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britz campervan cycling new zealand

Top 10 New Zealand Cycling Trails

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How To Experience New Zealand By Bike

So you’ve got your New Zealand campervan rental booked and sorted for your big drive holiday; what next? One of the best things to do during a campervan holiday in New Zealand is to explore the many cycle trails all over the country. A New Zealand bike tour is the perfect way to immerse yourself in nature and cycle through areas you can only explore by bike. It really is one of the best ways to see the sights, deepen your experience of the countryside and explore New Zealand.

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There truly is a cycle trail for everyone in New Zealand, from beginners and riders that are a bit rusty, to experienced, adrenaline-seeking types. Regardless of your ability, riding the cycling trails in New Zealand is an excellent way to see the country's diverse landscape, from small towns to remote wilderness. Whether you’re after a cycling holiday in New Zealand, or just want to add a cycling experience to your campervan hire itinerary, check out our guide for the top 10 New Zealand cycling trails.

Is New Zealand good for cycling?

In New Zealand, it’s easy to hire a bicycle for short periods. This is useful for getting to the local shops, exploring the town or just spending a couple of hours enjoying the breeze on your face and the road on your heels. Alternatively, there are plenty of cycling tours throughout New Zealand to explore as part of a longer itinerary.

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1. New Plymouth Coastal Walkway - Taranaki

Ride time: 1-2 hours each way

Distance: 13 km one way, 26 km return

What to expect:

The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is an expansive promenade with dozens of design awards. Understandably this stands out as one of the most spectacular walkways in New Zealand and is still one of our personal favourites. A bucket list moment of the New Plymouth Cycle Way is crossing the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. Here, you can see the volcanic Mount Taranaki, which last erupted in 1854.

Journey from New Plymouth’s central shops, across the coast to the Taranaki Cycle Park. You’ll pass the interesting sculptures, views of the Tasman Sea, coffee carts, bike hires, and a skating rink.

2. Great Lake Walkway - Taupo

Ride time: 1-2 hours each way

Distance: 11 km one way, 22 km return

What to expect:

Begin your ride where Lake Taupo joins the Waikato River, and soak in the fantastic views of the great lake, cafes, and picnic areas. From Ferry Road, you’ll pass lakefront parks, reserves, and Hot Water Beach. The Great Lake Walkway is your chance to cycle in a relaxing environment, and there you can have a go at the Hole in One golf challenge or lay on the greens for a relaxing barbecue picnic.

The path is wide, which makes it great for riding socially alongside someone else, but bear in mind during peak holiday seasons, there are often many people out for lakeside strolls. So keep your eyes peeled and be prepared to give way to foot traffic.

3. The Dunes Trail - Opotiki

Ride time: 1.5-2 hours

Distance: 7 km one way, 14 km return

What to expect:

The Dunes Trail is a rolling gravel path over the sand dunes between Opotiki and Tirohanga. This trail is perfect for cycling, with the stunning surrounding views of the coast and mountains. Kick off from St John Street in Opotiki, cross the large Pakowhai ki Otutapuku Bridge and follow the trail into the dunes.

In the mood for a picnic? There are two great lookouts with tables and 360-degree views halfway throughout the ride. Once you reach the Tirohanga Beach Holiday Park, find the petrol station cafe for refreshments before you return the same way. Otherwise, you can continue down the trail for another beautiful 3.3 km.

Extra brownie points if you can spot White Island, New Zealand’s most active volcano, with its immense volcanic plume hanging above it.

4. Alexandra to Clyde Cycle Trail - Otago

Ride time: 2 - 4 hours

Distance: 27 km loop

What to expect:

One half of the Alexandra to Clyde Trail weaves through the trees beside the Clutha River to the historic village of Clyde. The other half follows a rail trail across wide-open quintessential New Zealand plains.

To ride toward Clyde from the centre of Alexandra, head down Tarbert Street to the historic bridge across Clutha. From the carpark below the bridge, ride underneath and turn right to get up onto the footpath. This path was built in 1998 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of European settlement in Otago.

After about 13km you will reach the historic, single-lane bridge across the mighty Clutha to the township of Clyde. This trail will take you through Clyde, past the museum, and through a mix of quiet streets and off-road paths to the Otago Rail Trail terminus.

5. Cambridge to Lake Karapiro Cycle Trail

Ride time: 30 - 60 minutes to Lake Karapiro, or 15-20 minutes to the velodrome

Distance: 8 km to Lake Karapiro, or 3.2 km to the velodrome Ride

What to expect:

A smooth path leads from Cambridge to Lake Karapiro Domain, where you can enjoy an ice cream and watch the rowing, or settle down for a picnic. In the other direction, a short ride will take you to a velodrome with a cafe and kid's bike park.

From Cambridge, decide between the lake, the velodrome, or both before you set off. A concrete path makes for a smooth ride and will lead you all the way to Lake Karapiro Domain, the national home of rowing. Beyond the domain, follow a big dipper that leads to a wooden boardwalk and skits the edge of the lake, providing incredible views of the rowers and scenery.

6. Taylor River Cycle Trail - Blenheim

Ride time: 1 - 3 hours return

Distance: 5 - 20 km return

What to expect:

From the centre of Blenheim, you can take this gentle meandering trail up the scenic Taylor River. Here you can choose your own adventure with several potential destinations, depending upon how long you’d like to ride (the farthest being the Taylor Dam Reserve).

You’ll pass Marlborough River’s Queen, a classic river steamer with a cafe and bar, and the Taylor Dam Reserve. This reserve has a small playground and picnic areas.Along the way, you’ll find the Wither Hills Mountain Bike Park, which has several great trails for keen riders. If you’d prefer the path less taken, that would be the way to go.

7. Motueka to Kaiteriteri Trail - Tasman

Ride time: 3 - 4 hours one way

Distance: 21 km one way

What to expect:

Motueka to Kaiteriteri is one of the country’s most idyllic cycle trails with its sandy beaches, great cafes, and brilliant mountain bike tracks. Kaiteriteri also has one of the most beautiful swimming beaches in New Zealand, so remember to pack your swimmers. From the centre of Motueka, head to Motueka Quay and then take the path signposted as the Great Taste Trail.

You’ll see the small town of Riwaka and its many tempting cafes, such as the Ginger Dynamite. Continue on the Great Taste market posts as they guide you through a reserve, orchard, and the coast before entering Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park.

Then it's 3 km of fun with the Easy Rider track, which leads straight to the small holiday village, Kaiteriteri. Here you’ll find a playground, general store, cafe, and the beach.

8. Little River Trail - Christchurch

Ride time: 2 - 3 hours

Distance: 21 km one way

What to expect:

This disused railway line has found new life as a cycling trail. Found between Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, the Little River Trail passes one of the most important bird habitats in the South Island.

Beginning at the historic Motukarara Railway Station, you’ll pass Lake Ellesmere to the coast at Birdlings Flat. If you like, you can take a 1 km detour to experience the raw Pacific Coastline, or continue to the centre of Little River. This is a quaint little village with a museum gallery, cafe, and more.

Bird watchers shouldn’t forget their binoculars. Up to 150 bird species have been spotted in Lake Ellesmere / Te Waihora.

9. Otago Central Rail Trail

Ride time: 2- 4 hours

Distance: 23 km

What to expect:

The Otago Central Rail Trail is the original Great Ride of New Zealand. A compacted gravel pathway allows for easy cycling. No steep hills on the trail make this trail perfect for beginners and families. If you don’t take your cycling too seriously, this trail could be the one for you.

The paths on the Otago Central Rail Trail are two-way, allowing you to ride socially alongside others. Just be sure to keep an eye out for other cyclists coming toward you! This ride is a family favourite and an exceptional way to explore this picturesque part of New Zealand’s landscape.

10. Bay of Islands Rail Trail - Opua to Kawakawa

Distance: 2 - 3 hours

Ride time: 7 km each way

What to expect:

A gentle outing from the marine at Opua along a historic railway line to Taumarere Station and back. You can also catch a vintage train a further 5 km into Kawakawa.

You can choose to start this ride from Opua or Kawakawa. The Bay of Islands Rail Trail will take you on a ride around the coast, through a tunnel, and over the longest curved railway bridge in the Southern Hemisphere.

Opua is a boaties heaven. As one of the oldest ports in the country, it was once bustling shipping farm products and coal to northern land but now is used by recreational boaties. Explore the shops and the popular cafe next to the marina. Paihia is the tourist heart of the Bay of Islands. You’ll find everything you need in this scenic beach town.

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The best Britz campervans for cycling trips

Britz customers can explore even more of New Zealand on their campervan adventure. All of our larger Britz campervan options are perfect for transporting bikes. These options include the Venturer, Venturer Plus, Discovery, Explorer, and Frontier. Please note, that due to maximum weight restrictions, e-bikes cannot be carried on our bike racks. Bike racks are available for hire from Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown branches.

If you decide to hire one of these campervans for your New Zealand cycling adventure, why not make the most of our Britz Bikes deal available from our Christchurch branch, or bring your own from home Choose from our general-purpose mountain bikes and comfort bikes, suitable for both road use and light trail conditions. All the essentials you need, from helmets to pumps, are included in one low per-day hire price. Your Britz bike will be securely transported on our customised bike racks that are fitted to the back of the vehicle upon hire.

Keen to book your New Zealand cycling holiday?

Cycling is one of the best ways to discover New Zealand. Ready to get out on the road for the New Zealand campervan holiday of a lifetime? Book your Britz campervan online, and then pick it up at the most convenient Britz branch.

For more New Zealand cycling inspiration, check out our guide, and be sure to keep an eye out for our epic campervan hire offers.