Bicycle Tour of New Zealand South Island
Unspoiled New Zealand - glaciers, rainforests, lakes and snowy peaks; the Southern Alps tour takes you on a breathtaking loop through some of the world's finest scenery. New Zealand was one of the last places in the world to be settled by man and it still retains a rugged, incomparable pristine beauty. "The Lord of the Rings" was filmed here on the West Coast (or Te Wahi Pounamu to give it its Maori name) and is rightly recognized as a World Heritage Area.
The South Island is known for friendly Kiwi hospitality, excellent local cuisine and includes interesting history from the region's gold mining days. The vibrant towns of Wanaka and Queenstown- both on the shores of beautiful lakes with an alpine backdrop – make for a wonderful experience.
Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy the mix of mountain passes and easier coastal scenery, knowing that great food and a comfortable lodge is waiting each evening.
Watch a sheep dog demonstration on a real high country sheep station and experience New Zealand at a cyclist’s pace.
Our tour starts in New Zealand's second-largest city CHRISTCHURCH, (pop. 350,000); - New Zealand's cycling capital and gateway to the South Island. It is an attractive city with the river Avon winding its way through the centre bordered by weeping willows, and has an excellent botanical garden at Hagley Park.
Lose a day crossing the International Dateline
Upon arrival in Christchurch, you are met by a local representative of Goway Travel and transferred to your accommodation.
Your tour leader will hold a trip orientation meeting prior to lunch. Time will be set aside to fit you to your rental bike or unpack your own. We'll then take a short ride around Hagley Park to try the bikes, or, weather dependent, the Summit Road. LD
Accommodation: Chateau on the Park – 1 night
Christchurch - Arthur's Pass
Our minibus takes us through the suburbs and across the Canterbury Plains to the Torlesse Range and views of the Southern Alps which stretch for 450 kilometres along the spine of the South Island.
Porter's Pass to Arthur's Pass: 51 km
Springfield to Arthur’s Pass: 68 km
Serious cyclists may wish to tackle Porters Pass (929m) but for those that want an easier first day we unload the bikes at the top before descending into an alpine valley. The terrain is rolling as we pass Lakes Pearson, Grasmere and Sarah on our way to the Waimakariri River and the gentle climb through dense beech forest to Arthur's Pass National Park.
This afternoon you will have time to explore the superb high country setting of the Wilderness Lodge, with wonderful alpine views. You may have a chance to shear a sheep or watch the highly skilled sheep dogs at work on this working merino sheep station. BLD
Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge, Arthur’s Pass 1 night
Arthur's Pass - Hokitika
Wilderness Lodge to Jackson’s: 50 km
Wilderness Lodge to Kumara: 89 km
Arthur's Pass to Hokitika: 119 km
We ride through beech forest to Arthur’s Pass village and then climb to the top of the pass, dominated by Mt Rolleston (2270 m.) The descent through Otira Gorge is very spectacular and initially steep. From Jacksons (a quaint old pub) the terrain is gentle as we ride alongside the Taramakau River. Through stands of native forest, we reach Kumara (tavern) where you can decide to continue to cycle or to drive the last few miles to our lodging overlooking the beach.
Like most towns on the West Coast, Hokitika started as a mining town. Now it depends on tourism and is especially noted for jade or 'greenstone' jewelry. Greenstone (Pounamu) is collected from local river beds and can be seen worked in a shop factory. BLD
Accommodation: Beach Front Hotel – ocean view room 1 night
Hokitika - Franz Josef Glacier
Mt Hercules summit to Franz Josef 51km
Lake Ianthe to Franz Josef: 80 km
Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier: 135 km
Crossing the Hokitika River we head south through native bush of rimu and kahikatea (white pine). Our route takes us through an agricultural valley and forest. The country is rolling with one climb up Mt Hercules after the town of Harihari (nowhere near as daunting as the name suggests!) and a final flat run from Whataroa. Entering Westland National Park as we pass beautiful Lake Mapourika, we have superb views of snow-capped peaks. BLD
Accommodation: Punga Grove Motor Lodge – 2 nights
Franz Josef - Rest Day
Franz Josef is one of two similar small villages perched near the endpoints of glaciers that come down from the highest mountains of the Southern Alps (the highest peak in New Zealand is Mount Cook, now often called by its Maori name Aoraki, meaning 'cloud piercer' -- 3754 m or 12,316 ft) to the coastal rainforest. Franz Josef Glacier is named after the 19th century Austrian emperor because the area was surveyed in the 1860's by an Austrian geologist, Julius von Haast.
A walk up the glacier valley gives spectacular views of the terminal ice, while the Westland National Park Visitors Centres house a wealth of information. (Thirteen percent of N.Z. is national park.) Also highly recommended are ski- plane or helicopter flights over snowfields, forests and glaciers. Neighbouring Okarito Beach, site of Abel Tasman's landfall and once a thriving town, is a further option for those who want some more cycling. B
Franz Josef to Lake Moeraki
Bruce Bay to Lake Moeraki 43 km
Fox to Lake Moeraki 89 km
Franz Josef to Lake Moeraki 114 km
From Franz Josef to Fox Glacier is just 24 km, but includes three quite severe climbs (and descents); it is through beautiful native forest. The remaining terrain is very gently undulating. From Fox to Lake Paringa the road passes through lush rain forest of rimu and rata, flax filled swamps and past rugged hills. The many rivers become raging torrents after rain. With fine weather there will be superb views of Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps.
Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge was established in 1989 by owners Anne Saunders and biologist Gerry McSweeney to help protect the rainforest and to share this extraordinary natural lakeside setting with visitors.
Take a paddle in Canadian canoes on the lake which is stocked with trout. Or hike to Monro’s beach to spot fur seals and in season) penguins. There is also a complimentary daily guided program including glow-worm walks and giant eel feeding. BD
Accommodation: Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge – 1 night
Lake Moeraki - Makarora
Haast to Pleasant Flat 49 km
Lake Moeraki to Pleasant Flat 78 km
Lake Moeraki to Makarora 112 km
Just south of Lake Moeraki, Knights Point affords excellent views of the rugged coastline where seals can often be seen basking in the sun. From Haast we head inland, following the Haast River towards the snowcapped peaks. The road over Haast Pass was not begun until 1929 and it took 31 years to complete the link between Haast and Wanaka townships. We pass innumerable waterfalls and much bird life, notably keas, fantails and bellbirds. After lunch the stiff climb through the Gates of Haast is negotiated before the gentle descent to tiny, isolated Makarora.
Makarora is a base for hikers and the renowned Siberia Experience. BLD
Accommodation: Makarora Tourist Centre – 1 night
Makaroa - Wanaka
Makarora to Hawea 50 km
Makarora to Wanaka 66km
The country is now dramatically drier, dense bush giving way to open sheep paddocks. The road closely follows Lake Wanaka, crosses the Neck to Lake Hawea and then recrosses to Lake Wanaka. There are dramatic views of jagged, rocky mountains across the lake. Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National park and several winter ski regions. Those with energy to spare may like to hike up Mt Iron for more panoramic views or visit Rippon Vineyard for a more leisurely afternoon. B
Accommodation: Te Wanaka Lodge – 1 night
Wanaka - Queenstown
Wanaka to Cardrona Hotel 27 km
Wanaka to Queenstown via Crown Range 78 km
Our route today takes us up the Crown Range, over the Cardrona Road. We climb through tussocky hills past the historic Cardrona Hotel; on reaching the top there will be amazing views of The Remarkables mountain range and Queenstown. The adjacent Pisa Range (1963m) features New Zealand’s only Nordic ski-touring and snow-shoe trails.
We descend the exhilarating hairpin bends down to Arrowtown, an attractive, well-preserved gold-mining village with quaint old cottages and avenues of elms. An easy flat ride beneath Coronet Peak, a winter ski field, takes us to Arthur's Point where we cross the Shotover River on our way to Queenstown. Look out for jet boats speeding through the narrow gorge. Surrounded by mountain peaks (including the famous Remarkables), and set on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has much to offer. BLD
Accommodation: Copthorne Lakefront Hotel – 3 nights
Options today include a jet boat or rafting trip on the Kawarau or Shotover Rivers, the steamer "Earnslaw" to visit a high country sheep station across Lake Wakatipu, the gondola cableway, Skippers canyon, a flight to Milford Sound (fiord), and much more. Queenstown also has an excellent botanical garden and a very good shopping centre.
It is here that we must say farewell, a safe journey home and hope to see you again.
You may wish to leave the following accommodation listing with friends or family. B
At leisure. B
Fly Queenstown to Auckland
This morning is at leisure until we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Auckland.
Upon arrival in Auckland we can make our way to the hotel, adjacent to the airport. B
Accommodation: Airport Hotel 1 night
Depart Auckland for Hometown
This morning we transfer to the airport to connect with our flights home. B
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