Cycling around the world is growing rapidly in popularity. It is no longer an activity only for lycra-clad fitness fanatics with shaved legs. We have a growing desire to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and if there happens to be some fitness benefits along the way - all the better.
Back in 2009 the New Zealand Government and the Green Party embarked on a project to build a network of cycle trails throughout the country that would not only provide a healthy and enjoyable way for Kiwis and international visitors to see the country, but also generate economic, social and environmental benefits for the communities that the trails pass through.
Fast forward to 2017 and Nga Haerenga (meaning the journey) - The New Zealand Cycle Trail is a reality. There are now 23 ‘Great Rides’ being established across the country. The Great Rides are the premier rides on the New Zealand Cycle Trail that showcase the very best of New Zealand’s landscape, environment, culture and heritage.
Has it achieved all of its objectives? We think the project has gone a long way to addressing each of its objectives. The trails are more regional pockets of great track rather than a network, but this was the plan - construct the inaugural Great Rides and then move onto the second tier of trails. Those communities that got behind the project with enthusiasm, are already reaping the benefits of attracting visitors to their region as well as having some great riding on their doorstep for themselves and their children.
There is a wonderful guide you can download here that summarises each trail for you, including how to get there, length of track, how long to allow to ride it and grade of trail.
We have jumped on board and have incorporated part of the West Coast Wilderness Trail into our Ultimate New Zealand / Ultimate South tour. In true West Coast style, you cycle through rainforest-cloaked valleys and alongside pristine rivers. And it's a relatively easy section of the trail.
The Otago Rail Trail offers cyclists the opportunity to traverse high country sheep stations, cycle through spectacular river gorges and tunnels and across historic viaducts.
The Alps 2 Ocean starts at the base of Aoraki/Mt Cook and descends to the coastal town of Oamaru. Cyclists get the opportunity to ride beside glacial-fed lakes and hydro dams and enjoy stunning vistas along the way.
See you out there!