Switching from four wheels to two is something that everyone travelling around New Zealand should do at some point during their holiday if they can. Not only is a great way to work off some of the fantastic food and world class wines you’ll be eating and drinking, but it really does give you a different perspective on the country, and meandering along a trail, with the sound of native birdsong in your ears and the wind in your hair is a special feeling.
Cycling in New Zealand is an unforgettable experience; many of the roads are quiet and extremely easy to navigate (though it is worth remembering that during the summer months (November – February) they will be busier as its peak holiday season) and trails afford some of the country’s best scenery, weaving through some beautiful and remote parts of the Islands, with the trails breathing new life into old tracks, roads and disused railways that would otherwise fall into disrepair.
You don’t have to be super fit to ride the trails, and it’s not all off road mountain biking that takes you through some of the most challenging terrain New Zealand has to offer (though there is that option if you are a thrill seeker, or a more experienced cyclist!)
Rather, the network of cycling trails that zigzag across the North and South Islands of New Zealand offer tracks and routes to suit all levels of fitness, experience and enthusiasm! The routes are graded from 1-5 (1 being the most leisurely, such as the Hauraki Rail Trail and 5 recommended for serious cyclists like the Waikato River Trail) so it’s easy to decide what level of ride you want to tackle, and be reassured that you won’t face too many surprises!
Although New Zealand has been popular with cyclists for a long time it was back in February 1999 that an idea was formed to build a network of cycling trails that would weave across both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, allowing both tourists and locals alike to explore the country from two wheels, getting out into the countryside and experiencing the country in a different way, meeting locals, appreciating some absolutely breath-taking scenery and offering a healthy and enjoyable way to support the environment and local economies.
Backed by the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand and the NZ Government, the idea quickly became a working project and with a $50 million government investment and additional funding from local government and cycle trail trusts 23 Rides were established across the country with an ambitious goal to have them all open to riders by 2016. December saw the opening of the newest section of the trail, The Old Ghost Road on the west coast of the South Island.
The Great Rides are the Premier rides on the National Trail chosen as they showcase the very best of NZ iconic landscapes, heritage and culture but the network has also expanded to include other trails in addition to the 23 Greats’ so you really will be spoilt for choice!
Do have a look at the National Cycle trail website www.nzcycletrail.com where you’ll find lots of detailed information of each of the Great Rides, or track down a great book written by the Kennett Brothers – National New Zealand Cycle Trails, that’s an ideal read if you’re planning to undertake any of the rides during your holiday.
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