New Zealand Biking – Trails of the South Island

Trip Length 9 Days
Group Size 4–14
Activity level
Starting from
$5,299 for REI Members
$5,799 for non-members
Departures Oct 2021-Feb 2022

Ride deep into the wilderness and wonder of New Zealand nature.

A trail-riders’ dream trip of New Zealand’s South Island. This 9-day epic journey showcases two iconic trails that wind through towering mountain ranges, immense glaciers, picturesque lakes and historical towns.

Our adventure gears up with the most scenic sections of the 300 km Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. Deep blue lakes, twisting rivers, award-winning vineyards and brake-worthy geological formations invite exploration. From there, the Otago Central Rail Trail sweeps you along steep gorges, tunnels and bridges that lead to ever-changing landscapes.

Each day brings a new scenery and challenge—from the world’s steepest street at a 35% grade to charming gold rush villages settled amidst rugged peaks. And in between, stops that let you savor exceptional wines and cuisine, sharing stories and laughs with new friends and old.

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Trip Highlights

  • Bike or e-bike the South Island's diverse landscapes, from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
  • Pedal the car-free Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and Otago Central Rail Trail
  • Experience the beauty of the Taieri Gorge on a remarkable rail journey
  • Explore the towering, weathered limestone Elephant Rocks of Oamaru
  • Free day in Dunedin to discover unique wildlife, including the royal albatross


This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be experienced cyclists capable of cycling up to 56 miles (up to 6 hours) without discomfort. Riding surfaces include paved and unpaved roads that are hard-packed gravel and smooth shingle cycle trails. There are also paved and unpaved sections of road. The terrain varies from flat plains to mountainous areas. A support vehicle accompanies the rides. We provide hybrid and e-bikes (your choice) for this tour.​

  • Trail Cycling
  • Cycling

What's Included

Double occupancy accommodations; support vehicle and ground transportation; your choice of a 27-speed Trek Dual Sport 2 hybrid touring bike or a Merida eBig Tour 400 e-bike; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; sightseeing arrangements as noted in the itinerary; entrance fees and permits; experienced local guides.


Hotels/Inns, 8 nights

Your wheels for the journey

Every great tour begins with a great bike, and our top-flight fleet has been carefully curated for your cycling adventure.

Want to bring your own bike?  You can do that too.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Cycle the pastoral Canterbury Plains then bathe in steaming springs.

Our trip begins in Christchurch, New Zealand. Meet your guides and fellow travelers in the Chateau on the Park Hotel lobby at 8:30am. Our guides conduct an orientation and bike fitting and then we’re off. We drive south to Geraldine and begin our ride to Fairlie. We follow quiet, sealed roads through picturesque landscapes. After a short break for lunch, we transfer to Lake Tekapo Village, located on the shores of an idyllic lake. Our ride beside the turquoise waters of the canal system introduces us to the famous Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. Returning to Tekapo, there is free time to visit the local hot pools or the famous Church of the Good Shepherd. Lunch and dinner included.

Cycling: 22 miles, 3.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +160'/-570' on cycle trails, paved and gravel roads; driving: 3 hours

Day 2

Ride the fabled Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail along the sapphire shores of Lake Pukaki.

The next three days are spent cycling some of the best sections of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, considered one of New Zealand’s “Great Rides.” The trail showcases geological, scenic, and historical highlights from the nearby mountain ranges to the South Pacific Ocean. We begin our ride along the Tekapo Canal and wind our way along the shores of Lake Pukaki. On a clear day there are views to Mount Cook across its sapphire waters. We have lunch in Twizel, a small town located in the heart of the Mackenzie Basin. From here the cycle way follows the Ohau Canal to the southern shores of Lake Ohau with views of Glen Mary Glacier and the Ben Ohau Range. All meals included.

Cycling: 47 miles, 4.5-5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1,177'/-1,597' on a mix of smooth shingle, gravel and sealed road/cycle trails

Day 3

Ascend to Kurow, sampling elite wines and cuisine at a 19th century lodge.

We continue our ride on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, cycling up and over the Tarnbrae Saddle to Omarama, a famous gliding hotspot. After lunch we continue along the shores of Lake Benmore to Sailors Cutting, where we load up the bikes and transfer to the village of Otematata. We continue our ride over the Benmore Dam, then descend to Lake Aviemore and ride along the northern shore. A transfer brings us to the tiny village of Kurow. Options to explore the village by bike include a ride to the beautifully restored St. Albans Chapel and Vicarage (a Heritage New Zealand site), or to the local Pasquale vineyards to taste award-winning wines. Tonight we stay at the Waitaki Braids Lodge (est. 1888) and dine in the lodge’s restaurant to enjoy a meal by an award-winning chef. All meals included.

Cycling: Up to 51 mile, 5.5-6 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1,975'/-1,984' on a mix of gravel and paved roads, hard-packed shingle and cycle trails

Day 4

Ride past the towering Elephant Rocks into Oamaru.

The cycle trail takes us along the banks of the Waitaki River and through Kurow’s vineyards. We pass by a Maori rock art site before reaching Duntroon and begin cycling on a mix of trails and quiet rural roads. We pause to walk amongst the unusual rock formations known as Elephant Rocks, then follow a short section of an old branch railway line through the Rakis railway tunnel. We pass the Oamaru Stone quarry, where stone has been extracted since the 19th Century; its influence on local architecture is clearly seen as we ride our final section into the harbourside town of Oamaru. There is time to explore the old Victorian Precinct with its many galleries, shops and cafes, and perhaps visit the fascinating Steampunk Museum. From Oamaru we transfer by van to Dunedin, our home for the next two nights. All meals included.

Cycling: Up to 51 miles, 5.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1,217'/-1,820' on a mix of gravel and paved roads, hard-packed shingle and cycle trails

Day 5

Explore the quirky town of Dunedin and its colony of royal albatross.

Today is free to explore Dunedin at your leisure. The cultural mix of Maori and Scottish settlers gave the city a unique, quirky character. Add in the world’s steepest street with a maximum 35% grade, and New Zealand’s smallest bar at 1.8 meters wide, and you get the picture! The city also has the finest examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the Southern Hemisphere, and the rail depot is considered one of the world’s most beautiful train stations. The stunning Otago Peninsula also hosts the only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross and nesting grounds for the rare Yellow-eyed Penguins. Meals not included.

Day 6

Ride aboard the Taieri Gorge Railway and cycle the scenic Otago Central Rail Trail.

From Dunedin’s splendid rail station we take a journey aboard the historic Taieri Gorge Railway. Traveling through the narrow and deep gorge cut out by the Taieri River, we pass through ten tunnels and cross numerous bridges and viaducts. Our train ride concludes at Pukerangi, where we begin our bike ride on New Zealand’s original and most famous "Great Ride," the Otago Central Rail Trail. This rail trail offers a 150-kilometer scenic and historic journey into the Central Otago heartland. We witness the natural beauty and look in awe at some early feats of the first settlers of this region. Our destination is Clyde, a quaint, historic town perfectly situated in an up and coming wine region. All meals included.

Cycling: 37 miles, 3.5 hours; Elevation gain/loss: +728' on mostly flat, hard-packed gravel cycle trails, with one tunnel.

Day 7

Glimpse New Zealand's gold mining past set amid vineyards of award-winning Pinot Noir.

Just when you think the riding can’t get any better, it does. Today, we bike the stunning Teviot Valley, which happens to boast two of the nation’s Great Rides: Clutha Gold and Roxburgh Gorge trails. First, we pedal along Clutha Gold Cycle Trail as it hugs the Clutha Mata-au River, taking us past mining relics and through fruit orchards. At Lake Roxburgh Village, we connect with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and possibly the most visually stunning ride in New Zealand. Flanked by steep hillsides of golden tussocks that give way to the willow-lined Clutha River and small lakes. A short but thrilling jet boat ride reconnects the trail and we continue riding the gorge until Alexandra, where we rejoin the Otago Rail trail back to Clyde. In the late afternoon, we visit a local winery to learn about the region’s exceptional grapes and sample award-winning Pinot Noir. All meals included.

Cycling: Up to 38 miles (6–7 hours, hard-packed gravel trails), Elevation gain/loss: +2,834’ / -2,552’

Day 8

Ride through postcard-view valleys to Arrow River and on to Queenstown.

We drive from Clyde to the Gibbston Valley near Queenstown. Reaching a local winery, we gear up for our final ride. Our route initially winds through Gibbston Valley on part of the famous Queenstown Trails, where we have views of the scenic Kawarau River. While crossing a large suspension bridge, we may see bungee jumpers launching themselves toward the river below. Our ride brings us to Arrowtown, a charming gold rush village settled below the high peaks that surround the Arrow River. After lunch, postcard views are around every bend as we climb and descend to the aquamarine riverbed. The trail gradually turns onto quiet streets, signaling our arrival into Queenstown. We transfer by van to our lodgings. Tonight we celebrate our journey with a farewell dinner. All meals included.

Cycling: 22 miles, 3 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +850'/-1,150' on hard-packed gravel cycle trails, with several suspension bridges; driving: 1.5 hours

Day 9

Depart Queenstown or continue your stay in the South Island.

The trip concludes with a group transfer at 8:30am to the Queenstown Airport. Consider extending your stay to explore Milford Sound, take a jet boat ride on Shotover River, or even experience bungee jumping. Breakfast included.

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.

Collection of selected R E I Co-op cycling merchandise and snacks laid out to pack for a bike tour

What to pack

You might also consider

Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

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 REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.