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Striking turquoise glacier-fed lakes flanked by golden tussocks and ending at the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean - the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has all this and more. The longest continuous ride in New Zealand and part of the Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail is a great way to explore the landscape of the Aoraki Mount Cook Mackenzie region.
The trail is perfect for the whole family with the benefit of being able to cycle sections if you’re unable to complete the 310km trail in its entirety. Currently the trail offers both on and off-road riding, which means some sections require you to cycle on the main highway. The awe-inspiring scenery especially when cycling through the Mackenzie is well worth the peddling!
The starting point of the trail depends on whether you want to ride the full trail or just sections of the track.
Aoraki/Mt Cook to Braemar Station – easy, 32km, 46% of this section is on gravel roads with 33% on rough shingle.
Begin the short 5.3km ride out of Mt Cook. You’ll need to take a short helicopter flight with your bike across the Tasman River to the eastern side of Lake Pukaki. The helicopter ride is a highlight, with fantastic mountain scenery and glacial fed braided streams. If the helicopter ride isn’t for you then begin the track on the east side of Lake Pukaki at Tekapo B Power Station.
Braemar Station to Twizel – easy, 43km, 53% of this section is on gravel roads.
A stunning section of the trail and a starting point for many. Cycle on a country road taking in the outstanding views across the crystal blue waters of Lake Pukaki towards the Southern Alps. The views encapsulates the turquoise lake waters dwarfed by mountains are some of the most photographed in the region. Follow the entire length of the lake with continuous lake views to your right. On arrival at the end of the lake treat yourself to some pure king salmon from Mt Cook Alpine Salmon. After your salmon feast you’ll need to cross the State Highway before continuing on the trail across the Pukaki Flats. The golden tussocks cover this vast basin-like area surrounded by hills in the distance. The vista is spectacular and really sum up the tapestry of the Mackenzie region. Dismount your bike in Twizel for a well-deserved coffee break.
Twizel to Lake Ohau Lodge – easy, 38km, 72% of this section is on sealed roads.
This section of the trail follows several roads before crossing the canal bridge past Loch Cameron. Continue on the north side of the canal road for 18.4km until you reach Lake Ohau. From this point the track descends down to Ohau Weir. Enjoy cycling around the lake foreshore. The trail then meets up with the sealed Lake Ohau Road that you continue to follow until you reach Lake Ohau. Please note: There’s an alternate route for when the Ohau Wier is in flood. Keep an eye on the A2O website for details www.alps2ocean.com.
Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama – intermediate, 40km, 27% smooth shingle, 28% gravel road.
Begin at Ohau Lodge following the base of the mountain, looking out towards Benmore Range. The track is an easy ride until Freehold Creek where it narrows and begins to climb to 900m above sea level. After climbing be treated to an easy descent to Quailburn Road about 18.3km. Once at Quailburn Road a side trip to the Clay Cliffs is highly recommended. The 14km return side excursion is well worth it with spectacular views of large clay spires, protruding out of the ground and towering high into the skies. The first glimpses of these unique formations from the gates is dramatic and is definitely worthy of a photo or two. After the Clay Cliffs Quailburn Road meets the highway (35.6km) where the off-road trail runs beside the edge of the highway. This section of the Alps 2 Ocean finishes at Omarama.
Omarama to Otematata – easy, 24km, smooth shingle 51%, sealed road 49%.
Trail surfaces in this section combine smooth shingle and sealed roads as you ride down the Waitaki Valley heading east. The trail is off-road until you reach the top of Chain Hills, from there follow State Highway 83 until Pumpkin Point before arriving at Sailors Cutting, a popular destination for camping and water sports. Begin the climb up the Otematata Saddle with great views of Lake Aviemore before descending to Otematata.
Otematata to Kurow – easy, 44km, 99% sealed road.
99% of this section of the track is on sealed road. Rich in hydroelectric history with a collection of dams to see including Benmore, Aviemore and Waitaki. From Otematata ride 5.5km of steep trail up Lock Laird Road and then over the impressive Benmore dam. Follow Te Akatarawa Road along the length of Lake Aviemore to the Aviemore dam. It’s then back on the main road to Lake Waitaki viewing the Waitaki dam before finishing up in Kurow.
Kurow to Duntroon – easy, 23km, 100% sealed road.
Care needs to be taken on this part of the trail as you cycle State Highway 83. Cross the alluvial plains through the wine country of Kurow. There’s only a short climb on this section near the Māori rock art site before taking it easy on the downhill ride to Duntroon. Be sure to check out the Kurow Museum and Historic Kurow River Bridge on this section of the trail.
Duntroon to Oamaru – easy, 55km, 47% sealed road, 44% gravel road.
The trail moves away from the river system passing through the weathered limestone formations called Elephant Rocks. Be sure to have the camera at the ready as the limestone formations are a fantastic photo opportunity. Cycle the quiet country roads through to Weston. At this point the track joins the old railway line to Saleyards Road. Carry on the sealed cycleway until you reach the Oamaru Gardens. Cycle through the gardens passing the Aquatic Centre to Thames Street. Turn left onto Itchen Street and follow the historic trail to Oamaru Harbour and Friendly Bay, the end of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. When passing through Oamaru be sure to check out Steampunk HQ, the Victorian Precinct, the North Otago Museum and the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.
To find out more information on the Christchurch and Canterbury Region check out www.christchurchnz.com.