Bike (and other) Adventures on New Zealand’s South Island
Make no mistake, there are very few cycle friendly paved roads on the West Coast of South Island. State highways are mountainous as glaciers dip to 300 feet above sea level. They are all single lane and narrow with no shoulders. Tourists unaccustomed to driving on the left side of the road add to the challenge.
But there are a few spectacular quiet road rides:
Hokitika to Hokitika Gorge: @ 90 km round trip. This is flat, even as the road nears the base of the Southern Alps. You earn new visions for what is green and blue as the sheep pasture gives way to rainforest and water upstream becomes thick with glacial milk.
Haast to Jacksons Bay: (@ 100 km round trip). Park at the Haast Visitor Center. The sealed road meanders along the coast with transitions between sand and rock. Seals and dolphins are abundant on Neal’s Beach. The Cray Pot in Jacksons Bay serves lunch of fresh caught seafood salad and local ginger beer.
I ended up renting mountain bikes and spent more time on the trail.
Nelson Bradley owns Hokitika Cycle and Sports in downtown Hokitika. An Avanti and Scott dealer, he is the go to shop on the West Coast.
Western Wilderness Trail (Greymouth to Ross): the best sections are Karamura to Hokitika. The trail is rated Grade 1 (easiest), but the climb is serious and includes tight, gravelly hairpin turns. Cowboys Paradise, near the top features great sandwiches and a new dormitory for bike campers. The ride down from Kokatahi to Kaniere is single track through pristine rainforest and along the edge of the cleanest stream you’ll ever know.
Wanaka seems to be a South Island hub for mountain biking with lake and riverside and cross country trails, along with challenging ridgelines and technical parks. Racer’s Edge rents decent Giant bikes. The terrain is endlessly variable as are the spectacular lake and mountain views. I took the track leaving the village along Lake Wanaka and followed the Clutha River. Spiny Forest is technical single track for only the most capable riders. Another more forgiving trail follows the lakefront to Glendu Bay.
In rain, Franz Josef offers alternative activities including kayaking and quad biking.
Waitoto River Safari; Wayne and Ruth take you to places inland with few traces of human imprint.