Riding New Zealand’s tasteful cycle trails, Megan Gale enjoys some of the country’s best food, wine and hospitality experiences in the country.
Pop in and out of cellar doors or craft breweries. Spend a leisurely few hours enjoying fresh produce at a local market. Stop for a long lunch at a vineyard or take a coffee break at a ‘trailside’ café. Or end your day with a well-deserved dinner at an award-winning restaurant. Traversing the countryside, New Zealand’s Great Rides are a fantastic way to sample the local cuisine.
Friendly pubs, cafes with home baking, sun-ripened seasonal produce and wines (of course!) are among the Otago Central Rail Trail’s culinary highlights. Make sure to stop at Olivers in the town of Clyde. The restaurant’s executive chef Michael Coughlin creates incredible dishes that honour Central Otago’s produce, best washed down with a pinot noir from the region. If a cold craft beer is what the palate craves, the Victoria Store Brewery, which is tucked between Olivers Restaurant and the bar, is the best place to whet your whistle after a long day’s ride. Hidden from the world in the historic town of Ophir, Pitches Store is another unique experience that is not to be missed.
A short distance from Clyde and just over 10km from Alexandra (if you’re riding the Clutha Gold Trail), is renowned actor Sam Neill’s award-winning Two Paddocks Winery. The off-the-beaten-path boutique winery does a fine job of producing really good pinot noirs. Call in advance as their tasting room is open on a limited basis.
The Hawke’s Bay Trails take riders to a number of award winning vineyards. Elephant Hill, located on the wild Te Awanga coast, is home to an award-winning restaurant not to mention world-class wines. The Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market, held every Sunday at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Showgrounds, is a must visit to enjoy the region’s fresh produce and artisan products.
As the name suggests, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail is a great ride for foodies. Set along a sparkling coast and heading through picturesque countryside, it is dotted with vineyards, craft breweries, cafes and restaurants. A visit to the Cheese Shop at Ruby Bay will satisfy even the most discerning cheese lover. Nelson’s famous Pic’s Peanut Butter factory is another must-visit. The only place where hops are grown commercially in New Zealand, it is no surprise that craft beer is entrenched in Nelson-Tasman’s local culture. Boutique brewery, Hop Federation in Riwaka and the historic McCashin’s Brewery located in Rochdale Cider Factory in Stoke are among the local gems that are good pit stops on this trail.
Threading their way around the Wakatipu Basin, the Queenstown Trails are a food and wine paradise. For a taste of the grape, the Gibbston River Ride through the ‘Valley of Vines’ is a must. Experience the wine caves at Gibbston Valley Winery before stopping next door at Gibbston Valley Cheeses for hand-crafted cheese. The Peregrine building is an architectural stunner and another great tasting spot along with Waitiri Creek. The historic Arrowtown, which features on many of the circuits, is home to Saffron. A culinary gem, Saffron has been featured in Condé Nast Traveller’s ‘Top 100 Tables’ of the world’s most exciting restaurants. On the Lake Hayes Circuit, Walnut Cottage (for great coffee and home-cooked food) and Amisfield (a stunning winery restaurant) are popular stops.