My Personal Favorite Lesser-Known New Zealand Cycling Routes

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We really are spoiled for choice in New Zealand when it comes to great places to cycle, but I have some personal lesser known favorites which I wanted to share with you.
Before I start, if you’re traveling to New Zealand for a cycling vacation then I recommend you bring good quality wind-proof clothing (which should also be rain proof) as it can get very windy, especially around the Wellington area and of course in the dizzy heights of various mountains.

Picton to Nelson

This isn’t a very famous route and maybe it was just a nice day when I tried it (had amazing weather and great company!) but I really did enjoy this ride.
You start at Picton in the South Island which is the town where the ferry arrives from Wellington in the North Island.

1. Head west out of Picton on Queen Charlotte Drive until you reach State Highway 6.
2. Turn right onto SH6 and keep riding up. I say up because it is very steep indeed but the views are lovely.
3. Make sure you stop at plenty of lookouts to enjoy the views. I certainly stopped a great deal but that is probably also because my level of fitness wasn’t that good.
4. You’ll pass by a small village (which I can’t remember the name of) which has very unusual mail boxes, all in different artistic designs.
5. Keep going and you’ll eventually arrive at Nelson which is a charming sea side city. The people seemed very friendly there and it has lots of great bars with live music.

New Zealand

Photo credit: Jeremy Vandel

Waipara to Maruia Springs

The route I’m talking about starts at Waipara, just north of Christchurch. You could start riding from Christchurch but I prefer to get a coach or a lift from a friend to Waipara.

1. From Waipara head north onto State Highway 7.
2. You’ll ride through a nice variety of scenery including forests and expansive views.
3. You can stop at the very popular Hanmer Springs but I sometimes prefer to pass by this place and continue onto the lesser known Maruia Springs. These springs are in the style of the Japanese Onsen (which means a hot spring) and is run by Japanese staff. The food there was amazing so I like to stay there overnight which allows me a drink or two.

You can then either turn back and ride back to Waipara or continue on to check out the Victoria Forest Park.

Maruia Springs

Photo credit: Jonathan

Rotorua Lake Loop

The city of Rotorua is in the North Island and a great place to learn about the Maori history and culture. Because it’s situated on highly seismic areas, it also has lots of volcanic hot spring spars. So it’s a great place to relax for a couple of days then ride on your bike from the city around Lake Rotorua. You can ride clockwise or counter clockwise around the lake, either is fine but I prefer to ride clockwise, starting at State Highway 5.

Rotorua is also a great place to learn about the Maori culture and their history. There are various shows where you can see traditional Maori dances and other performances. Plus they often have a Hangi which is a traditional Maori way of cooking food.

Lake Rotorua

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff

This guide was brought to you by Jack Harris who is working with Pedaltours.co.nz that runs fully guided bicycle vacations. Check Pedaltours.co.nz/new-zealand-cycle-tours to find out more details on where they ride and prices.

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