A 22 Day, 1000km Cycle Tour Of New Zealand

Carole Chrvala and her husband Don recently completed a 22-day, 1000km cycling tour of New Zealand. Here’s their story.

Where did your cycle tour take you?
My husband, Don, and I recently returned from a 22-day, 1000km cycling trip in stunning New Zealand. It was an adventure that was made possible by lots of planning and training as well as the assistance and hospitality of so many Kiwis. Among the first people we contacted when we began planning our cycling adventure was Steve Inns at Natural High who had been recommended by the Kennett brothers as a great cycle shop. Who could ask for a better recommendation than one from the Kennetts?

Steve, in the Christchurch office, and the Auckland team worked with us tirelessly to select our bikes and get them ready for our challenging tour of New Zealand. They also did a fantastic job working with us to ensure we had our rental bikes ready on the Sunday we landed in Auckland, particularly since Monday was a holiday. We were so eager to begin our ride, and the Auckland team made every effort to get the bikes ready for pickup by van on the Friday before our Sunday arrival. Everything went as hoped and planned, and Don and I set off for a 30km ride that Sunday. It gave us a great chance to load up, get accustomed to our bikes, and settle in to three weeks of cycling. Fabulous.

Our trip included four days of riding in the North Island and 18 days in the South Island. Our North Island adventure included cycling to Mercer, Raglan, Tirau, and Rotorua as well as an amazing zipline adventure in Rotorua. Our South Island route started in Picton. The ferry ride and dinner at Oxley’s pub were both amazing. We then headed to Nelson, Murchison, and Reefton, and then headed down the west coast via Hokitika, Franz Josef, and Haast. We turned inland and then travelled to Makarora, Wanaka, Omarama, Geraldine, Glentunnel, Hurunui, Hawarden, and many other wonderful locales. AislingQuoy Farmstay in Amberley was such a delight that we extended our stay. We concluded our trip in Christchurch.

What was your favourite place/places?

It is so difficult to choose a favourite place in New Zealand. Each area was unique and memorable. We kept a daily journal and took so many photos and were so grateful to meet wonderful Kiwis each and every day of our travels. The trip of our dreams became a reality because of our hard work and training, but also because we met so many welcoming, helpful Kiwis who helped in so many ways from hosting us in their homes, to giving us directions, ensuring we had the supplies we needed, and pointing us in the direction of wonderful things to experience (including places to eat). We hope to return for another cycling adventure in March 2021.

Did you encounter any problems or mishaps along the way?
Every cycling trip has its own set of challenges and this was true of our tour of New Zealand. We faced some fierce winds and hills—ahh New Zealand, you kept us humble. Of course, there was a bit of rain but we were prepared. We had a couple of mechanical troubles but we sorted those out. Fortunately, we have a lot of cycling experience and Don is skilled at most repairs. Steve was a great resource by phone when we had some problems with the gearing tyres. A big appreciation goes to Gary and Delia at Hokitika Cycles who came to the rescue when we had some tyre issues.

What did you love most about travelling by bike?
There is absolutely nothing better than cycling to explore a country. We see and hear and smell all the wonders of the world while pedalling away and can jump off our bikes when we want to explore or rest or grab a snack or picnic lunch. One of the most wonderful aspects of touring by bike is how easy it is to meet people. And Kiwis are among the most warm, friendly, and welcoming people we have had the pleasure of meeting! We made friends for life on this trip – seriously.

What types of accommodation did you stay in? Is there anywhere you’d especially recommend?
We learned many years ago on our first cycling tour of France that our best option was to stay in bed and breakfasts. After cycling 100km per day, we need a long hot shower and a firm mattress for a good night of sleep. Plus, bed and breakfast accommodation gives us so many opportunities to meet the people of the country we are visiting. This was so true during our New Zealand adventure. With the exception of a couple of motels/hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts every night of the trip. We were warmly welcomed, had great conversations with our hosts, savoured delicious meals, and enjoyed the most cosy and comfortable beds, ensuring we had great sleep. The list of wonderful eateries we enjoyed is too long for this newsletter!

What was your cycling experience prior to this trip? Did you have any worries/fears before setting off?
We have done about 10 trips in Europe – mostly France – and we do a lot of cycling in our home state of North Carolina. I think we felt confident about the riding but had some trepidation about the terrain, routes, and weather. It all turned out fabulous, although we adjusted our route a bit to allow for rain and wind and hills!

What bikes did you use for your tour? Did you feel they were a good fit for your journey and why?
We both rode Surly Bridge Club bikes. They were sturdy and strong, but a bit heavy! The weight was most noticeable at the end of a long day of cycling and going up those hills. They handled our panniers very well, however. The Surly is a great bike for track riding, but in the future we may look at other options that might be better suited to road cycling.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Pack light! I carried just 15 pounds and Don carried 16, not including our food and water. You just don’t need a lot of clothing for this kind of holiday. Also, make sure you carry plenty of food and water. The distance can be great between towns in New Zealand, and you don’t want to run out of fuel. Most important, be brave, be flexible, and keep your eyes, ears, and heart fully open to ensure you have the most magical experience.

Get After Those Goals

If you’ve decided that 2020 is the year you try something new, we’re here for you. Read on to find some inspiration for the new decade.

First cycle tour
Our fully-guided tours include all accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer. You’ll also have the luxury of being able to hop aboard the support vehicle should you feel like a breather at any point. Top routes to find your touring feet include the Otago Rail Trail and the Alps 2 Ocean Trail. Both cover lower daily distances and flatter terrain. 

Push your limits
On the other hand, you might be looking to cover more miles or pit yourself against steeper hills. The 9 day road cycle tour from Christchurch to Queenstown is a grade 3 ride. Averaging 100km daily and many high alpine pass crossings – including the spectacular Haast Pass – you’ll encounter stunning glaciers, mighty podocarp rainforest and dramatic coastlines before crossing the Crown Range into the Southern Lakes district around Wanaka and Queenstown.

Get off the beaten track
Got a hankering for a backcountry mountain bike experience? The 64km St James trail runs through the Canterbury high country, close to Hanmer Springs, and offers an ever-changing panorama of South Island scenery, from mountain peaks and crystal clear rivers to alpine meadows and sub-alpine beech forest. The grade of the trail varies: while the beginning and end sections are classed as easy and intermediate, the middle part is for advanced riders only, with river crossings and bike carrying in places. There are three huts and numerous camping spots along the route.

Train for an event
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cycle, multisport and extreme races in New Zealand. Taking place on Saturday 14 November 2020, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is New Zealand’s largest cycle event and offers a huge array of categories. The Challenge Wanaka triathlon takes place amongst the stunning lake and mountain scenery of Mount Aspiring National Park. Considered one of the world’s toughest long distance triathlon courses, the 2020 event is scheduled for 15 February. Spring Challenge is a women’s adventure race that includes rafting/kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and navigation. Natural High’s Cecileah is all set to compete in the South Island event, taking place 25–27 September 2020.

Have a good week,

Cycle Tour #8 Awaits For This Long-term NH Client

Mirko Gummersbach hails from Sauerland in Germany, a hilly region 70km east of Cologne. Having just booked his eighth cycle tour with Natural High, we thought we’d better find out what keeps bringing him back!

What do you like about cycling in New Zealand?
For road cycling, I cannot imagine a better place than New Zealand. Firstly, there are all these different landscapes within a relatively small area. The ocean, the Alps, the highlands, the flatlands, the lakes. People might say that New Zealand is hilly, very hilly. But behind the next hill always waits another spectacular view – a  gift for your efforts. So to me it brings a perfect mixture of challenge and relaxation.

Secondly –  very important – less traffic. You feel more secure than you do in Germany. Even when no official bicycle track is available.

Thirdly, I do not need to take a tent because in nearly every small town you find a hostel for a small budget.

Where have your previous tours taken you? Where are you heading on the tour you’re about to embark on?
I did my tours mainly across the South Island. The only areas where I did not cycle the South Island so far are the deepest south and the Marlborough Sounds. And this is the place where I am heading in 2020. The tour will bring me from Christchurch through the Sounds to Picton, via the east or west coast (which is more or less a spontaneous decision). And then from Picton back to Nelson where I am going to give back the bike.

Do you have a favourite place/places?
My bike. It brings me to a lot of beautiful places.

Have you ever encountered any problems or mishaps while riding in New Zealand?
Relatively often trucks are going to pass you too close. Perhaps the drivers are not used to have cyclists in parallel? This I do know since my first tour in New Zealand. What I do is try to listen to what is coming from behind me.

What do you love most about travelling by bike?
Freedom. To go where you want to go. And the mixture of exertion and relaxation, which totally frees my mind.

What types of accommodation do you stay in?
I prefer to stay in hostels. The kitchen is always a good place to meet other people. After a long day in the saddle, on my own, I like to have some conversation in the evening. But not too much. I am tired …

What bike will you use for your tour?
I am going to ride a Surly Disc Trucker. It is a simple, but very robust touring bike with disc brakes and some rear panniers. It fits perfectly to what I want. Hey, I am not going to do a race. The most important thing to me is to ride my own saddle which I bring from home.

Anything else you’d like to share? 
If you have troubles on your way, with the bike, with yourself, whatever … do not hesitate to ask people for help. The Kiwis are very friendly and are used to supporting you in each way they can. And to me this is the most important thing about New Zealand!

Images: Courtesy of Mirko Gummersbach

All In A (Spectacular) Day’s Work

Imagine getting paid to ride one of New Zealand’s most exciting trails? Well, that’s a regular reality for John Mason: he relocates cars for riders on the Heaphy Track. Once he’s driven his client’s car from one end to the other, he rides back via the track

Snaking through the rugged Kahurangi National Park, in the north-west corner of the South Island, the 78km Heaphy Track connects Collingwood to Karamea. A route once used by Golden Bay Māori to travel to the West Coast to collect pounamu (greenstone), the current track was built in the mid-1800s by gold prospectors. 

These days it’s managed by DOC and is open to mountain bikers from 1 May to 30 November each year. It’s a wild, untamed part of the country but there’s one hitch – the start and finish are separated by more than 450km of winding roads.

That’s where car relocators like John swing into action. John’s choice of transport is by bike but other relocators walk or even run the trail. Last year, 73-year-old Derry Kingston retired after 15 years of relocating cars for trampers. In that time, he walked the track over 400 times. His trail highlights? The sub-alpine section, the old Lewis Hut and the possibility of bumping into a kiwi. 

Another species to watch out for on the trail is the giant land snail Powelliphanta – often seen after rain, some grow as big as a man’s fist!

The Heaphy is a tough ride (grade 4-5), suitable for those with advanced riding skills only. Most riders complete it in two days and hut accommodation is available at a number of spots along the route. Riders can travel in either direction, but most choose to start in Collingwood and finish in Karamea. Get in touch if you need bikes for the trail – we’ve got a great selection of models.

Have a good week,

Summer Riding Is Just Around The Corner

See the Abel Tasman National Park as part of the Great Taste Trail cycle tourFancy exploring New Zealand by bike this summer? Here are just a few of the tours we’ve got on offer.

Go soon
We’ve got two tours heading out the door on 10 December. The 7 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour will introduce you to the quiet roads, remote bays and windswept coastlines of the lower South Island. Or, check out the 6 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour, which takes in primal rainforests, the icy wonders of the Fox Glacier, and the dramatic coastal scenery of the West Coast. Both tours are fully guided.

See the north
Graceful pohutukawa trees perched on beach edges. Immaculate stretches of sand. Secluded harbour waters. Northland in summer is nothing short of dreamy. On this tour you’ll visit Tane Mahuta, the world’s largest kauri tree, stop by Cape Reinga and explore the magical Bay of Islands. Learn more >>

Go end to end on the Alps 2 Ocean Trail
Pedal the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail all the way from mighty Aoraki/Mount Cook to the Pacific Ocean. Begin in style with a heli flight across the Tasman river before cycling through the vast tussock lands of the Mackenzie Country and along the braided rivers and vineyards of the Waitaki Valley. Hand-picked accommodation is a highlight of this tour – you’ll stay at a mix of lodges, premium backcountry farmstays, motels and luxurious glamping tents. Learn more >>

Pair riding with dining
Sublime coastal scenery, relaxed riding and a smorgasbord of local brews, wines and cafes await on the Great Taste Trail. Discover the city of Nelson, sail through the Abel Tasman National Park on a catamaran and enjoy a half-day walk on the famous Abel Tasman track. Learn more >>

Have a good week,


Time To Book Campervan Hire?

west coast cycle toursSummer’s just around the corner and we’re gearing up for another busy season. A quick heads-up that if you’re contemplating campervan hire, book early. Our vans are popular from Christmas through to March and we’d hate for you to miss out.

Not sure where to go? Make sure you put at least one of these scenic routes on your itinerary:

The Lost World Highway
Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, this is New Zealand’s oldest touring route. It stretches for 155km from the North Island’s Central Plateau to Taranaki on the west coast.

East Cape
Encounter the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere and the most easterly point on mainland New Zealand as you cruise the coastal roads of the East Cape. 

West Coast of the South Island
Surf-pounded coastline, lush rainforest, glacial rivers and intriguing geological features – no wonder Lonely Planet named this route one of the top ten coastal drives in the world. 

Te Anau to Milford Sound
Featuring mountains, rivers and rainforest, the road to Milford Sound is almost as spectacular as the Sound itself.

All campervans come fully equipped with bedding, kitchen and general household essentials. And if you want to make the most of your adventure, we can also include bike hire. 

Take a look at your options on the website and get in touch if you have any questions.

Have a good week,

Push Your Limits On These Classic NZ Climbs

Push your limits on these classic NZ climbsNew Zealand isn’t short of topography. If you love a challenge, put these routes on your bucket list.

Lake Taupo loop
The 160km circuit around Lake Taupo is an up and down affair, with plenty of tough climbs.The highest point on the loop sits at 650 metres. The route is also a popular category in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, which this year takes place on 30 November (and if you really want to test yourself, you can opt to do it a whopping four times).

Banks Peninsula
Hills, hills and more hills await riders on the Banks Peninsula. But since they’re accompanied by quiet roads and stunning coastal views, it’s won’t be all hardship. Our three day, self-guided Banks Peninsula tour offers an enticing introduction to this little-known region. With just under 5000 metres of climbing, this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted, encompassing a mix of on and off-road riding, remote gravel tracks, and a disused rail trail. There are also opportunities to incorporate rugged single track.

Arthur’s Pass
Arthur’s Pass, climbing to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park, is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps. Although the most direct route from the West Coast is along SH73, a more attractive option for cyclists is via Lake Brunner. The small township of Moana on the shore of the lake makes for a good overnight stop.

The serious climb to the pass begins after the tiny settlement of Otira, taking you high into kea country. Arthur’s Pass Village is just a little further on. The landscape shirts dramatically on the eastern side of the pass, where you’ll encounter wide, shingle-filled riverbeds and vast swathes of beech forest. After Porters Pass (at 950 metres), the descent to the Canterbury Plains begins.

Crown Range
The route from Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range is known for its zig-zags – lots and lots of switchbacks that inch you closer to the Crown Range Plateau. The rest area at the top is deceiving – the actual summit is a further 5km of climbing away. Make sure you stop by the historic Cardrona Hotel for a well-earned drink. From there the last 25km to Wanaka are either flat or downhill. 

Have a good week,

10 Reasons To Go Guided This Summer

go guided this summer

1. We do all the planning.
Not everyone wants to spend hours poring over maps and guide books. Book a guided tour and all you have to do is turn up and ride.

2. You’ll see all the best bits … plus those lesser-known locations you’d find impossible to discover on your own.
Every route we offer has been carefully designed to show you the best scenery, sights and excursions. 

3. You won’t get lost.
Cycling alongside you will be your knowledgeable, friendly tour guide. Your guide will provide local insight, mechanical support and encouragement … and ensure the snacks are ready and waiting during refreshment stops.

4. Ride luggage-free.
We’ll ensure your bags are safely delivered to your next overnight stop. 

5. Take a break from the bike at any time.
A support vehicle will always be on hand to give you a rest from the saddle, or shuttle you up the steep bits.

6. We cater for different riding abilities.
Each trip we offer is rated for overall difficulty, based on the daily distances and the terrain covered. Easy tours are suitable for people who just want to ride, relax and enjoy the scenery. They cover lower distances per day – around 40 to 50 km – over relatively flat terrain. Moderate tours cover longer daily distances – around 50 to 80 km – with more hills. Challenging tours can cover over 100 km a day, across rolling (and sometimes steep) terrain with repeated climbs. 

7. Kick back and relax each night at carefully-selected, comfortable accommodation.
You could stay at a castle, or on a boat on Milford Sound.

8. Most meals are included.
These vary between shared, family-style dinners at the end of the day, big lunches at scenic spots along the route, and opportunities to dine independently and discover local cafes and restaurants. 

9. Top-quality gear.
We have the largest selection of premium quality bikes and gear in New Zealand to ensure your bike suits your journey and ability level, and is comfortable to ride.

10. It’ll be fun!

Check out the full list of guided tours on our website. And if you’ve got any questions, drop us an email.

Have a good week,

Meet Natural High’s Newest Team Member

Meet Natural High’s new Operations Assistant Manager, Kirke Ranson, who works in our Christchurch branch. Kirke hails from the small town of Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast.

What first got you into riding?
First got into mountain biking about 10 years ago doing adventure racing. Fell in love riding single trail and haven’t looked back! I enjoy mostly riding a mountain bike. Getting out on a trail and feeling the flow is unbeatable.

Favourite ride?
Riding in the Redwoods Forest in Rotorua is pretty special. A vast amount of trails and amazing loam soil makes for epic fast-flowing rides.

Best spot for after-biking drinks?
Anywhere you can share a beer and a good yarn about the ride.

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
I love getting out in the wilderness for hikes or riding my snowboard when there is snow on the hills.

Do you have any must-do rides or destinations?
There’s plenty of new stuff in the area that I have to check out. Would love to get up to Wairoa Gorge in Nelson.

Images: Courtesy of Kirke Ranson.

The Deep South Is Calling!

Looking to experience the remoter side of New Zealand? The 7 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour takes you deep into rural South Island life where quiet roads, isolated bays and windswept coastlines await.

Trip highlights:

  • Meander alongside the beautiful lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri.
  • Cycle the rugged Catlins coastline, home to fur seals, Hector’s dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins.
  • Walk to Mclean Falls and Cathedral Caves.
  • Challenge yourself on the rolling hills of the breathtaking Otago Peninsula.
  • Visit the only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross in the world.

This tour is graded moderate. You will need to be a competent road rider and should be able to cycle comfortably for up to 4–6 hours or around 80km/50miles per day. There are some long undulating and hilly sections.

Accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer are included. You’ll also have the luxury of being able to hop aboard the support vehicle should you feel like a breather at any point.

The December tour departs from Queenstown on 6 December 2019. Get in touch today to secure your place. We’ve also got departures running throughout the summer – check the website for details.