The Great Rides of New Zealand serve up the very best of Aotearoa including iconic landscapes, heritage sites, cultural attractions and cuisine. While the majority are multi-day journeys, most can readily be ridden as shorter trips to suit riders’ abilities, interests and itineraries. There really is something for everyone.
Spread throughout the country, the Great Rides of New Zealand range from short, easy sightseeing trips to more challenging adventures through the backcountry. Each has its own unique character and attractions, from wineries, galleries and family fun, to wild coastlines, ancient forest and geothermal wonders.
Each Great Ride is graded according to nationwide trail standards so you know what to expect. The grades range from 1 (easiest, such as a rail trail) to 5 (expert, such as rough singletrack with big climbs). Most Great Rides are graded 1–3, which means they’re suitable for beginners to intermediate riders.
All Great Rides are divided into sections, which might not be all the same grade across the whole trail. Each section’s grade, distance and approximate riding time are provided so you can choose the right ride and know what to expect when you get there.
Although many trails go cross-country or head into remote areas, accommodation and food are never far away. Most trails pass through towns and small settlements where cyclists are welcome and well catered for with a range of accommodation, cafes, restaurants and shops.
More remote trail sections often feature atmospheric accommodation such as farmstays, boutique lodges and rustic backcountry huts. There are also plenty of country cafes, wineries and breweries dotted along the trails – welcome stopping points for many riders, as you can imagine! The Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails website(opens in new window), and official trail websites list all these trail partners and more.
The Great Rides are well supported by bike hire and shuttles, along with tour companies offering everything from short, self-guided rides through to fully guided multi-day trips with everything taken care of including bag transfers. Some operators offer longer tours taking in several Great Rides with options to add in other popular activities such as hiking and kayaking.
Local bike hire, transport and tour operators know their trails well, so can help you choose the right ride and provide you with a suitable bike for the terrain.
Easy trails can be ridden on most types of bicycle, while a mountain bike is preferable for most Grade 3 rides and higher. Ebikes are readily available and suitable for most Great Rides.
Most Great Rides can be cycled all year round. Spring and autumn are fantastic alternatives to summer thanks to fewer riders on popular trails along with colourful foliage such as wildflowers and golden leaves. Some trails offer excellent winter riding due to free-draining terrain, crystal-clear air and snow-capped ranges – not to mention the seasonal delights of hot pools, roaring fires and comfort food.
A growing number of fun, family friendly annual events are held on the Great Rides. Check them out to see if you can time your visit to join in!
All Great Rides are clearly signposted with directional signage and kilometre markers. Maps are available in print and online, and the Great Rides App is a handy tool for tracking progress and enhancing your experience. Helpful locals – including bike hire staff, shuttle drivers and tour operators – will readily provide you with advice and directions.
You can ready more about staying safe on the Great Rides here.