Hey folks, my friend and I have about 7-10 days to do a bicycle trip on the South Island of New Zealand this January and are having trouble narrowing down where to go. We like the following three options, and are wondering if anyone has opinions on which would be best. We're bringing a tent and hoping to camp as much as possible. Also hoping to see some great mountain scenery, be on low volume roads or non-technical trails, and take it easy and enjoy the ride. Thanks for any help!
1. Christchurch to Queenstown via Lake Tekapo
2. Greymouth to Queenstown via the West Coast
3. Otago Central Rail Trail
Hey Laurel! I've done all 3 and personally I would go down the West Coast from Greymouth to Queenstown. I'd say it might be a rushed trip but it definitely will have the best views out of of those 3 choices! Also, if you need any recommendations for hiking around the Queenstown area feel free to ask, I was a Park Ranger while I was working there.
Plenty of climbs, plenty of warmshower hosts along the way! Have fun!
I think there's only one host on the West coast, in Hokitika (or there was the last time I looked. He comes highly recommended though!) Campgrounds were pretty expensive, most of the DoC ones are $13pp without drinking water, and private campgrounds $40+ for 2ppl.
I agree about the climbs though :)
Just finished the otago rail trail and it was good but having driven the West coast road I would opt for that for scenery. Little different than Mpls.
I've cycled twice in the south island now and my favourite stretch by far is Christchurch to Queenstown (particularly Tekapo to Wanaka - stunning). You can follow quiet roads until Geraldine, then there's a nasty-ish narrow road to Fairlie, then a climb over a pass to Lake Tekapo. From there a gravel road/bike trail to Lake Pukaki. If you have time and the weather is clear, riding up to Mount Cook is spectacular. If you don't have long but the weather is clear, ride up 20kms or so to the first lookout then back again. It's magical on a clear day. To Queenstown is then probably three days including Lindis Pass (good mountain scenery, fairly gradual climb) and if you want a decent hill challenge, Wanaka to Queenstown via crown range road is a shorter and quieter route than via Cromwell but is an alpine pass road (though it's not so steep on the Wanaka side as the Qtown side).
We just rode the West coast and I was a bit disappointed to be honest. We had low cloud most of the time (I think this is quite typical there) so had hardly any good views. It rains a lot on that side. You are in the trees a lot of the time, and hardly see the sea at all (though the ride from Westport to Greymouth is great coastal scenery).
The Otago Rail Trail is a good ride and nice to be away from the traffic, but is 3 days at most. You could do it in conjunction with the Alps to Ocean route, which also includes the ride from Tekapo to Pukaki. The rail trail scenery is nice but it doesn't change much.