Size: up to 60 passengers
- Activity Level:
* These dates are scheduled to coordinate with the ending dates of our New Zealand Cycling trips.
Alternative cruise dates are available for those who prefer more flexible scheduling. Space is limited. Call us for details.
For an ultimate Kiwi experience, no trip would be complete without a visit to Milford Sound. Spend the night aboard a cruise boat and wake up to the dawn of a new day in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The cruise style is relaxed, allowing plenty of time to view the fiord's spectacular waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife. You're bound to encounter seals and if you're lucky maybe dolphin and penguins.
For those continuing on to the Milford Sound overnight cruise, Milford Sound is about a 5-6 hours (one-way) drive from Queenstown. Through our travel partner, Real Journeys, you will board a comfortable coach from your hotel in Queenstown. Departure time is approximately 8:30a.m.The experienced coach drivers know all the right places to stop and take in the magnificent views of the Milford Road. Along the way, they will provide you with informative commentary about the region, its history and natural surroundings.
Upon arrival in the late afternoon, guests will check in and be notified of their embarkation time. Depart from the Milford Sound wharf in the late afternoon and cruise the full length of Milford Sound accompanied by a naturalist guide. They’ll explain the history and geology of the area and be on hand to answer your questions. The boat then anchors in a sheltered cove, where you can join the nature guide and explore in the vessel’s tender craft (small boat) and kayaks. Or, if you prefer, you can simply relax on deck and soak in the beauty of this amazing place or go for a swim if you’re brave enough.
This evening, enjoy a delicious buffet in the dining saloon, prepared freshly by our onboard chef. Then relax in the company of fellow travelers or indulge in some star-gazing before retiring to your private cabin. Dinner included.
Optional kayaking: 30 minutes to 1 hour; Driving: 5-6 hours
This morning dig into a hearty breakfast before heading back out to the Tasman Sea (weather permitting) and exploring more of the fiord. Guests will disembark the boat by 10a.m. The motorcoach will arrive back in Queenstown by 3:30p.m. A scenic return flight option (weather permitting - not advisable for customers with connecting flights or other restricted travel arrangements) can be arranged. Breakfast included.
Note on Itinerary
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control including weather and terrain conditions.
All single travelers must pay the single rate.
Meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 2, accommodations, transfers and activities described in the itinerary; professional guiding services.
Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks; items of a personal nature; gratuities; insurance of any kind; international flights & airport departure tax; extra costs due to late arrivals and other circumstances beyond our control.
This cruise is rated Relaxed . This is a cruise itinerary with sight-seeing being the primary focus. This trip is perfectly suited for active people in good health with a spirit of adventure and an interest in learning more about the natural world.
Price: from $450