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.

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.