New Zealand Biking – Trails of the South Island

Trip Length 9 Days
Group Size 4-14
Difficulty
3

Starting from

$4,999

for REI Members

$5,499 for non-members

Departures

Nov 2019-Feb 2021

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.

Open trip gallery
See all trip photos See all trip photos

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

Activities

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 or smooth shingle. There are some dirt and/or gravel cycling-trail sections. Terrain varies from flat plains to mountainous areas. A support vehicle accompanies the rides. We provide hybrid and electric bikes (your choice) for this tour.

  • Road 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 an Avanti-E-bike; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; sightseeing arrangements as noted in the itinerary; entrance fees and permits; experienced local guides.

Accommodations

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; riding elev. +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; riding elev. +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; riding elev. +1,975/-1,984’ on a mix of paved, gravel, shingle and dirt roads 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; riding elev. +1,217/-1,820’ on a mix of paved, gravel, shingle and dirt roads 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. Breakfast 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 Ranfurly, a sleepy town known for its restored Art Deco buildings. All meals included.

Cycling: 37 miles, 3.5 hours; riding elev. +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.

Our cycling route continues along the Otago Central Rail Trail. The ever-changing landscape includes rugged mountains and steep, winding gorges. We are treated to views of the Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range as we ride to Clyde. This quaint, historic town is perfectly situated in an up-and-coming wine region. Clyde was once a wild and rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners. Dunstan House was significant as a social gathering point for the thousands of miners. This historic hotel, built in 1900, has been fully restored and will be our lodgings for the night. We visit a local winery to learn about the region’s exceptional grapes, and sample an award-winning Pinot Noir. All meals included.

Cycling: up to 56 miles, 5.5 hours; riding elev. +640’/-1,469’ on hard packed gravel cycle trails, with two tunnels.

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 bungy jumpers launching themselves towards 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, signalling 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; riding elev. +850’/-1,150’ on hard-packed gravel cycle paths and roads, 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 bungy jumping. Breakfast included.

New Zealand Biking – Trails of the South Island Departures

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.

Bicycles

We provide high quality Trek aluminum-frame 27-speed hybrid bicycles and Avanti Discovery-E Low 9-speed electric bikes on this trip. These bikes are perfectly suited for the terrain we'll encounter along our route (paved and unpaved roads, packed gravel, shingle, and dirt cycle trails) and will fit riders from 4' 8" up to 6' 4". Both bikes have flat pedals. You are welcome to bring your own pedal and shoe system and/or saddle (but not the post) for the hybrid bike. Our guides will install your pedals and/or saddle prior to your initial warm-up ride.

What to pack

Packed by REI

  • 27 Speed Hybrid Bike
  • Flat Pedals
  • Rear and/or Front Rack Bag
  • Route Map and Odometer
  • Water Bottle Cages

Packed by you (Required)

Recommended

You might also consider

Travel Documents

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

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (1-800-426-4840) 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.

Meet your guides

Wanda V.

Wanda was born in Holland and raised in Kenya, Lebanon and Canada but has spent more than half her life living in different regions of New Zealand. Wanda is an avid cyclist, hiker and skier and has guided outdoor enthusiasts on trips for nearly two decades.

Meet your guides

Dave M.

Dave began his career as an emergency room nurse, but his passion for the outdoors prompted him to change careers. Dave spends his free time hiking, surfing with his sons, and dreaming up his next cycling adventure with his family.

Adventure Expert

Jeff

Fantastic combo of the Alps to Ocean and Otago Rail Trail with new variations that superbly showcase the beauty of the south island. The optional upgrade to an Ebike feels like cheating, but it’s so much fun!