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Cycling South Island,New Zealand Late Jan 2014 to end of March

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Cycling South Island,New Zealand Late Jan 2014 to end of March

We are planning a tour in New Zealand next year. We have few plans sorted at the moment but fancy a slow tour staying the odd day if we like what we see and using back roads. We hope to meet up with a friend doing a faster tour over there at some point, and they will cycle with us for a little while until they get fed up of waiting for us. Interested in any thoughts from warm showers hosts over there and will be interested also in travel companions. We will be cycle camping and W/Sing and doing most of our own cooking to keep budgets low, having seen what the exchange rate to the pound is these days! Just started the planning so any ideas on where I can find a route,must do and do not do,weather etc. Average mileage is a hard one to quote, happy to do sixty miles at home but thoughts are that if there are things to see and places to visit whilst touring then why rush through.

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Tour of South Island 2014

Hi Tony and Catherine,
Great to hear that you intend to bike NZ. There is great riding here but I would recommend staying off Highway 1 as much as possible. We did a trip around the back roads of the South Island 2 years ago. You can find the journal of this trip on website and search under Redman. If you need any suggestions I may be able to help.
Sue Murray

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South Island

Thanks Sue. Crazy guy was most useful.

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There aren't many roads in

There aren't many roads in the South Island so often you don't get a choice.If you can try and take some of the quieter back roads as the highways tend to have a lot of heavy goods vehicles on them.The good news is that most main roads have a shoulder that is usually couple of meters wide.I would recommend fitting mirrors to your bike, plus bring plenty of sunblock and insect repellent for the dreaded sandflies.If you find yourself passing through Nelson drop me a line as I usually have a spare bed for warmshowerers.NZ is a wonderful country with great scenery, friendly natives and usually great weather in summer, making it a terrific place for cycle touring.

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Thanks for your comment Andrew

Some good information Andrew so thank you. We have booked our tickets now so that is always a great thing to do because it means that the trip is really on! We will be in NZ for three months which will be our longest ever trip and should give us plenty of time to see things. We are linking up with a kiwi friend of ours and she is going to ride on a supported tour ( supported by her mum and dad) with us for a few weeks,before leaving us to continue the rest of our trip. So the trip should have a good bit of variety. We should make Nelson on our return North as we leave South Island and head back to Auckland and our flight home. So of the top of my head I would think we would be there early march.

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There aren't many roads in

Andrew thanks for your thought which are fully noted and if we get near Nelson we will contact you. Sorry the response took a while we have been in France cycle camping.
Thanks again. Tony and Catherine

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Hey there - get "pedallers

Hey there - get "pedallers paradise" by Nigel Rushton - best tool for planning tours - small, light in weight, all information needed included. Lonely Planets cycling NZ is nice for some more detailed touristy information.
60 miles per day or more or less are fine in most areas since there are plenty of campgrounds. Take a look at the DOC (department of conservation) website for detailled information.
Anyways, if You need any information, I might help since I cycled bothe Islands almost twice in 2011. Cheers Marc

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Got pedalled Paradice now

Thanks for the tip Marc. Lots of info!

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Please please please,

Please please please, whatever you do, get this book that Marc recommends.

It is the gold standard must have cycle touring book for cycling NZ, there is a North Island and South Island version. Lots of good info, cycle times, interesting spots, gradient maps and information, services guide... all the stuff you need and none of the stuff you don't. See this for what it looks like:

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Hello there! I'll also be

Hello there!

I'll also be doing a cycle tour in NZ at that time. I'm house-sitting in Auckland for six weeks until Jan 19th and then will be hitting the road with my trusty steed, tent and stove. Oh, and laptop - this is my lifestyle, not a vacation, so I need to do some work along the way.

I'll check into this forum and see the updates people are giving you and borrow the information they offer. I've heard of that 'Pedallers Paradise' somebody mentioned and will order a copy now, it seems to be the way forwards :)

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Hello there! I'll also be

Hi Jane

We may bump into each other. Catherine and I do a blog of our trip so we will let you know the details so you can keep tabs on us. We will camp a good bit also.

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Hey! I'm starting my tour

Hey! I'm starting my tour around that time too and will be starting from Auckland. See you on the road! If you want to meet up for a little bit be sure to let me know!


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NZ cycle tour

First up check this site out - belongs to a very keen cyclist in NZ and has oodles of really useful information and ideas I am planning to be cycle touring in the south island around the same time you are, and I have planned a trip based on the information and descriptions on this site, along with the fact there were certain areas I didn't get to last time.

What has been real handy is knowing whether places on the map are actually inhabited. I had this problem last time - and whether there are any facilities - the routes I am doing are a long way out of main places, so good to know if a place has a shop, or nothing, or just a garage and if you can get food etc.

There is a camping guide to NZ which pretty much covers all you need to know. Some Dept of Conservation sites not listed, so check their website too. Some are staffed, others are backcountry still with honesty box system.

There is also something called freedom camping - you are meant to have your own toilet facilities as nothing is provided, so best suited to camper vans, but I'd not be above putting up the tent late on, and just wee-ing in the bushes if I needed to overnight, ensuring I'd used facilities prior in a cafe/bar/hotel/garage etc beforehand and in the morning the same if needed. (guess if really stuck you could do as people might be with their dogs while there and poop and scoop!) Might have to be subtle, arrive late on and go for the most hidden furthest from the road spot on the site to not draw big attention. I know there is one part of my route where the option is to do that or have a day I might not survive!

Map wise - there are 4 road maps that cover the whole country that are what I used in the main, although at one point someone got me all their AA maps for the whole country, which although didn't give any idea on the topography were much better scale and showed lots more back roads, so easier to navigate with to avoid main roads. So if you know someone who is in the AA - get them to pick them up as they are free. The other maps are Infomap 242-3 and 242-4 for the south island published by the dept of survey and land information - I picked them up in a shop on arrival. They are 1:500,000, but since there are not huge numbers of road all over the place like in the UK do show all the roads. The pale coloured roads are unsealed.

Be aware some backroads are not sealed - they will be gravel, and some of it can loose skiddy stuff-with a loaded tourer for camping once tried I gave them all a miss and stuck to sealed. I just felt it made what was hard anyway even harder and you do get very rattled around on those roads.

As it was very wet when I cycled, every now and then I would use a hostel - I would try and avoid the main backpacker 'lonely planet trail' routes where all the backpackers stop off (unless you don't mind noisy crammed hostels! Although some hostels allow you to camp and just use the facilities). I found that the less backpacker oriented the better - eg Hotels with backpacker rooms, I generally found were single cheap rooms that just didn't have private facilities, or just had single bunks).

mileage wise - look carefully at the maps! Although you generally won't find the 1 in 4 hills and steepness of some of the passes in the UK, they have some really really long never ending hills that feel a lot worse - I think the record was a 6-7 mile continual ascent. They totalled me and I was fit given I had already ridden several thousand miles in Asia prior to arrival!! I found in places this made the riding much harder than anticipated.

I did do up to 75-80 miles on the odd day (a killer if hilly), but mostly 60 ish, and knew I done it! That was due to the terrain more than anything. I got so wet and physically tired I ended up with bronchitis!! (having not been ill in months in Asia where you might expect to get sick!). I'd now aim to do 45-50 miles, with if needed the odd day longer if no option, and rather have the afternoon to properly be recovered to do it again. If you are looking at either a very long distance or alternatively a very short distance and then a medium distance over two days to get somewhere, I would go for accepting doing the short day, then a medium day, and enjoy just being in the places, rather than slogging through a long day.

I went from Picton down the E coast to Christchurch (where the road goes inland it's long hills), across to the West Coast (I found this boring as it was like riding through a tunnel without a roof on as no views either side as it's dense rainforest for most of it), over the Haast Pass (didn't cycle either pass due to snow on Arthur's Pass, and too exhausted and nowhere to stay on the west coast where I got to, so hitched a ride which is feasible with bikes as many people in the country have pick ups).

Went to Wanaka - great maze and puzzle there, with tea shop that sells amaaazing chocolate brownies - on a very very wet day all the people at the hostel (a proper YHA hostel, and option to camp for less) decided to go there again, just for the chocolate brownies, and being able to play with the puzzles on the cafe tables - the guy who owns the place invents them, and has the world's hardest puzzle, or at least it was at the time). Briefly went to Queenstown but not my cup of tea - packed outdoor activity tourist place, like being in Keswick on a made summers day - rather be somewhere quieter.

Then over the Lindis pass - not as bad as I thought and the most wicked downhill pretty much all the way to Omarama. I'm afraid the weather got the better of me when trying to get to Mt Cook village, so no idea about that. I went to Tekapo - again camped at a YHA. The best camp spot ever - looking straight out of my tent down Lake Tekapo and to the Southern Alps

NOTE - from Lake Pukaki (the lake you go along to get to Mt Cook) there is a road along the waterway all the way to Tekapo, which is totally quiet(no cars of people!!), amazingly flat and avoids the long hauls over a few hills. But there was recently some word it was closed for works on the waterway at present, so may be worth checking if intending to use it.

My next bit was Timaru to Dunedin, and I loved every bit of the days I had on the East Coast. Lots of things to see too. I enjoyed Dunedin, and of course rode up the world's steepest hill - phew for very very low gears, and a well situated park bench on the summit!

There are details on the chaps bike site re the Otago rail cycle path, which looks good.

This time I will be biking in the more north west of the island, the picton, nelson wesport, greymouth and the buller river to Blenheim area. Plus hopefully the east cape in the north island.

If you want any more info, email me and I will see if I can answer any queries.


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Gravel roads and freedom camping

During our cycling trips on the back roads we often camp at the side of the road and never once have been harassed by local landowners. We have of course a mini shovel if needed in the morning. :-) This of course in not on sealed roads or near the main highway.
We have found that the real New Zealand is off the sealed roads and a good touring bike will get you there. If you going to an area to explore Topo maps are great to have.
When in Central Otago get off the Rail Trail and explore the whole area. Mckenzie and Dansey Pass are both gravel but shouldn't be missed if you want to see the real New Zealand.
I live in Southland and if travelling to Christchurch I travel "up" the middle of the Island -means going over the Lindis Pass but the effort is worth it.

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Hi Mim

Lots and lots of great info which we can and will use . Thanks

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Thanks for the feedback

Thanks for this finding it invaluable

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New cycle trails in NZ

Also check this website: which describes a lot of new off road trails, SOME of which can be ridden on touring bikes. There is also a book of the same trails called "The New Zealand Cycle Trails (Nga Haerenga)" by Jonathan Kennet.
As at January 2014 some trails are finished, others are still under construction. If you're not sure about a trail's status it is worth checking with the local tourism office because different parts are being completed all the time.

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Hi all! I will be in NZ from

Hi all!
I will be in NZ from 7-2-14 till 28-2-14, landing in christchurch.
I didn't plan anything so far, but it would be lovely to meet around the south island. I know i don't have much time, but i have to cope with this.
I will carry all my camping gears.
Let's organize at least a couple of riding days together!


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Home phone 032053090 cell 0276334654. Give us a call or email. We will be about and go riding. Do you like to ride single tracks? Sue and Derek

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Thanks for the numbers

In NZ with friends now and having a trial on the bikes today to make sure they are all ok after the flight. We will be doing North Island with a friend in Jan and then be in South Island just us two. We will be cycle camping proper in South Island. We have a blog at It would be good to meet if our paths cross.


Tony and Catherine

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South Island cycling

HI tony and Catherine. Hopefully our paths will meet. We are planning to ride the St James cycle way early February which is off the Rainbow Road between Hanmer and St Arnuard.
I want to tour UK with trailer 1025 and it would be great to talk to you about camping in UK. Sue

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January to April 2014

Hi there! I will be touring around NZ starting on the North Island but going to try and do as much of the North and South Island as I can in three months. Hope to see you guys out there!


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Hey all, How exciting to read

Hey all,

How exciting to read all the cycle tourists planning to be there shortly, we will land on 1st Feb into Auckland will be doing North island before heading down to South.

Hope to bump into you all on the road, and share a lovelybottle of NZ wine :)

Enjoy your tours!!

Emily & Ella

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Safe travels!

Safe travels to Auckland! Hopefully will see you two out on the road! About to leave Auckland in a few days and head towards the Coromandel Penninsula and then south from there. I would like to hit up the Tongariro Crossing as well. Happy biking :)

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Take cash!

One thing we came across last year was that ATMs in local stores don't always take credit cards from other countries. At one point we paid $102 for a cup of coffee so they could refund us in cash!
Areas like the Catlins do not always have EFPOS and some people just like to be paid in cash, so make sure you always have plenty in hand.
Apart from that, enjoy the trip, it is a great place.


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