Catch the Autumn Colours in Queenstown

Few places in New Zealand experience autumn colours like the Southern Lakes region – Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wanaka. Around April, the hills are ablaze with golden hues, providing picture-postcard views at every turn.

One way to immerse yourself in this stunning landscape is to cycle the Queenstown Trail. Linking Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley, this 120km network of trails offers everything from easy lakeside jaunts to more ambitious, long-distance treks. Here are three riding options.

Lake Hayes Circuit
An 8km loop around New Zealand’s most photographed lake. Experience stunning mountain and lake vistas as well as a peek at some of the area’s fanciest homes.

Arrow River Bridges Ride
16km of easy riding which zigzags across five bridges over the Arrow River, takes you alongside AJ Hackett’s Bungy, and meanders through the magnificent wine-growing region of Gibbston Valley. This ride begins in Arrowtown, which is widely regarded as the best place in the country to soak up the autumnal hues. (If you’re only travelling one-way, its better to start out from Arrowtown for a predominantly downhill ride.) The town also hosts a boisterous Autumn Festival at the end of April (running from 20 to 25 April in 2017).

Lake Wakatipu Ride
Incredible views and easy-going riding are the features of this 15km trail around Lake Wakatipu. Numerous cafes and restaurants offer refuelling options along the way.

If an all-inclusive guided tour of this region is more to your liking, check out our 6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023), or our 6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle, both of which offer autumn 2018 departure dates.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Image: The Remarkables. Mike Hermary


Have You Got What It Takes to Enter One of the Gems of New Zealand Adventure Racing?

spring challenge nzSpring Challenge is an all-women adventure race that’s been running in the South Island since 2007. Last year, 1350 women rafted, mountain biked and hiked their way around Golden Bay, with another 540 women taking part in a similar event on the North Island.

One of those racing at Golden Bay was Natural High’s Cecileah, who was a last-minute injury replacement for a friend’s team. Despite her late call up and rainy conditions, Cecileah loved every minute of the event, especially the mountain bike section.

“The best part was the sense of achievement completing all the disciplines – rafting, mountain biking and running rogaine plus surprise canoe towards the end!”

Cecileah and her team took part in the six hour event. There’s also a three hour and nine hour event to choose from, depending on your ability level. Each team consists of three women, and the team stays together throughout the course.

This year, dates and locations for Spring Challenge are:
South Island: Geraldine, 29 September – 1 October 2017.
North Island: Auckland region, 13 October -15 October 2017.

Both the South and North Island Challenges involve elements of mountain biking, hiking, rafting and navigation.

Based on her experience, Cecileah recommends plenty of strength and endurance training, as well as map reading skills and rogaining. Her teammates also booked some mountain bike skills training with Natural High, which helped improve their confidence and riding ability.

Entries for this year’s Spring Challenge open at 7am on Saturday 1 April and book out fast, so if you want to get involved make sure you’re poised over your keyboard bright and early. You’ll find full entry details on the website: springchallenge.co.nz.

You will need a mountain bike to compete in this event. If you’re travelling from overseas or another part of New Zealand, we have top-quality models available to hire. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island, so if you’re not a confident rider or would like to improve your riding technique and gain an edge on the competition, get in touch today.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Cecileah and her teammates on the finish line of the 2016 Spring Challenge.


Cycle Touring Just Got Easier…E-bike Hire Now Available

If you’ve always wanted to join one of our cycle tours but have been daunted by the daily distances, or worried that you won’t be able to keep up, we may have a solution…

We’ve recently introduced a range of pedal-assist electric bikes to our hire fleet. Because the engine only kicks into life when you’re pedalling, they handle just like a regular bike while giving you extra power to tackle hills, headwinds and longer distances.

The benefits of riding an e-bike:

  • Makes hills easier to climb
  • Helps you combat the slowing effects of headwinds
  • Enables you to cover greater distances with less fatigue, and keep up with fitter riding companions

We’re currently offering two e-bike models:

Avanti Montari E
The perfect trail bike. A light alloy frame coupled with Shimano’s STEPS electric motor will have you covering more ground with ease.

Avanti Discovery Low E
A commuter/town bike ideal for city touring. This bike features a soft seat, upright riding position and Shimano STEPS electronic assist.

At present, we only have a limited number of these bikes available – and they’re already proving popular – so availability is on a first come, first served basis. If you’re mulling over booking a cycle tour and think you’d like to include e-bike hire, please let us know as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Send us an email today with your requirements. We’re also taking bookings and requests for e-bike hire for summer 17/18.
Have a great week,

Steve


Port Hills Update + Multiple Riding Options Around Christchurch

port-hills updateDue to a recent spate of bush fires, many of the mountain bike tracks in Christchurch’s Port Hills are currently closed to cyclists and walkers. The new Adventure Park, which opened in December 2016, is also closed until further notice.

If you’re planning a trip to Christchurch to sample the trails and hills, fear not, there are plenty of other great riding spots to choose from.

Within Christchurch itself, you have a number of options, including Bottle Lake Forest Park, 10km north-east of Christchurch. This 1000-hectare pine forest offers eight tracks and mainly flat terrain, making it a great spot for families and less-experienced riders. Alternatively, head to the Waimakariri River Regional Park and McLeans Forest, where 36km of tracks for all ability levels await.

Fancy heading further afield? Located only an hour from the outskirts of Christchurch, the Craigieburn Forest Park is home to some of the best purpose-built singletrack in New Zealand. Mainly a mix of grade 3 to 5 tracks, these can be ridden independently, or linked with others to create a full day of challenging riding.

Hanmer Springs is a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, and offers a good range of singletrack for all abilities in and around the Hanmer Forest. Another popular ride in this area is Jacks and Jollies Loop, a 25km ride that starts in Hanmer Springs Village. The route circles Mt Isobel, passing through Jacks Pass and following the Clarence River, before entering Jollies Pass and returning to Hanmer Springs Village.

Poulter Valley in Arthur’s Pass is a 27km grade 3 route that follows a 4WD track alongside the Poulter River. The trip offers bikers great scenery, some tricky terrain, and a hut for an overnight stay.

We can help kit you out with bike hire for all these destinations. Find your ideal off-road companion on our website.

Have a great week,

Steve

P.S. You can keep updated with the status of tracks in the Port Hills on the Christchurch City Council website.


5 Reasons To Visit The Catlins

self-guided catlins cycle tourNestled between Dunedin and Invercargill at the very bottom of the South Island, the Catlins is a remote and beautiful region, filled with forests, bays and scenic reserves. Here are five reasons to pay it a visit.

Nugget Point
This dramatic spot is home to one of New Zealand’s most spectacular old lighthouses, built in 1869. Fur seals bask on the rocks, alongside Hooker’s sea lions and elephant seals (the only place on the New Zealand mainland where these species co-exist). Visit just before sunset, and pay a visit to the hide at Roaring Bay, where you can watch yellow-eyed penguins coming ashore.

Wonderful waterfalls
The cascading, multi-tiered Purakaunui Falls are said to be among the most-photographed in New Zealand, and can be easily reached via a short bush walk. Other falls worth a look include Mclean Falls, in Catlins Conservation Park, and Matai Falls, 18km south of Owaka.

Secluded beaches
Isolated, rugged beaches are dotted all over the Catlins. Curio Bay is famous for its “petrified” or fossil forest, which is 160 million years old. This is also a good spot to watch yellow eyed penguins coming ashore after a day at sea. From Curio Bay, take a short walk to Porpoise Bay, where you might catch a glimpse of the endangered Hector’s dolphins playing in the surf during summer months.

Quirky attractions
There’s some eccentric folk living in the Catlins. Like Blair Somerville, the owner of The Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowhai. This interactive art gallery, filled with “self-wound automata and things that go whirr” attracts a steady stream of international visitors every summer, and has even beaten Te Papa to the title of Best Museum and Gallery in the Rankers travel awards for the last three years. Another attraction worth a look is Owaka’s Teapot Land, run by Graham Renwick. His collection of more than 1000 teapots, can be visited for free.

Challenging riding
Remote settlements, big distances and even bigger hills – riding the Catlins is for fit, experienced riders only. The main route through the Catlins (called the Southern Scenic Highway) is now sealed, but many side roads are windy, gravel affairs. Cycle tourists will need to carry their own food and water as the distances between towns are large, and will need basic bike maintenance skills.

Want to experience this pristine wilderness for yourself? Take a look at our 6 Day Self Guided Catlins Coast Tour. This tour includes rental of a Specialized Hardrock 29er or Specialized Pitch 650b mountain bike fitted with pannier rear rack, rear panniers, cycle helmet, basic bike computer, and full repair gear. You’ll also receive detailed map and route information and accommodation suggestions. Get in touch today to book.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Nugget Point.


Discover The Bike Station Nelson

the bike station nelsonCecileah, the kids and I spent Waitangi Weekend in Nelson. While we were there, we met up with Brendon and Rochelle Mathews, who’ve recently opened a new bike shop in the city centre.

The Bike Station is a bike shop with a difference – as well as stocking a wide range of bikes and gear, and offering daily bike servicing and repairs, they also serve excellent coffee and food. There’s a big table to sit around, heaps of biking magazines and a relaxed, friendly vibe. It’s a fantastic spot to revive flagging energy levels, meet fellow cyclists, and pick up some local knowledge.

Biking is becoming increasingly popular in and around Nelson, and with good reason. Boasting a warm, sunny climate, good beaches, and some of the finest national parks in the country – Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman – the region lends itself to adventures on two wheels. The area is also home to two of New Zealand’s Great Rides:

The Great Taste Trail
Serving up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views, and a seemingly limitless supply of cafes, breweries and vineyards, this 174km loop meanders through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region. Mainly flat riding makes it a good choice for families and less experienced cyclists. Like all Great Rides you can tackle the entire route over several days, or pick and choose sections to ride as a leisurely half or full day adventure.

The Dun Mountain Trail
This one-day mountain bike trail follows the route of New Zealand’s first railway line to the summit of Dun Mountain, before descending back down to Nelson. With a starting point just a short ride from the city centre, it’s one of New Zealand’s most accessible back country rides. Completing the full loop involves a technical downhill over loose, rocky terrain, so it’s best suited to fit and experienced mountain bikers.

We’re now partnering with The Bike Station to offer a depot for people to start or finish bike hire with Natural High in the Nelson region. So, if you’re keen to discover the sights (and tastes) of this vibrant area drop us an email, and together with The Bike Station team, we’ll get you sorted.

You’ll find The Bike Station at 54 Vanguard Street, Nelson. Opening hours are 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm on Saturdays, and 10am – 3pm on Sundays.

Have a great week,
Steve


Ride the Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Ride the Twin Coast Cycle TrailA subtropical climate, miles of captivating coastline, and a fascinating history make Northland a great, all-year-round holiday destination. And now there’s yet another reason to visit: the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s northern-most Great Ride – the Twin Coast Cycle Trail – is officially open for business.

Running from the beautiful Bay of Islands on the east coast, to peaceful Hokianga Harbour on the west, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail offers riders the chance to pedal right across the width of New Zealand. Along the way, take in lake, river, bush and farmland views, the delights of small towns like Kawakawa and Kaikohe, and significant cultural sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihi.

Mostly following disused railway trails, the route is flat and easy to ride. (The stretch from Okaihau and ending at Mangungu Mission is the most demanding). Like all Great Rides, you have the option of riding the entire 84km length, or splitting the route into shorter half or day rides.

Trail Highlights

Packed full of stunning coastal scenery, the Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s must-see spots. It’s also an area of enormous historical significance. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and first signed by 46 Maori chiefs in 1840. Take a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihi, to learn all about this significant event.

The Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa are definitely worth a pit stop. The quirky structure features curved shapes and brightly coloured ceramic tiles and bottles.

Near Horeke, you’ll get to cycle a 1.25km boardwalk, the longest boardwalk built on any trail in New Zealand.

As you make your way along the trail, keep an eye out for the distinct poupou carvings. Hand-crafted by local iwi, these recall the history and stories of the area, and are used as trail markers.

Beautiful Hokianga Harbour is a quiet and peaceful spot today, but it used to be one of the busiest and most populous parts of New Zealand. Even before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, its shores were being milled by timber men working from up to 20 ships at a time.

Fancy riding the Twin Coast Cycle Trail? We can supply you with bike hire. Send us an email if you’d like to start planning a trip.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Although the Twin Coast Cycle Trail is officially open there are currently two short temporary detours – one on Ngapipito Road between Moerewa and Kaikohe, and another on Horeke Road. The detours require cyclists to ride on the road for about 500m before re-joining the formed trail. Check the official trail website for updates.

P.P.S. Talking of Waitangi…New Zealand is celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi this coming Monday (6 February), which means both our Auckland and Christchurch branches will be closed.


Small City New Zealand: Dunedin

yellow-eyed-penguin in dunedinOften referred to as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. With miles of rugged coastline on its doorstep, and an impressive wildlife population, it’s a city well worth checking out. Here are a few of its highlights.

Wildlife
The Otago Peninsula, which stretches along the southern edge of the Otago Harbour is home to New Zealand fur seals and sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world. Visit the observatory at the Royal Albatross Centre to view parents returning from sea to feed their chicks, or watch the yellow-eyed penguins go about their business at Penguin Place (the best viewing time is dusk, when the penguins return to their burrows from the sea).

Heritage
During the gold-rush days, Dunedin was New Zealand’s biggest city. The wealth and prosperity of that era is reflected in the city’s buildings and beautiful examples of Victorian architecture are dotted all over the city. You’ll likely recognise the Dunedin Railway Station – it’s the most photographed building in the country. Other fine examples include Dunedin Prison, the Old National Bank Building and Speight’s Brewery, where you can take a tour of the stills and sample some of their offerings.

Dunedin Street Art Trail
Experience 25+ pieces of artwork by local and international artists nestled between alleyways and showcased alongside historic buildings. A great way to discover some of the lesser-known parts of the city. Pick up a map from the Dunedin i-Site.

Baldwin Street
Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world, this makes for a short but strenuous outing!

Hit the beach
Dunedin has numerous beaches scattered along its coastline and around the Otago Harbour. Overlooked by popular cafes and bars, St Clair Beach is a popular hang-out spot and home to New Zealand’s most consistent surf break. At the southern end, you’ll find the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, an open-air public swimming pool nestled within rocks just metres from the ocean. For a more rugged experience, seek out Tunnel Beach, where a magnificent sandstone sea arch and man-made tunnel leads to a secluded beach surrounded by fossil filled cliffs.

Several of our cycle tours take in Dunedin, including the 6 day Self-Guided Catlins Coast Tour, the 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Dunedin (guided) and the new Twin Trails Tour, which incorporates the Alps 2 Ocean and Otago Rail Trail. Get in touch if you’d like info on any of these tours.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Yellow-eyed penguin by Brian Ralphs.


Top Ten Highlights of the Twin Trails Tour (Alps 2 Ocean Trail + Otago Rail Trail)

Lake Pukaki on the Twin Trails Tour: Alps 2 Ocean Trail + Otago Rail TrailIncorporating two of New Zealand’s best trails, the Alps 2 Ocean and Otago Rail Trail, our new Twin Trails Tour provides a stunning snapshot of some of the South Island’s most magical scenery, history and culture. Here are ten of the highlights…

Study the clear night skies in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park sits in New Zealand’s only International Dark Sky Reserve. If you’re used to city living, we guarantee your first glimpse of these sparkling night skies will blow you away!

Admire the deep blue waters of Lake Pukaki
Your Alps 2 Ocean adventure begins with a scenic helicopter flight across this stunning lake (used as the location for Laketown in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) to the start of the trail.

Glide over the Southern Alps at Omarama
Clear, empty skies and accommodating updrafts make the little town of Omarama one of the world’s best locations for gliding. Take a guided flight to experience the views for yourself, or watch all the action from the ground. Omarama is also home to some wonderful hot pools.

Check out the world’s smallest penguin at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony
Oamaru’s tiny Blue Penguin colony nests close to town under the cliff along the historic harbour foreshore. During the day the penguins are out at sea, or hiding in their nesting burrows. But pop along in the evening and you’ll see them swim ashore right in front of you.

Explore the fascinating town of Oamaru
Take a stroll around the Victorian Precinct where beautiful limestone buildings house a mixture of galleries, shops, traditional crafts and food and drink outlets. Sample some locally-distilled whisky, and discover why the town is known as the Steampunk capital of New Zealand.

Strike a pose at the Moeraki Boulders
These huge, spherical boulders weigh several tonnes and are up to two metres high. Maori legend believes that the boulders are gourds washed ashore from a voyaging canoe, while scientists say the formations are made out of calcite and were formed 65 million years ago. Whichever story you believe, the boulders make for a great photo opportunity.

Step aboard the Taieri Gorge Railway
This scenic railway journey provides a relaxing introduction to the second cycle trail of your trip: the Otago Rail Trail.

Discover the goldrush history of the Central Otago region
As you pedal the Otago Rail Trail, you’ll encounter all manner of reminders of this era including long, dark tunnels, trestle and stone bridges, abandoned gold diggings, old stone and mudbrick dwellings and preserved gold-mining settlements.

Try your hand at curling
One of our evening activities is a stop at Naseby’s indoor curling rink. This traditional Scottish game is easy to learn and a lot of fun!

Finish your amazing adventure in Queenstown
Home to bungy jumping, jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing, canyoning and paragliding! If you’ve already had your fill of adrenaline, there are shops, restaurants, cafes and bars galore.

Fancy experiencing the Twin Trails Tour for yourself? We’re now taking bookings for April 2017 – get in touch today to secure your spot.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. This tour is a fully-supported, all-inclusive tour that’s suitable for riders of all abilities. You’ll be accompanied at all times by an experienced guide and support vehicle and have all your accommodation and most meals taken care of. Plus you’ll be able to ride without luggage, since this will be transferred daily to your next overnight stop. To download an itinerary, please see the Twin Trails tour page.


3 Under-the-Radar NZ MTB Parks

3 Under-the-Radar NZ MTB ParksGood news for mountain bike fans – the new Christchurch Adventure Park is now open. Featuring the largest number of lift accessed trails in the Southern Hemisphere, this is an epic park for all skills levels and abilities.

Even if you’re not a biker, it’s still a spot worth checking out. A walking track to the top of the park offers stunning views across the city and Southern Alps, or you can race through the valley on a zipline tour.

New Zealand is fast becoming a top mountain bike destination. You’ve likely heard of spots like Rotorua, Queenstown, the Ruapehu region and Woodhill Forest in Auckland, but smaller parks are also constantly popping up all over New Zealand. Here are three, less well-known spots worth checking out.

Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park, Napier
60km of purpose-built cross-country, freeride and downhill trails, plus over 55km of quiet forestry roads located in the beautiful Pan Pac ‘Tangoio’ Forest. There are options for all levels of ability, from total beginners to experienced, expert riders. You’ll find the park a ten minute drive north from Napier. Be aware that it is a working forest and some sections may be closed due to logging or pest control. Check the website before you head out:
hawkesbaymtb.co.nz/parks/eskdale/

Ocean Trails – Te Ara Kakariki, Raglan
Opened just before Christmas, these short, flowing trails run though pine forest overlooking the ocean. Suitable for all abilities, they offer a great spot for beginners to get a feel for mountain biking. You’ll find the track entrance at the end of Riria Kereopa Memorial Drive – there’s plenty of free parking. Pick up a map of the trails from The Cyclery Raglan in town for $2.

Makara Peak MTB Park, Wellington
It’s not often you find a network of singletrack trails in the heart of a large city. But Wellington’s Makara Peak MTB Park offers just that, delivering over 40km of tracks to suit riders from beginner to expert. Situated in 250 acres of native bush, the park is also an important conservation site and home to a variety of native plants and animals.
makarapeak.org/

Know of any other MTB gems? Send us an email and let us know your favourites.
Steve