Cycling is one of the best ways to experience beautiful New Zealand. As a result, New Zealand has become one of the most popular bike touring destinations in the world! This past summer New Zealand proudly introduced a number of new Great Rides as part of ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail.’ Altogether, these tracks provide over 2,500km of trails to cycling enthusiasts and novices alike. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, we encourage you to give one of these Great Rides a go while you’re here. Our travel agents can help you plan a trip that includes one or more of these exciting tracks in your itinerary.

A brief history of ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail’

Unless you are an experienced road cyclist, the idea of cycling on busy New Zealand highways can be a daunting prospect. The New Zealand Cycle Trail is the perfect solution to this problem. Most of the Great Rides are on dedicated cycling tracks, providing a safe place for riders of all levels to experience the magic of cycling in New Zealand.

 In 2009, a small group of people had a big idea – to build a network of cycle trails that would provide Kiwis and visitors with a safe and exciting way to experience the country. ‘Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail’ began as a partnership between the Government and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. The Government invested $50 million over three years to help bring the dream to reality. Additional contributions of $30 million were contributed by local Government and cycle trail Trusts across the country. This resulted in the creation of 23 Great Rides.

By 2013, the success of the project was clear. In January 2013 alone, 97,000 people rode on one of the 23 trails. Over 1,200 jobs were created and local economies reported an economic boost as a result of the Great Rides. This past summer, nearly all of the Great Rides were open to the public and more riders than ever are enjoying journeys on these tracks. ‘Nga Haerenga’ is a Maori expression that means ‘the journeys’ and encompasses both the physical and spiritual sense of the word. A physical and spiritual journey are exactly what the NZCT board of directors hopes visitors will experience on each of the Great Rides that make up the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Are you ready to experience a Great Ride?

Tracks on the NZCT vary in length and skill level. Many of them provide the option to complete only part of the trail, with convenient drop off and pick up locations along the way. Here are some of our favourite Great Rides:

  • Otago Central Rail Trail: Following 152km of the old Otago Central Rail line on the lower part of the South Island, this is New Zealand’s original and best known Great Ride. It is classed as an “easy” ride and can usually be completed in 4 days. With over 20 townships that can serve as start or end points along the way, riders can easily complete shorter sections of the trail, if desired. Learn more about Otago Central Rail Trail.

  • Tasman’s Great Taste Trail: This South Island trail starts at Nelson airport and covers 175km of beautiful landscape along the Tasman Bay coastline and mountains of Abel Tasman National Park. The trail takes riders through vineyards and cafes in Nelson and offers accommodation along the way. Portions of the trail are classed as easy, while other parts are considered intermediate. Riders have the option of completing the entire trail or smaller portions. Learn more about Tasman’s Great Taste Trail.
  • Hawke’s Bay Trails: A 200km network of cycle trails, the Hawke’s Bay Trails are mostly flat and stretch between and around Napier and Hastings. The trails allow riders to explore the river and coastal areas, while visiting local wineries along the way. This Great Ride consists of 3 separate trails, which are all classed as easy rides. Learn more about Hawke’s Bay Trails.

We can help you plan your trip

Kiwi Travel NZ has been helping travellers experience New Zealand for over 15 years. Our goal is to tailor a trip to suit your unique goals and needs while travelling. Since the introduction of the New Zealand Cycle Trail several years ago, we have helped many visitors experience the magic of cycling in New Zealand on these safe and accessible trails. To learn more about how we can tailor a unique cycling itinerary for you, please contact us today.


The Lyell Range seen from The Old Ghost Road trail by Bobby Ketchum, CC BY 2.0

Riding the Otago Rail Trail by Dan Dwyer, CC BY-ND 2.0