While the New Zealand Cycle Trail may not stretch unbroken from subtropical Kaitaia to frigid Bluff as originally planned, it seems that cyclists will continue to be able to enjoy beautiful routes through some of the most stunning scenery the country has to offer for some time yet, thanks to government investment in six new projects to enhance and maintain the quality of the Trail.
The New Zealand government has put up $400,000 for the projects, half of which look to repair and maintain routes damaged by storms.
Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key said, “The Cycle Trail is a significant tourism asset and it is vital that individual trails are maintained to the highest possible standard so that riders continue to have a safe and enjoyable experience.” Key went on to say that the number of people enjoying the trail is growing, with an increase of approximately 28,000 riders in January compared to the same period last year. “The trails which saw the biggest increase in users over the month of January were the Hawkes Bay Trails up from 19,500 to approximately 26,000, the Waikato River Trail up from 3,300 to approximately 4,400 and Tasman’s Great Taste Trail up from 8,600 to approximately 9,600.”
Back in 2009, the New Zealand Cycle Trail was conceived as a grand cycleway running from one extremity of the nation to the other, intended to boost tourism and create a raft of jobs in a recession struck economy. It quickly became apparent however that both time and money could be better spent making a network of smaller routes around particularly picturesque areas, with the understanding that one day they may all join to create the cross-country cycling trail that was originally hoped for. In the meantime, avid cyclists will need to pick and choose or hop from trail to trail. If you’re having a little trouble deciding between the plethora of world-class cycling opportunities that the New Zealand Cycle Trail offers, allow me to suggest a route that will appeal to every cycling enthusiast, from long distance veterans to casual Sunday cyclists: Tasman’s Great Taste Trail.
Starting from Nelson Airport, this ride takes cyclists on along the beautiful Tasman Bay coast. Explore the scenic environs of Rabbit Island before taking a ferry across to the quaint little town of Mapua. Make sure to stop for lunch at one of the restaurants there - the settlement may be tiny but it’s home to some truly extraordinary cuisine; it would be a shame to miss it. From there it’s on to Motueka. Blessed with a thriving cafe culture and many wineries in close proximity, this is a town that you’ll want to spend a bit of time in.
When you manage to tear yourself away from Motueka, there’s only a little bit of coastal trail left before you head inland through the verdant fields and forests of the Tasman region. It’s not quite as flat over this stretch as the section along the coast, but this track isn’t too demanding. Rated easy / intermediate by The New Zealand Cycle Trail, a moderate level of fitness should see you through to the flatlands southwest of Nelson. From there it’s an easy glide through wine country - there are many vineyards and wineries in and around Richmond and Nelson, and the cellar door experience is certainly not one to be missed.
What then? Once you arrive back in Nelson the whole of the South Island lies open before you. A popular choice for many visitors is to pick up a Blenheim or Nelson motorhome rental and road trip down the length of the island - opting either for the unparalleled scenery of the West Coast or the gentle bays and charming cities of the east. And if you’re not done cycling, there are even more trails to be discovered further south. Why not team up with a fellow cyclist to take on the Cycle Trail together? Alternating the luxury of motorhome travel and the raw, life-changing experience of cycling through some of the most breathtaking vistas on Earth is a unique combination that really allows you to fully appreciate the majesty of your surroundings. How would you tackle The New Zealand Cycle Trail? Let us know in the comments!
Our NZ booking page has all the Hire options for your NZ campervan journey. If you fancy starting your trip in Christchurch and working your way up to the Nelson region or another location nearby, check out our Christchurch hire options. Greymouth and Queenstown are other pick up locations to consider for this trip.