Three Places In New Zealand To Spot Penguins

penguin spotting in new zealandNew Zealand’s shores are regularly graced by three breeds of penguin: the Fiordland crested penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, and the little blue penguin. If you’d love to catch a glimpse of these memorable creatures, put the following three places on your itinerary:

Curio Bay, Catlins
A number of yellow-eyed penguins (also known as hoiho) nest in the area around Curio Bay, and can frequently be seen waddling in from the surf at the end of a long day. These are one of the rarest penguins in the world with an estimated total population in New Zealand of between 6000 and 7000. They are very timid birds, so if you are lucky enough to spot one, keep your distance. Curio Bay is also home to Hector’s dolphin, fur seals, and sea lions, as well as the fossilised remains of an ancient forest. The viewing platform overlooking the forest provides a good vantage point for wildlife watching.
Cycle options:  6 Day Self Guided Catlins Coast Tour. This tough tour will take you from Dunedin to Invercargill, via Bluff. Prefer guided? Our 7 Day Queenstown to Christchurch Road Cycle Tour includes a stop at Curio Bay.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula
Little blue penguins can be spotted right across New Zealand, but the largest mainland colony can be found in Flea Bay, on the Banks Peninsula. Due to the sensitive nature of these animals, only guided groups are taken into the breeding colony. Pohatu Penguins offers a variety of different tours. The best time for viewing is between the end of August to the end of December.

Cycle options: Our 3 Day Self Guided Banks Peninsula Cycle Tour gives you ample time to lock in a tour with Pohatu Penguins.

Munro Beach, near Lake Moeraki
The Fiordland crested penguin or tawaki, is one of the rarest of New Zealand’s mainland penguins and therefore much harder to spot. One option is to head to Munro Beach, near Lake Moeraki, 30 km north of Haast. A walking track leads from Lake Moeraki to the beach, and guided tours are conducted from the Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. Fiordland crested penguins can also be seen in Milford Sound and at Jackson Bay. The best time of year to see tawaki is during the breeding season from July to November, and they can sometimes be seen during the moulting season from mid-January to early March.

Cycle options: Several of our self-guided tours take in the west coast of the South Island, enabling you to schedule a stop at Munro Beach. Take a look at our 5 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown, 8 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown, or 10 Day Self Guided Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Christchurch.

Got questions about any of these tours? Don’t hesitate to send us an email.
Have a good week,

P.S. Both our Auckland and Christchurch branches will be closed over the Easter weekend. We’ll be away from 5pm on Thursday 29 March until 9am on Tuesday 3 April.

Ancient Forests Await On The Timber Trail

Ancient Forests Await On The Timber TrailOnce upon a time, over three-quarters of New Zealand was covered in forest. Today that number stands at less than a quarter. European settlement brought deforestation on a mass scale: Huge tracts of forest were cleared for farming and houses, and timber exports became a major industry for the country.

By the 1970’s, the environmental movement had begun to take action. In Pureora Forest Park on the North Island, environmentalists climbed high into the canopy to protest against further logging. Eventually the government responded by preserving the remaining indigenous blocks.
Today, Pureora Forest Park is home to the Timber Trail – one of the 23 rides that make up Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail. To travel this route is to experience both sides of New Zealand’s timber heritage: ancient podocarp forests of soaring rimu, totara, miro, matai and kahikatea; and a glimpse of the industry that nearly brought it all crashing down.
Stretching from Pureora Village in the north to Ongarue in the south, remnants of the region’s timber heritage feature frequently along the 85km trail. At Ongarue, the trail follows the contours of an old bush tramway, once used to haul felled trees to the sawmill. Winding through picturesque natural bush, the tramway passes numerous cuttings, embankments, stream crossings, cliff ledges and tumbledown huts. Particularly impressive is the Ongarue spiral, an engineering marvel made up of a lower-level bridge, a very deep cutting, a curved tunnel, and an over-bridge. 
New marvels constructed especially for the trail include eight suspension bridges, built to span the many streams and river gorges of this mountainous region. The Maramataha suspension bridge claims one of the longest (141 metre) and highest (45 metre) single-spans in the country. 
With reasonable fitness, the Timber Trail can be ridden in two days. It’s recommended that you set out from the northern end at Pureora Village and head south, since this will save a lot of arduous climbing. You’ll find two accommodation options at the half-way point of Piropiro Flats: a scenic DOC campsite, or the newly-built Black Fern Lodge. You can also choose to ride shorter sections of the trail, or venture deeper in the forest where numerous advanced mountain bike trails await.

If you fancy riding the Timber Trail, we can help organise bike hire. Check out options here, or send us an email.

Have a good week,

Get The Lowdown On Christchurch’s MTB Scene

Book in for a bike service at our Christchurch branch, and you’ll likely meet the Lloyd brothers. Jake and Toby hail from Tavistock in the UK and are currently in New Zealand on working holidays. We pinned them down for a quick chat to find out more about their biking backgrounds and get the lowdown on Christchurch’s MTB scene.

How long have you been biking for, and what initially sparked your interest?
Jake: I have been biking on and off for about 12 years. We had a skatepark and local woods near our home when growing up which we used to go to after school and at weekends. The rest they say is history!
Toby: I grew more of an interest in bikes and started riding trails around 2005. My family moved house and we were within riding distance to the local woods. This enabled me to ride at the weekend and sometimes after school growing my love for bikes and riding. 

What’s your favourite ride or trail?
Jake: I’m constantly finding new exciting and challenging trails here in New Zealand, a favourite would be Rad Sick trail at Victoria Park at Port Hills.
Toby: I haven’t ridden many trails while I’ve been in New Zealand and only a few that aren’t that well known in the UK. There are some good trails in a town called Tavistock near to where I lived in the UK, but here in New Zealand, I’ve found some good rides around Victoria Park and the Adventure Park also looks as though it has some great runs which I’m soon to check out. I’m more into downhill/freeriding, but I tried out a 27.5” which was more of an all mountain/enduro and thought it was awesome. Not only do they climb well, but they descend better than expected. 

Best spot for after-biking drinks?
Jake: Most of our biking is done after work and so we usually head home afterwards for dinner and a beer.
Toby: As I’m on my working holiday, I’m torn between trying to ride as much as possible, but also work and save up as much as I can. I’d usually drink at home with my housemates, but a place I like is Burgers & Beers Inc. It has a decent selection of burgers and of course, great beer. 

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
Jake: I really like to explore on foot, whether it be looking for new trails or hiking up the mountains. When I’m at home in the UK I play a lot of hockey.
Toby: If I’m not riding or working, I tend to either explore in and around Christchurch. But I also enjoy editing videos and clips of myself and friends riding. I quite enjoy the media side of things and putting a little sequence together for others to see. 

What’s your top tip for keeping your bike in perfect condition?
Jake: Regular maintenance.
Toby: My tip to keeping a healthy bike is to just keep on top of it. You can get a cheap bike or an expensive bike, but it’s best to keep it clean and maintained so there is less likely to be an issue out on the trail. Although, there is the chance you get things a bit wrong and you run out of talent while riding. 

Do you have any must-do rides or destinations?
Jake: From my experience, New Zealand as a whole is a must-do destination that I would highly recommend for any type of biking. Dyers Pass here in Christchurch is a climb to get ticked off the list!
Toby: I wouldn’t say I have any must-do rides or places to go, but I would say just enjoy yourself. Do what kind of riding you feel like and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. 

Check out a clip of Toby riding here.

And if you think your bike could benefit from a tune-up from an experienced bike mechanic, we offer servicing in both our Christchurch and Auckland branches. Send us an email, or give us a call on 03 982 2966 (Christchurch) or 09 257 4673 (Auckland).

Have a good week,

Images: Toby Lloyd

Guided Riding on the Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold Trail

Looking for a gentle introduction to bike touring? Then check out our newest tour offering: the 5 Day Otago and Clutha Cycle Trails.
This easy cruise through stunning Central Otago combines two popular trails: the Otago Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail. Both provide a fascinating insight into the history of this region, from early Maori moa hunters to the thrill of the gold rush, and European farming, railway and mining endeavours.
Scenic highlights along the way include mountain backdrops, cascading river gorges, and golden high-country. You’ll also have the option to experience viaducts, tunnels, abandoned gold diggings, and art deco buildings in pretty country towns.

In addition, this tour includes a trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin, a scenic jet boat transfer down the Roxburgh Gorge, and wine tasting at a Central Otago Winery.
Both trails are classed grade 1, meaning the route is mainly flat, with occasional small climbs. Much of the riding is off-road, making it a safe option for families. And the tour is fully-guided, so you won’t have to worry about accommodation, getting lost, or riding with heavy loads – luggage transfer is included!
With just one departure this summer – leaving 8 April 2018 – get in touch today to book.

Have a great week,

An Introduction To Bikepacking In New Zealand

bikepacking new zealandNew Zealand’s varied terrain lends itself well to bikepacking – essentially multi-day mountain biking with an emphasis on travelling light. Throughout the country, a comprehensive network of cycle trails, tracks and gravel roads make it easy to escape the traffic and soak up the scenery.
Any of the Great Rides of New Zealand make for an exciting bikepacking adventure. If you’re just finding your biking feet, try the Timber Trail in the Pureora Forest Park, which incorporates ancient forest, purpose-built trail and tramway, as well as some of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the country.
For those with more advanced riding skills, the St James Cycle Trail close to Hanmer carves a fun loop through North Canterbury high country. Various rocky sections and steep climbs keep the riding challenging, and there are options for longer or shorter routes.
Another great option for experienced riders is the Old Ghost Road in Buller. This tailor-made trail traverses some splendid scenery and throws in plenty of steep climbs, too. Frequent huts provide accommodation and shelter along the way.
Perhaps the ultimate bikepacking route though is the Tour Aotearoa, which weaves its way across the entire length of the country. Designed by New Zealand cycling historian and guidebook writer Jonathan Kennett, the route follows a combination of cycle trails, tracks, paths and quiet country roads from Cape Reinga all the way to Bluff. At a casual pace, expect to take three to five weeks to complete the full 3000 kilometres.

What bike?
You’ll want a tough, light bike with big tyres. We recommend either the Surly Ogre or the Surly Troll which we’ve just incorporated into our hire fleet. Both are good options for bikepacking, and can be set up with various luggage options to suit your needs. Get in touch for hire rates and options.

Have a great week,

P.S. Want to know more about luggage systems for bikepacking? Check out this post from our archives.

From Tip To Toe: Meet The Guys Riding The Length Of New Zealand For Charity

It’s 2270 kilometres from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, and British riders Chris I’Anson and Chris Brown are planning to ride every single one of them over the next few weeks.
Aided by friend Paul Smith, who’ll be driving their campervan, the pair are aiming to complete their mission in 19 days, cycling over 120 kms per day.
The goal? To see the country but also to raise funds and awareness for two charities: Claro Enterprises, a North Yorkshire non-profit that was set up by Chris Brown as a workshop for people with mental health problems; and Parkinson’s UK, in support of a friend.
The duo are no strangers to physical challenges: Chris Brown has climbed the seven summits of the world, completed the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, and cycled the length of the UK, while Chris I’Anson has been on mountaineering trips to Nepal, Tanzania and Peru, and completed a five day ultra marathon in Spain.
Despite their endurance credentials, the pair are not underestimating New Zealand’s hills. Their route calculations have shown a total of 22,246 metres of elevation gain over the course of their journey – 2.5 times the height of Everest from sea level – and their training has incorporated plenty of dedicated bike sessions in preparation.
It won’t all be hard slog, though. Chris I’Anson runs a feed business in Yorkshire which makes Speedi-Beet horse feed (sold throughout New Zealand), and he’s hoping to call into a few suppliers along the route!
Their journey starts from Cape Reinga on 29 January and, if all goes to plan, they’ll be rolling into Bluff on 16 February. The pair say they’d welcome company from any local riders along the way – check out their progress on their website here, or donate to their campaign here.

Have a great week,

P.S. Combined camper and bike hire is a great way to see New Zealand. Pick and choose sections of the New Zealand Cycle Trail, or simply use your bikes to get a more up-close perspective of a local area or town. Check out options here.

Image: L-R Chris Brown, Chris I’Anson and Paul Smith.

Raise A Glass To New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine Routes

New Zealand’s Best Bike-Friendly Wine RoutesFrom the volcanic, clay-rich soils of Auckland, to the sun-drenched valleys of Nelson and the cooler climes of North Canterbury, New Zealand’s wine growing regions extend right across the country. Here’s a selection of cycle routes that swing by some of the best cellar doors in the country.

Three-day, self-guided Waiheke Island Tour
Just a short hop from Auckland by ferry, Waiheke Island is a beguiling blend of rolling farmland, beautiful beaches, and award-winning vineyards. Tour notes come with a number of recommended cycle rides, ranging from a 50km slog to shorter, easier routes. With over 20 wineries calling Waiheke Island home, you won’t have to pedal far to quench your thirst.
The Wineries Ride, Hawke’s Bay Trails
Cycling expert Jonathan Kennett describes the Hawke’s Bay Trails as ‘the closest you can get to a European cycling holiday in N.Z.’ The 48km Wineries Ride offers smooth and mainly flat riding
through the wine growing areas of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and the Ngatarawa Triangle, with ample opportunities to sample award-winning vintages along the way.

6 Day Nelson Great Taste Cycle Trail
Meandering through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region, the Great Taste Trail dishes up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views, and a veritable smorgasbord of cafes, breweries and vineyards. This six day loop also incorporates a half day walk on the famous Abel Tasman track, and a sailing adventure through the Abel Tasman National Park on a catamaran.
Waipara Wine Tour
The Waipara Valley just outside Christchurch is fast establishing itself as one of the premium wine producing regions of New Zealand. This day tour offers relaxed, easy riding along an off-road cycle trail and quiet country roads, with leisurely stops for an antipasto lunch and wine tastings along the way. Pre-bookings essential.

Got a question about any of these routes? Don’t hesitate to send us an email.

Hope your first week of 2018 has been a good one!


Check Out The Latest Additions To Our Hire Fleet

Christmas came early at Natural High! Every year, we update our hire fleet in order to offer the most up-to-date models and we’ve been busy unwrapping the latest arrivals.
One new addition for summer 2017/18 is the Specialized Tarmac Sport. Featuring a carbon fibre frame, durable DT R460 wheels and crisp Shimano 105 shifting, this is a well equipped, great looking and top performing road bike.

We’ve also taken possession of the Avanti Giro AR Gravel Road Bike. With its light, alloy frame and rack mounts, this is a versatile bike that can be used for road touring and bikepacking, with some gravel riding.

Both these bikes are so new that we haven’t got them up on the website yet – send us an email if you’d like to lock in hire dates!
Looking to hire a mountain bike, children’s bike, or bike accessories like pannier bags or bike racks? We’ve got you covered. Our hire fleet includes high-end tourers, comfortable hybrids, super-tough mountain bikes, kid’s bikes and a full range of accessories including car racks, seat bags, panniers and bob trailers.
All our bikes receive a full service before hitting the road, and we’ll take the time to ensure a proper bike fit before you head off on your adventures. You’ll also be supplied with a lock, multi tool, tyre levers, spare tube and repair kit.
If you’re planning some summer cycling action, check out your hire options here. We have branches located at Auckland Airport and Christchurch, and we also offer pick-up and drop-off locations throughout both the North and South Islands.
Got questions about any of our bikes or accessories? Drop us an email and we’ll be delighted to help you out.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year  – we’ll be back with more cycling inspiration and ideas in 2018!

Steve, Cecileah and the Natural High team

Your Questions About Guided Cycle Touring Answered

Your Questions About Guided Cycle Touring AnsweredSummer has well and truly arrived in New Zealand and we’re already enjoying long, sunny days and balmy temperatures – perfect conditions for cycle touring. If you’re wondering whether to clip-in and join us this season, we’ve got answers!

How fit do I need to be?
You don’t have to be an avid, hard-core biker to join one of our guided tours. Each trip we offer is rated for overall difficulty, based on the daily distances and the terrain covered. Here’s an overview of the three levels:

1 – Easy. These 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. If you’ve never embarked on a cycle tour before, this grade provides a perfect starting point.
2 – Moderate. Moderate tours cover longer daily distances – around 50 to 80 km – with more hills. To undertake a moderate tour, you’ll ride once or twice a week at home and be comfortable tackling the occasional hill climb.
3 – Challenging. These tours can cover over 100 km a day, across rolling (and sometimes steep) terrain with repeated climbs. If you ride two to three times a week and enjoy pushing your limits, these tours are for you.

What happens if I need to take a break from the bike during the day?
A support vehicle will always be on hand to give you a rest from the saddle, or shuttle you up the steep bits.

Will I have to ride with my luggage?
No, we’ll ensure your bags are safely delivered to your hotel room. We also organise all food stops and refreshments along the way.

What will the weather be like?
All our guided tours run through the summer and autumn months, which offer the most settled weather. Rain is still a possibility, (so bring warm and waterproof clothing), but generally you’ll enjoy clear, sunny days and warm to hot temperatures.

What types of accommodation will I stay in?
Every night you’ll kick back and relax at carefully-selected, comfortable hotels. Where possible, we pick properties that provide a deeper insight into a region, or a more memorable experience, like a farmstay or historic settlement.

Is food included?
Most of your meals are included in the price of your tour. 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. Check the individual tour for exact meal details.

If you’re feeling newly-inspired to discover New Zealand by bike, you’ll find a full list of upcoming tours here. Whether you want to experience pristine alpine landscapes, brilliant blue lakes or rugged coastlines, we’re sure to have an adventure to suit.

Have a great week,

P.S. Got a question not covered here? Email us at

Cycle Touring On The Banks Peninsula: Gruelling Uphills Studded With Scenery

Cycle touring on the Banks PeninsulaStunning coastal views, quiet backroads, and plenty of big hills – Christchurch’s Banks Peninsula isn’t just a picturesque cycle destination, it’s a challenging one, too.

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 (we’ve given it a grade 4 difficult rating), but if you enjoy pushing your limits amidst spectacular scenery, read on!

The tour encompasses a mix of on and off-road riding, including twisting backroads, remote gravel tracks, and a disused rail trail. There are also opportunities to incorporate rugged single track.

Starting and finishing at the Natural High headquarters in Christchurch, the first day will see you careening through the Port Hills and along the Little River Rail Trail. Hugging the shoreline of the vast Te Waihora/ Lake Ellesmere, and it’s smaller twin Te Roto o Wairewa/Lake Forsyth, this trail offers relaxed, easy riding through one of the most diverse bird populations in the country. Keep your eyes peeled for shags, bitterns, black-backed gulls (karoro), shoverlers, pied stilts, wrybills and pukeko.

Day two takes you past charming bays with brilliant blue water, to the historic French and British settlement of Akaroa. Here you’ll find a thriving community of galleries, craft stores and cafes, and plenty of options for further outdoor adventure. Head to Flea Bay to admire the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand, or step aboard a sea cruise to explore sheer cliffs and sea caves not visible from land.

You’ve got four big climbs to contend with on your final day. Luckily, the route is peppered with picturesque views, giving you plenty of excuses to pull over and catch your breath!

This is a self-guided tour, which means you can ride at any time. Although we recommend three days, it’s also possible to incorporate extra riding, or spend longer at certain spots along the way.

Rental of a Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29er mountain bike fitted with pannier rear rack, rear rack bag, cycle helmet, basic bike computer, and full repair gear is included. You can also upgrade to an Avanti ARC1, and/or Garmin Edge 810 GPS computer, pre-loaded with day-to-day route navigation and offering live route tracking.

Your tour also includes detailed trip notes and accommodation suggestions.

Check out the tour map on the website, and if you have any questions, send us an email.

Have a great week,

P.S. Want to investigate some more tough touring options? Check out our 6 Day Self-Guided Catlins Coast tour, from Dunedin to Invercargill via Bluff. Running through one of New Zealand’s most isolated regions, this tour demands high levels of fitness and touring experience.