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.

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

Now Open: The Old Ghost Trail

The latest addition to the New Zealand Cycle Trail was fully opened for business just before Christmas.

Located on the west coast of the South Island, the Old Ghost Road offers 85km of rugged riding, making it New Zealand’s longest continuous single track.

The trail follows a once-forgotten gold miner’s road, connecting the historic mining settlement of Lyell in the south to Seddonville in the north. Along its route it passes through magnificent native forest, five ghost towns, open river valleys and stunning lakes and tarns.

The Old Ghost Road is a Grade 4 (advanced) mountain biking trail, which means it’s really only suitable for skilled and experienced backcountry riders.

For most fit and competent riders, the trail will typically be ridden over two to four days. A south to north route (Lyell to Seddonville) is recommended due to the technical nature and gradient of some parts of the track.

There are four hut sites managed by the Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust along the trail (all with additional summer sleepouts from October to April), and two Department of Conservation huts at the Mokihinui Forks and Goat Creek.

Those who’ve ridden the trail already are raving. Time to train harder and pop this one on your must-do list?

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. There are 22 other rides in the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network. Some are easy-going, leisurely affairs, others are tough and demanding. All offer exceptional riding through some of the very best scenery New Zealand has to offer. Check them all out here:

Video: The Old Ghost Road – Official Video

Take 2016 to New Heights: 10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown

Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown Did you put together a 2016 bucket-list? Fancy getting moving on it sooner rather than later?

The following is a seriously epic guided road tour that departs 22 February for ten days of freewheeling through some of the very best scenery the South Island has to offer.

You’ll tackle the exhilarating twists and turns of the West Coast, explore the intriguing formations of the Pancake Rocks and breathe in the fresh, alpine air of Fox Glacier. Plus you’ll get to experience the splendour of the Southern Alps, the laidback delights of Lake Wanaka and the buzz of hip and happening Queenstown.

The cycling is rated grade two with two challenging days of riding. If you’re looking to raise your cycling game in 2016, this tour is for you!

Time is ticking though, so if you want to join us, wangle some time off work, book your flights and get training. You’ll appreciate it when we hit the Crown Range (pictured above).

10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T2
The tour costs $4495 per person which includes all accommodation, most meals, an experienced, knowledgeable guide and support minibus.

Head here to view the full itinerary and then get booking. It’ll be the best decision you make all year!

Check out the full itinerary here:

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Five Wacky New Zealand Attractions

wacky new zealand attractionsI love oddball tourist attractions. Luckily New Zealand’s got a fair few weird and wacky things to see. If you find yourself cycling past any of the following spots, pull over and take a look.

Crazy toilets: Hundertwasser Toilets, Kawakawa, Northland
Probably the only public toilet block in the world where you’ll want to linger. The psychedelic style was the work of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. There’s even a tree incorporated into the building!
Nearby cycling: Twin Coast Cycle Trail. Follow ancient Māori trails from the east to west coast. Great views over Hokianga Harbour and the Bay of Islands.

Weird waters: Devil’s Bath, Waiotapu, Rotorua
The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is home to lots of weird geothermal delights, but the electric green waters of the Devil’s Bath are the most eye-catching of all. The lake gets its lurid green colour from deposits of sulphur that rise to the surface and float on top. No one’s quite sure where the name comes from, though!
Nearby cycling: Te Ara Ahi Trail. A two-day adventure alongside steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and impressive geysers.

Definitely not an ode to the possum: Opossum World, Napier
Most animal and wildlife museums focus on the beauty and preservation of a species. Not so Opossum World, which educates visitors about the threat the possum poses to the natural environment. Possums are a problem because they eat native plants and species and they’re also carriers of bovine tuberculosis, a major threat to the dairy, beef, and deer farming industries.
Nearby cycling: the Hawke’s Bay Trails. A mostly flat network that stretches over the Heretaunga Plains and offers three different cycling experiences: the Landscape Ride, the Water Ride and the Wineries Ride.

The world’s steepest street: Baldwin Street, Dunedin
The city of Dunedin was planned by urban designers in London. Consequently, the topography of the landscape played little part in the proceedings – resulting in some very steep streets. Baldwin Street drew the shortest straw of this approach, earning it the Guinness World Record for steepest street in the world.
Nearby cycling: Self-guided Catlins tour, running from Dunedin to Invercargill (or vice versa).

Lots of bras: Cardrona Bra Fence, Cardrona, Otago
The Cardrona Bra Fence came to life some time around Christmas 1999, when four bras mysteriously appeared on a farm fence. Within a few months the number had swelled to around 60 and today there are thousands flapping in the wind against a backdrop of rolling hills and grazing sheep.
Nearby cycling: Queenstown to Wanaka road ride over the Crown Ranges.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Photo: Hundertwasser Toilets by Anne-Lise Heinrichs

The Best Summer Cycling New Zealand

Summer Cycling in New ZealandAhhh, summer in New Zealand. Long, lazy days at the beach. Wall-to-wall sunshine, ocean dips and leisurely picnic lunches. And of course, the perfect conditions for jumping on your bike! If a summer cycling holiday sounds like just the tonic you need after all the Christmas excess (and a great way to beat the winter blues if you’re battling the cold in the northern hemisphere) here are five spots we highly recommend…

Beautiful beaches, breathtaking scenery and sparkling water make this region a favourite for Kiwis and tourists alike. Gentle, therapeutic riding can be found amongst the Waipoua Forest, home to huge and magnificent kauri trees. Or check out the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, running between Hokianga Harbour and the Bay of Islands (note: some sections currently closed).

Eastern Bay Of Plenty
An off-the-radar summer spot that serves up long, sandy beaches and cycling options for beginners and advanced cyclists alike. Don’t miss the Motu Trails which offer three different riding experiences. The Dunes Trail is an easy, 22km return ride with opportunities for ocean dips and beach time along the way. Intermediate riders will love the Motu Road Trail, which runs through remote bush and farmland, while advanced riders should head for the Pakihi Track which careens through native forest. You can also loop all three rides together for one, ultra-fun riding experience.

Something of a pedaller’s paradise with kilometres of scenic tracks and trails, conveniently located alongside great cafes, wineries and craft breweries. The must-do ride of this region is the Great Taste Trail, a 175km meander through the Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay region. Nelson itself is brimming with art galleries, boutiques, cafes and bars and there’s beautiful beaches to both the north and south of the city.

Long, hot summers are the norm in Marlborough, as is great wine! This is New Zealand’s largest wine growing area, with heaps of vineyards clustered around Blenheim. Embark on a pedal-powered wine-tasting tour or head to the Marlborough Sounds, home to picturesque coves, beautiful beaches and one of New Zealand’s best known walks, the Queen Charlotte Track. The track is also open to mountain bikers (although the section between Ship Cove and Camp Bay is closed for riding from the beginning of December to the end of February every year).

Just as buzzing in summer as in winter and chock full of cycling opportunities, from family-friendly trails to the mountain-bike hotspots of the Queenstown Mountain Bike Park and the 7-Mile Mountain Bike Reserve. If you really want to up the adrenaline levels, there’s also bungy jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing, canyoning, paragliding and parachuting thrills aplenty.

There you have it – five spots to soak up those summer vibes and stretch your cycling legs at the same time. Which one takes your fancy?

Happy New Year!
Andrew Hunt

P.S. We can get your bike hire and campervan hire sorted, to help you explore these regions to the max.

Gift Yourself a New Zealand Adventure This Christmas

christmas in new zealand
Christmas in New Zealand is, for most people, the start of summer. Yes, we do Christmas trees and gift-giving and turkey dinners, but mainly Christmas is about hanging out with family, hitting the beach and soaking up the sun.

In that spirit, we thought instead of our traditional round up of cycling-themed gift ideas, we’d offer you a list of fun and exciting New Zealand adventures. Because spending time with loved ones and creating unforgettable memories has got to be the very best gift of all.

Put one of these experiences in your stocking for 2016:

Wheels and wine on Waiheke
Just a short ferry ride from Auckland, the beautiful, laid-back island of Waiheke offers picturesque bays, rolling hills and award-winning vineyards. Quiet country roads, fabulous restaurants and cellar-door tastings are what this three-day, self-guided tour is all about:
3-Day Self-Guided Waiheke Island Cycle Tour

Up your mountain bike skills
Got a burning desire to hit the backcountry but lack the skills to do so safely? A half-day of mountain bike skills training on local hills in either Christchurch or Auckland will sharpen your off-road skills and give you the confidence to tackle tougher terrain. Our experienced instructors can teach any level required, from complete beginners through to advanced riders. Come by yourself or bring a buddy. We can also cater for larger groups:
Mountain bike skills training

Ride the Heaphy Track
This 80km, three-day route through the Kahurangi National Park in the northwest corner of the South Island is one of New Zealand’s finest multi-day mountain bike rides. (Only open between 1 May and 30 September every year):
Guided Heaphy Track Tour

Get amongst the West Coast
Discover the enthralling history and dramatic scenery of the South Island’s West Coast. The five-day, West Coast Wilderness Tour takes you through dense rainforests, glacial rivers, lakes and wetlands:
The West Coast Wilderness Trail

Paddle the Abel Tasman
Leisurely paddling, stunning scenery and surprising encounters with the local wildlife – an all-inclusive sea kayaking tour is the ultimate way to discover the pristine paradise of the Abel Tasman National Park:
Sea kayaking tours

Wind your way through the Wairarapa
This tour takes you from the head of Wellington harbour to the charming Victorian town of Greytown, taking in the wild beauty of Palliser Bay and the genteel vineyards of Martinborough along the way. Smooth, gentle riding makes this route particularly suited to newbie cyclists or families:
5 Day Cycle Tour Wellington Harbour to Greytown

Have an absolutely epic Christmas!
Andrew Hunt

Cycling the Banks Peninsula

cycling the banks peninsulaCrammed end-to-end with breathtaking views over bays and beaches, quiet roads and a huge variety of riding possibilities, the Banks Peninsula is a little-known cycling gem, right on the doorstep of Christchurch.

Aussie cyclists Ben and David recently got to experience this region’s world-class biking first-hand. The lucky duo were the winners of a three-day guided cycle tour of the peninsula, a competition offered by Cycling Tips and put together by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

Their three-day adventure was custom-designed by us to showcase the area’s full spectrum of riding, from adrenaline-pumping mountain bike trails to long, road slogs and the gentler delights of the Little River Rail Trail.

The route:
Day one: Christchurch to Little River, over the Port Hills via Rapaki Track and Gebbies Pass and then onto the Little River Rail Trail. 65km. 760m climbing.
Day two: Little River to Akaroa via Okuti Valley and Wainu. 42km. 1220m climbing.
Day three: Akaroa to Christchurch via Summit Road, Pigeon Bay and Diamond Harbour. 93km. 2800m climbing.

So what did the boys think?
“A quick cruise through Christchurch on morning one to get some supplies and Dan soon had us sweating and trying to find our climbing legs as we ascended the steep dirt roads of Rapaki Track for the first glimpse and photo stop at the top looking down into Littleton Harbour. Being newcomers to New Zealand the sound that would become familiar of sheep baaing had us giggling early on and the contours of the Port Hills were both scenic and a nice way for the ride to begin.

Day one route met up with the Little River Rail Trail through to Little River where a stop at the pub and then roll into town and check-in to the cosy silo accommodation (SiloStay) was unique.

A relaxed start to day two after Dan used his English roots to guide us through the best of Kiwi beers the night previous. It was straight into the hills on day two and although the day’s ride was short on kilometres it was packed with views that had the eyes darting from side to side and once again photo stops were aplenty. Descending into Wainui tested the off-road downhill bike handling skills and the cruise around the bay in the sun punctuated by the odd short sharp climb and ending with fish and chips in the picturesque Akaroa was just about the perfect day out.

Much talk had been of the day three route due to both the additional kilometres, climbing and promised scenery and so it was with some nervousness and dusty heads that we rolled out of Akaroa and again the triple chain ring was sought out early. Once at the top of the hills out of Akaroa the following hour or so was as good as riding could get. Views to the north and south were equally appealing. A fast and at times technical descent had us in Pigeon Bay and awaiting the longest climb of the day on the dirt roads. Ben’s fall into the grass was a sign of the nerves and difference between road biking and skills needed for the loose gravel. While the climb was taken slowly it was perhaps the most enjoyable section of the three days and an exciting drop down to Port Levy saw the end of the off-road sections. David lifted the pace down to and around Diamond Harbour just to make the Dyers Pass climb out of Governor’s Bay hurt that little bit extra.

The ride ended with a nice run back into Christchurch and Dan and the Natural High team had more than delivered on an awesome long weekend of riding and sightseeing.”
Ben and David.

Fancy cycling the Banks Peninsula? We offer guided, self-guided and custom tours of the Little River Rail Trail and surrounding countryside. Daily luggage transfer can be arranged for lightweight touring! For more details or to book a tour, get in touch.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. This article appears in the latest edition of Licence to Ride. Pick up a copy when you visit us in our Auckland or Christchurch branches.

Adventure Awaits in the Abel Tasman

Adventure Awaits in the Abel TasmanWith its clear blue waters and golden beaches there’s a hint of the Carribean about the Abel Tasman National Park. Located at the very top of the South Island, the park enjoys a mild climate and lots of sunshine – making it a great place to visit all year round. Here are a few of its highlights…

The Abel Tasman Coast Track
One of DOC’s Great Walks, this is a 51km, three to five day walk along empty beaches, sandy estuaries and sheltered coves. There are various huts and campsites to stay at along the way (must be pre-booked with DOC in advance.)

Sea kayaking
Sea kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the coastline of the park. If you fancy cruising the waters, we offer a number of guided tours including a one day kayak and walking tour, a two-day kayak and catered camping tour and a three-day kayak and catered camping tour. Think: leisurely paddling, stunning scenery, up close and personal encounters with the local wildlife and all your meals taken care of.

Totaranui Campground
This gem of a campsite is located right next to a beautiful beach in the north of the park, around two and a half hours drive from Nelson. It’s a great spot to swim, kayak, snorkel and fish and offers easy access to the Abel Tasman Coast Track and other walks. Advance bookings are a must in the middle of summer and you’re advised to phone and check availability before making the drive out.

Mountain biking
Until recently, mountain biking was prohibited in the park. However two tracks are now available:
1) Gibbs Hill Track is a combined walking and mountain bike track that links Wainui, Gibbs Hill and Totaranui campground. Mountain biking is only allowed from 1 May to 30 September. It’s a 23km, grade 3 circuit.
2) The Rameka Track starts from the Harwood’s Hole car park at Takaka Hill, one and a half hours drive west of Nelson, and ends in the town of Takaka. It throws up a great mix of single track, creek crossings and steep downhill descents, as well as spectacular views of Golden Bay and the Abel Tasman National Park. Riding one-way to Takaka is around 20km – you’ll either need to leave a second car at Takaka or be prepared for a 2-3 hour ride back to your starting point. It’s considered a grade two to three ride.

Abel Tasman is a great destination to head to with your campervan. If you fancy a spot of road tripping this summer, we’ve got a great range of campervans available for hire:

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt