The Ups (and Downs) of Family Cycling Holidays

Andy takes the kids on their very first family cycling holiday along the back roads of the South Island.

family cycling holidays in NZ
Get the whole family out and riding! New Zealand is a great destination for family cycling holidays.

It’s 4pm on Easter Tuesday, on a long, boring stretch of North Canterbury road. The end of holiday traffic is relentless and a slight head wind is blowing.

“Come on, sweetpea,” I cajole. “It’s only another 5km to the Huranui pub.”


My 8-year old daughter has, quite clearly, had enough.

“But it’s really, really close…30 more minutes of riding and then you can have a can of lemonade.” I pull out the oldest trick in the parenting handbook: bribery.

Earlier in the day, while relaxing in the warm waters of the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, the first family cycling holiday seemed to promise such fun.

Starting out from Hanmer Springs and finishing in Motunau Beach, the plan is to spend three leisurely days pedalling along the quiet roads of North Canterbury, a ride totalling 109km.

As a family we’ve completed day rides of 40km before, so confidence is high and the kids (ages 8 and 10) are excited about starting with a splash at the hot pools (their idea) and overnighting in local pubs along the way (my idea).

But as Kay (my wife) drives away to return to Christchurch, the first niggling doubts begin to creep in. I wonder if this is how Hillary and Tenzing felt when they set out to climb Everest?

Back on the open road, the bribery is working and pedal stroke by tiny pedal stroke, we beat the wind and make it to our first night’s accommodation. A good hearty meal is consumed with relish and then it’s early to bed to prepare for the next day.

Fuelled by plenty of sleep, and with the roads back to their usual quiet selves, the next two days offer fantastic riding. 700c wheels are great for smaller cyclists and the kids are riding with ease.

There’s plenty to see along the way…and plenty of treats from a stoked dad, who’s just happy that the kids’ first cycle tour hasn’t gone completely pear-shaped.

Family-friendly cycling in New Zealand

New Zealand offers plenty of great places to get the whole family out and riding. Here are a few of our top picks:

Hauraki Rail Trail
The first two stages of this trail (from Thames to Paeroa and Paeroa to Te Aroha) offer flat and very easy riding, along an old railway line.

Hawke’s Bay Trails
Several different rides available. The Water Ride is most suited to families, offering gentle riding and great ocean views.

Otago Central Rail Trail
A 1-5 day ride, through an ever-changing landscape. Kids will love the spectacular river gorges, tunnels and viaducts.

Clutha Gold Trail
Two days of riding along the mighty Clutha Mata-Au River. Four fascinating goldrush towns along the way offer interesting stories, great meals and accommodation options.

Little River Railtrail
Following the route of a 19th century railway, this is a combined walking and cycling track running from the edge of Christchurch city out into the beautiful, rural landscape of the Canterbury region. Riding from Christchurch to Little River is a journey of approximately 49km, but if little legs aren’t up to the full distance, you can choose to ride shorter sections of the route.

For more ideas, or to chat about the logistics of family cycling holidays in New Zealand, feel free to drop us a line. We’ve also got a great range of children’s bikes for hire, including tagalongs and trailers.