Hop on Your Bike And Explore The Hawke’s Bay Trails

hawkes bay trails Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Hawke’s Bay is a sunny, scenic part of the country, loaded with fun things to see and do. It’s also a great place to take (or hire) a bike, since the region has a massive network of cycle trails that connects all the must-see sights of the area.

There are three, different rides to choose from – here’s a brief overview.

The Landscapes Ride
Scenic views and impressive vistas await on the Landscapes Ride, which meanders through the pretty seaside communities of Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton, before leading you along the fabled Cape Kidnapper coastline. The Cape is home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony and one of the world’s top 50 golf courses. This is a 56km ride and will suit most cycling skill levels.

The Water Ride
Families and less-experienced riders will enjoy the Water Ride, a flat route that provides panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and includes the Ahuriri Estuary, a sanctuary for endangered wetland wildlife, and the art deco city of Napier.

If you want an in-depth look at the beautiful buildings of the Art Deco era, you might fancy hopping off your bike and joining one of the guided walking tours that run daily rain or shine (except Christmas Day). Walks leave from the Napier i-SITE on Marine Parade every morning at 10am, and afternoon tours from the Art Deco shop in Tennyson Street at 2pm. No bookings required! You can also pick up a tour booklet and wander the streets at your own pace.

The Wineries Ride
Lastly, there’s the Wineries Ride, a relaxing jaunt through the wine-growing areas of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and the Ngatarawa Triangle. It’s a 48km ride that provides plenty of places to stop and relax (and sample award-winning wines) along the way.

When to visit
The cycle trails are suitable for riding all year-round – summers are hot, autumn is colourful and winter will be quiet! If you love the vibrant 1930’s spirit, time your visit to coincide with the annual Tremains Art Deco Festival, when the city gleams with classic cars and Deco glamour. The event is held on the third weekend of February. Full details can be found on the Art Deco Trust website. This is a very popular weekend and accommodation fills fast, so book early.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. We can help you organise bike hire, accessories such as panniers and pick-up and drop-off options for the Hawke’s Bay trails. Drop us a line and we’ll get you sorted!

Image Phillip Capper

Small Town New Zealand: Kaikoura

visit kaikouraSitting in a beautiful bay and backed by the steeply rising slopes of the Seaward Kaikoura range, Kaikoura is best known for its astonishing array of marine life. But there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy when you visit, too…

Go whale watching
Kaikoura’s coastal waters attract an abundance of marine life, including dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, orca, fur seals and the giant of the deep – the sperm whale. Numerous operators offer whale watching tours and dolphin swimming – if you’re visiting in the busy summer months you’ll probably have to book in advance.

Walk the Kaikoura Peninsula
This is a three-hour walk along the coastline, that can be broken up into shorter trips. The track crosses the peninsula’s clifftop, with excellent views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, ocean and coastline. It returns to the township via South Bay and Toms Track. Watch for seals lounging about the track – they’re not overly fond of being disturbed and it’s recommended you keep your distance.

Climb or ride Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe and the Seaward Kaikoura Range dominate the Kaikoura skyline and offer plenty of adventure opportunities, from gentle strolls to more serious uphill hauls. It’s an 8-hour return trip to the top of Mount Fyffe by foot, or tackle the steep and challenging climb on your mountain bike. Make sure you check your brakes first! For a shorter stroll, try the Hinau Track – a 45-minute loop through a pretty forest. The Mount Fyffe carpark also gives access to the Kowhai River ride – an easy-going MTB track that offers a good mix of 4WD and purpose-built singletrack.

Sample a cray
When Tama ki Te Rangi first visited Kaikoura many hundreds of years ago (supposedly in pursuit of his runaway wives!) he was delighted to find an abundance of crayfish. He named the area “Te Ahi Kaikoura a Tama ki Te Rangi” – the fire that cooked the crayfish of Tama ki Te Rangi. Crayfish is still a local delicacy, alongside a whole host of other seafood.

Visit Kaikoura as part of our 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Top of the South Island. This is a Grade 2 ride that starts in Christchurch and takes you over the Southern Alps to the West Coast. After cycling the twists and turns of the coast road, you’ll head to Nelson and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. There’s time for a visit to some of Marlborough’s top vineyards before you make your way to Kaikoura, where you can round off your tour with a whale watching expedition or a swim with dolphins. Read all the details here.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Happy Easter! Our opening hours this weekend are: Good Friday closed, Saturday open 10am-4pm, Easter Sunday closed, Easter Monday closed, Tuesday 29 March open as usual 9am-5pm.

Image: Andrea Schaffer

Everything You Need to Know About Riding The New Zealand Cycle Trail

Riding The New Zealand Cycle Trail
So, the New Zealand Cycle Trail – one enormous cycle trail that runs all over New Zealand, right?
Errr, not quite. It’s actually a collection of 23 separate cycle trails, known as Great Rides. One day they’ll all hopefully link up to form one, massive network but that’s still a way off. Tackling a Great Ride is a fantastic way to explore New Zealand, particularly since many of the trails are off-road and pass through a breathtaking range of landscapes, from sparkling coastlines to beautiful native bush and rugged mountain passes.

How do I choose a trail?
Your ability level is the most important factor. Each Great Ride is graded from 1 (easiest) to 5 (expert). Some trails stay the same grade the whole way, and others vary from section to section. Grade 1 trails are very easy, meaning almost anyone can ride them, while Grade 3 (intermediate) rides are best for reasonably fit cyclists and those over 12 years old. Grade 5 trails are for fit, experienced cyclists with excellent off-road skills. Most Great Rides are multi-day experiences, but can easily be split into shorter sections.

When is the best time to ride a Great Ride?
Most of the trails are suitable for cycling all year round. Riding in the spring and autumn will be cooler than summer, and winter riding is very doable on some trails. Just make sure you check track conditions and the weather forecast before you set out, as section closures can sometimes occur.

What kind of bike is best suited to the trails?
We recommend a hybrid bike for the easier trails, and a mountain bike for Grade 3 Rides and above.

If I choose to do a multi-day ride, where can I stay?
Most multi-day trails have a good selection of accommodation en route or nearby. Each Great Ride has its own website which includes details of all the accommodation options and other services you’ll find along its route.

What about food and drink – will I need to carry it with me?
Many of the Great Rides pass close to cafés, restaurants and shops. In fact, sampling local food and wine is a major reason many people tackle a Great Ride! The more remote trails offer no services at all, so you’ll need to carry all your food and water.

How do I get to the trails?
Many trails are close to towns and villages, while more remote rides are accessed via trailheads with car parks. We can help you arrange drop-offs and pick-ups if you’re travelling without your own transport. A combined campervan and bike rental is an ideal way to experience the trails, enabling you to park up and ride sections of trails as you traverse the country.

What do they cost?
Most of the Great Rides are free.

Do you offer guided tours of the Great Rides?
We offer guided tours of the Central Otago Rail Trail and the Rimutaka Cycle Trail. If you’re interested in riding another trail, send us an email and we might be able to put together a customised tour.

More useful information on riding the New Zealand Cycle Trail:
Find a full list of all the Great Rides, here.
Great Rides for All the Family – a breakdown of the easiest trails that are perfect for families and newbie riders.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

The Toughest New Zealand Cycle Trails

the toughest new zealand cycle trailsAre you an intrepid, experienced rider looking for your next big adventure? Cast your eye over the following New Zealand cycle trails, designed to test your skills and fitness to the max.

Motu Trails (Pakihi Track section)
Where: Opotiki
Duration: 1-3 days
Total length: 91km

The Motu Trails comprise three, distinctly different routes: The Dunes Trail is an easy blend of gentle riding and beach vistas, the Motu Road trail takes you from the ocean into more rugged, demanding terrain, while the Pakihi Track careens through native forest. (It’s rated advanced because in places there are steep drops to the sides.) Combine all three for a tough 91km loop!

Old Ghost Road
Where: West Coast of the South Island.
Duration: 2-3 days
Total length: 85km

Newly opened, this is an intrepid backcountry mountain bike adventure for experienced, fit riders only. The trail follows an old gold miner’s route between the ghost town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast. This is a rugged, remote landscape dominated by ancient rainforest, rocky mountains, rough-hewn river gorges – and spooky ghost towns!

St James Cycle Trail
Where: North Canterbury
Duration: 1-2 days
Total length: 64km

Experience the wide open wilderness of what was once one of the largest cattle and sheep farms in New Zealand. The terrain is challenging, but the stunning scenery will more than make up for it. It’s possible to complete the trail in one day, but spending a night under the stars in a hut or campsite will give you an even deeper appreciation of this sub-alpine wonderland.
Read about Andy’s account of the St James trail.

All these trails are perfect for self-guided touring and we can help you organise bike hire, accessories such as panniers and pick-up and drop-off options. Drop us a line if you’d like to talk logistics!

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

And the Nominees for the Best New Zealand Bike Trails Are…

Best New Zealand Bike TrailsThis week we’re rolling out the green carpet to celebrate the best of New Zealand biking. Here are our top picks:

Best Family Trail: Central Otago Rail Trail
Gentle, flat riding through stunning South Island scenery. Experience high country sheep stations, river gorges, tunnels and viaducts.
Grade 1: One of the easiest of the Great Rides.
Two guided options available: 5 Day Otago Rail Trail – Queenstown to Christchurch or 5 Day Otago Rail Trail – Christchurch to Christchurch.

Best Multi-Day Singletrack: The Old Ghost Road
A remote, intrepid adventure featuring magnificent native forest, five ghost towns, open river valleys and stunning lakes and tarns.
Grade 4: Suitable for skilled and experienced backcountry riders only.

Best Food Trail: The Great Taste Trail
Easy-going riding through picture-postcard countryside and along the sparkling Tasman Bay coastline. Along the way, sample the many delights of the region’s craft breweries, wineries, fruit stalls and cafes.
Grade 1-3: Easy to intermediate skill level and fitness required.

Best Off the Beaten Track Trail: The West Coast Wilderness Trail
Delve deep into the spectacular scenery and fascinating history of the wild West Coast, where dense rainforests, glacial rivers and glistening lakes and wetlands await.
Grade 2-3: Easy to intermediate.
Guided option available: 5 Day West Coast Wilderness Trail.

Award for Scenic Diversity: Alps to Ocean Trail
The longest continuous ride in New Zealand, this tour descends over 2000 ft from the lofty heights of Mount Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru. Along the way drink in the stunning beauty of the Mackenzie Country, bathe in the Lake Tekapo hot pools under one of the best night skies in the world, get up close with majestic Mt Cook and wander the Victorian Quarter in Oamaru.
Grade 2-3: Easy to intermediate.
Guided option available: 6 Day Alps to Ocean Cycle Tour.

All these trails are perfect for self-guided touring and we can help you organise bike hire, accessories such as panniers and pick-up and drop-off options. Drop us a line if you’d like to talk logistics!

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Be Awed By Mother Nature’s Might While Riding the Rotorua Cycle Trails

rotorua cycle trailsSteaming mud pools, 20m high geysers, bubbling lakes ….and an insane amount of biking goodness. Yes, we’re talking about the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. Here are the Rotorua cycle trails worth hitting up when you’re in town…

Whakarewarewa Forest and the Redwoods
Just a five minute drive from the city and home to around 130km of continually evolving trails to suit all levels of riding ability. This is one of the oldest mountain bike networks in New Zealand, with well-crafted trails, varying topography, free-draining soils (meaning great, all-year round riding) and stunning scenery. It’s also completely free to ride! Just make sure you pick up a map before you hit the trails.

Rainbow Mountain
An 11km technical loop for advanced riders only. This track runs along a section of the Te Ara Ahi trail before heading up to the summit. From the top, it’s an adrenaline-pumping, Grade 4 downhill ride. Park at Kerosene Creek car park off SH5, 25km south of Rotorua. Additional bonus? Kerosene Creek is a natural – and completely free – hot pool.

Skyline Gravity Park
An 8.5km trail network for all ability levels. The best bit? The Skyline gondola takes the hard work out of the uphill. Half-day, multi-day and season passes are available.

Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike
One of New Zealand’s Great Rides, Te Ara Ahi is a 48km adventure through this region’s most intriguing geothermal scenery. The trail takes in four significant fields: Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Waikite Valley Thermal Springs. Each has its own unique features, including rare flora and fauna, steaming vents, boiling mud pools and spectacular geysers.

This is also a ride that offers a fascinating insight into Maori history and folklore. Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve is located next to Te Puia – the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute – and Whakarewarewa Village, a living Maori village that has existed for over 700 years.

The trail is easily split into one-day or half-day rides, allowing you ample time to soak up the scenery and culture along the way.

Hot pools
We wouldn’t expect you to bike through a thermal area and not indulge in a bathe! Popular hot pools include the Polynesian Spa in Government Gardens, the open-air pools at Waikite Valley Thermal Pools and the aforementioned Kerosene Creek.

Intrigued to ride Rotorua? We can help you arrange bike hire and all the necessary logistics. Email us to get your geothermal adventure underway.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Crankworx, the world’s largest mountain bike festival, arrives in Rotorua 9-13 March 2016. Expect epic competitions, live entertainment and Kidsworx events.

Image: Robert Linsdell

The Best New Zealand Great Rides For The Family

new zealand great rides for the family Fancy a family holiday or day out with a difference? Several of the New Zealand Great Rides are absolutely perfect for family outings, offering relaxed, easy riding through stunning natural environments.

Most of the trails are multi-day experiences, but if you don’t think the kid’s legs are up to the full distance, or you just want to ease them into the joys of cycling, you can pick and mix shorter sections to ride as day trips.

Here’s a list of the easiest and best trails to take the kids.

Hauraki Rail Trail
Where: Coromandel
Duration: 1-3 days
Total length: 82km

A leisurely jaunt through beautiful countryside and old gold towns. Highlights include the scenic Karangahake Gorge, home to intriguing gold mining relics and eerie tunnels (bring a torch!), and the therapeutic hot pools of Te Aroha. Click here to read a full review of this trail.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail
Where: Northland
Duration: 1-2 days
Total length: 84km

Explore Hokianga Harbour and the beautiful Bay of Islands. This trail follows smooth rail trails, dedicated cycle paths and quiet back roads as it winds through wetlands, native forest and rolling countryside. Recommended stops along the way include the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihia, as well as the small towns of Kawakawa and Kaikohe.

Rimutaka Cycle Trail
Where: Wellington
Duration: 1-3 days
Total length: 115km

Right on the doorstep of Wellington, this trail takes you along the Hutt River and over the bush-clad Rimutaka Ranges to rural Wairarapa, where you’ll find rugged coastline, interesting townships and vineyards for mum and dad! If you fancy making the riding experience as easy as possible, check out our 5-day Wellington Harbour to Greytown guided tour.

Hawke’s Bay Trails
Where: Hawke’s Bay
Duration: 1-4 days.
Total length: 200km

Three themed trails to choose from, all offering stunning coastal and rural views and relaxed, easy riding. The Landscapes Ride takes in laid-back seaside settlements, big views of Cape Kidnappers and the verdant Tukituki Valley. The Wineries Ride meanders past numerous award-winning wineries, or discover art deco Napier plus coastal, wetland and riverside scenery on the Water Ride.

Otago Central Rail Trail
Where: Central Otago
Duration: 1-5 days
Total length: 150km

The original New Zealand rail trail provides a fascinating snapshop of the famed Central Otago region. Experience breathtaking mountain backdrops, high country sheep stations, golden tussock lands, river gorges, spooky tunnels and viaducts. We can help you ride this trail as a self-guided option, or join us for an all-inclusive, guided tour.

Clutha Gold Trail
Where: Central Otago
Duration: 1-2 days
Total length: 73km

Uncover the stories of early Māori moa hunters, Chinese gold miners, European farmers, miners and railworkers as you follow gentle riverside paths and old railway lines through mesmerising Otago scenery.

All these trails are perfect for self-guided touring and we can help you organise bike hire, accessories such as panniers and pick-up and drop-off logistics. Drop me a line if you’d like to talk logistics!

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Five Reasons to Visit Lake Taupo

lake taupoCruise SH1 south to Taupo and keep your eyes peeled for your first glimpse of the lake. It’s a not-to-be-missed sight: a great, glistening expanse of blue water surrounded by snowy peaks.

The lake is undeniably Taupo’s biggest drawcard – and at 616 square kilometres it’s also New Zealand’s biggest lake by surface area – but there are plenty of other reasons to visit, too. Try these for starters.

Cycle the Great Lake Trail
71km of deep bush and lakefront trails offering stunning views of Lake Taupo and the Tongariro National Park. Many of the western areas of the lake are only accessible by the trail, so it’s a gem for anyone seeking total peace and tranquility.

The Great Lake Trail can be ridden in two days, or split into shorter sections to suit your fitness level and/or time frame. The free draining pumice soil of the trail means it can be ridden all year round.

If you’re more of a road rider, there are lots of different road routes around the lake. Download a free guide from Bike Taupo.

Visit Huka Falls
This thundering 11 metre high waterfall is the most visited and photographed natural attraction in New Zealand. 220,000 litres of water cascade through the rock face every second – enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just 11 seconds!

The falls are located just a short drive from Taupo town. Alternatively, there’s an easy and scenic walking track from Spa Park. The trail crosses the natural hot spring of Otumuheke Stream and meanders through gullies, forest and open farmland, offering great views of the Waikato River and open valleys along the way. It’s a two-hour return trip.

See Maori Rock Carvings
Located at Mine Bay and only accessible from the water these impressive carvings are over 10 metres high. While they might look like the remains of an ancient Maori village they were actually created in the late 70s by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and Jonathan Randell as a gift to Taupo. Access the carvings by jumping aboard a scenic cruise across the lake or a kayaking tour.

Jump in a hot pool
Hot pool fans are spoiled for choice in Taupo with both paid and free bathing spots on offer. Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs is the swanky option: two thermal outdoor pools, 12 private pools, fresh water pools, a children’s warm water playground and a giant dragon hydroslide. For complete peace and quiet, head to Wairakei Terraces Hot Pools (adults-only), set amongst beautiful, natural surroundings. For those on a budget, a free dip can be found at Otumuheke Stream at Spa Park. This is a hot stream that flows into the Waikato River and creates natural hot pools.

Go trout fishing
40 minutes south of Taupo lies the town on Turangi, known as the ‘Trout Fishing Capital of New Zealand.’ Fishing charters and fly fishing guides can be hired throughout the Taupo region or pay a visit to the Tongariro National Trout Centre and hatchery to pick up some tips.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. The Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge takes place every November and is another great way to experience everything Taupo has to offer. There’s a massive array of entry categories and races, from shorter, easier events to full-on, hard-core challenges. Read about mine and Logan’s experiences here:
Andy & Logan Survive the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

Image: Herry Lawford

Better Jump On Your Bike This February. Here’s Why

bike wise monthHere’s a great excuse to get on your bike this February: it’s Bike Wise Month!

There’s exciting events, meetups, workshops and rides taking place all around the country. To help you get involved, we’ve pulled together a few of our favourite happenings.

World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships
Aorangi Park, Glenwood, Timaru
The world of Hardcourt Bike Polo comes down under for the first time in the Championship’s seven-year history! 250 international bike polo players are expected to compete at the event. Bike to the venue for bonus points and maybe the chance to give it a go yourself. Tournament dates: 1 – 6 February 2016. Free entry.

Go By Bike Day
10 February all over New Zealand.
Ditch the car and ride your bike to school or work. There’s meetups, rides and breakfast incentives taking place at cities and towns across New Zealand. More info:

The Big Bike Film Night
15 February
9 Queens Dr, Rotorua
The best cycling short films from around the world. Time: 7.30pm. $20. http://www.bigbikefilmnight.nz.

Earthcycles Twilight series
17 February
Onepu, Wellington
Cross country racing over undulating grade two and three trails. All ages and abilities welcome. Time: 5.45pm. $2.

One-day Guided Rides Around Christchurch
Choose from a laidback spin through the vineyards of the Waipara Valley, a relaxing jaunt along the Little River Rail Trail or a scenic adventure in the Port Hills. Running daily throughout summer. More info here:

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: A recent Natural High tour group setting off to explore the vineyards of the Waipara Valley.

Winter Cycle Touring in New Zealand

winter cycle touring in new ZealandRose and Roy are long-standing Natural High clients who love cycling in New Zealand (they’ve just completed the Alps to Ocean trail). Unlike most cyclists, they’re big fans of cycle touring in winter. Here’s their story:

“So often we think that summer is the best time to ride New Zealand. There is an alternative. We live in Bundaberg Queensland – home of sugar, ginger beer and rum, in whatever order you like. We understand sunshine.

However, we choose to ride in winter and our longest and most epic trip was from Bluff to Cape Reinga starting on 25 July 2005 so we would finish before Roy’s 75th birthday on 4 September.

Cycling straight up the east coast of the South Island we often found alternative quieter roads to have a break from State Hwy 1. Aussie friends flew over to Christchurch heeding the Marlborough Sav Blanc call where we rested for two days travelling the vineyards.

They flew back and we crossed Cook Strait and travelled up the North Island to the west of Lake Taupo. The weather gods always smiled upon us.

At Hunterville, we had the biggest, strongest southerly tailwind that you could imagine. Up and over National Park to Taumarunui and on to Te Kuiti in two days and it was easy.

We continued on up the west coast to Waiau Pa for a three-day rest with my brother, Pat and his wife Sue. Ferry to Devonport and thence onwards and upwards to Cape Reinga, straight through Dargaville, Waipoua Forest, Kaitia and finally to the top.

We had made it. We had “knocked the bastard off”.

It took five and a half weeks and in that whole time we only had three days with any rain. I told you we were “in” with the weather gods.

You get warm when you cycle and thanks to Ground Effect clothes we were never cold. Riding in the winter means much less saddlesore, less chafing, no worries about how much water to carry and less sunburn risk.

Since then we have come over in the winter many times to ride. Always good weather and lots of fun.”

Tempted to give winter cycle touring in New Zealand a go? Our guided tours only run through the summer months, but self-guided touring is still an option. Head here for a full list of self-guided cycling adventures:

Have a great week,
Steve Inns