Who did we design this trip for?
This trip is designed for serious cyclists wanting to take on the ultimate South Island cycle tour challenge - a loop of the South Island, crossing the Southern Alps (twice), from Christchurch down to Milford Sound and back. You can cycle around 847 miles (1,354 km) in all, with the opportunity to cycle more than the daily mileage, or jump in the support vehicle and do less, depending on your mood. This is your cycle tour and we are here to help you make it as physically demanding as you like.
Day 1: Arrive, cycle Springfield to Flockhill. If you’re flying in long-haul, you’ll leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday, arriving in New Zealand early Monday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline – not to worry, you won’t be in the air that whole time – but you’ll get it back on the way home! You’ll need to arrive in Christchurch by around 10 am, where we’ll set you up with your bike and adjust it to your liking. You’ll then have a chance to stretch your legs and get that first dose of NZ air in your lungs with a ride from Springfield into the heart of the Southern Alps and over Porters Pass.
You’ll cycle past Castle Hill Scenic Reserve, an area once quoted by the Dalai Lama as the ‘Spiritual Centre of the Universe’, and then on to your accommodation for the night on a working sheep station. What a way to start your trip! Take a walk outside after dinner to savour the night sky and enjoy the fact that you are finally here in New Zealand. Notes: Cycling distance 25 miles (40 km) – Springfield to Flockhill Station (ascent 878 m). Accommodation: Flockhill Station, Flockhill. Includes: (L, D).
Day 2: Cycle Arthur’s Pass. Today we’ll take on the highest pass through the Southern Alps! From Flockhill, we’ll head further into the depths of the South Island, over the Waimakariri River, through native beech forest and into the small township of Arthur’s Pass. After a lunch stop in the mountains, we’ll continue through the mountains all the way over to the rainforests and rivers of the West Coast, emerging at the beach in Hokitika for our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea.
Hokitika is famous for its local art galleries and pounamu carving workshops (‘pounamu’ is Maori for jade), and you’re sure to enjoy watching the locals carving jade in the shops around town. Tonight we’ll enjoy an evening by the sea. Notes: Cycling distance 22 miles (35 km) - Flockhill to Arthur’s Pass (ascent 160 m). Then 57 miles (92 km) – Arthur’s Pass to Kumara Junction (ascent 100 m, descent 900 m, 1 big downhill). Accommodation: Beachfront Hotel, Hokitika. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 3: Cycle Hokitika to Okarito, the West Coast. It’s time to tackle the wild and rugged West Coast. This isolated area is full of dense native rainforest, huge fast-flowing rivers and spectacular views of the Southern Alps. We’ll follow the main inland road, with its sweeping views of deserted West Coast beaches, and end up at the Okarito Lagoon. Okarito is a hidden gem that is all but untouched due to it being 10 miles down a one-way road from an obscure highway turnoff.
With a permanent population of only 37 or so people, there are no shops, no restaurants and no traffic. We’ll stay in our off-the-beaten-path, isolated and cosy beach house here overnight, enjoy a home-cooked meal and celebrate another day in the outdoors as we watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea. Notes: Cycling distance 78 miles (126 km) - Hokitika to Okarito Beach (ascent 250 m, descent 250 m, 1 hill). Accommodation: Okarito Beach House, Okarito. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 4: Cycle Okarito to Fox Glacier. The scenery today is incredible! From Okarito we’ll cycle into Westland Tai Poutini National Park and glacier country. After a quick stop at the Franz Josef Glacier, we’ll hop on our bikes and attack the three hills between Franz Josef Glacier and its twin, Fox Glacier. These hills are quite demanding so pace yourself, but feel free to catch a ride whenever you like. Once in Fox, we’ll hike to the terminal face of the glacier and see the 2,600 m of ice falling towards us from the Southern Alps.
If you’re still keen for more biking after visiting the glacier, a late afternoon ride out to Lake Matheson with a short hike is in order, where there are more mountain views to gaze upon. Notes: Cycling distance 15 miles (24 km) - Okarito to Franz Josef Glacier (ascent 175 m, gradual). Then 16 miles (25 km) - Franz to Fox Glacier (ascent 400 m, descent 300 m, 3 big hills). Accommodation: Mt Cook View Motels, Fox Glacier. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 5: Cycle Fox Glacier to Haast. Our fifth day on the road takes us south through West Coast farmland to the deserted mineral beaches of Bruce Bay and Ship Creek. Learn the legends and stories of the area as you take a break from the saddle. Finally it will be time to take one last look at the rainforests and ferns before we head away from the beaches and inland again. Tonight we stay in the West Coast village of Haast, a quiet place just inland from the coast. Notes: Cycling distance 75 miles (119 km) - Fox Glacier to Haast (ascent 200 m, descent 275 m, 1 hill). Accommodation: World Heritage Heartland Hotel, Haast. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 6: Haast Pass and Mt Aspiring National Park. We’ll travel inland today, away from the “Gates of Haast”, up and over Haast Pass. It’s another big hill to tackle, but we’re in great shape by now! We’ll go back over the Southern Alps and into the stunning Makarora Valley bordering Mt. Aspiring National Park. We’ll finish up in Makarora, a small farming village (pop. 30) bordering the park, and we’ll stay the night at a beautifully landscaped, family-style homestead on the edge of the village with incredible alpine views. Watch the colours of the landscape change in the setting sun as it goes down behind the mountains tonight. Notes: Cycling distance 47 miles (75 km) - Haast to Makarora (ascent 600 m, descent 100 m, 1 big hill). Accommodation: The Homestead, Makarora. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 7: Cycle Wanaka and the Crown Range road. Today’s a big day! After a sumptuous home-cooked breakfast, we depart following the Makarora River as it joins into Lake Wanaka. We’ll ride past this beautiful lake, the fourth largest in New Zealand, before heading over to neighbouring Lake Hawea and then follow the winding roads back to Lake Wanaka again. It’s a beautiful ride through a stunning area, and popular with local cyclists out training for their next event. Give them a wave as you pass. Departing Lake Wanaka, we’ll ride through the historic gold-mining area up the Cardrona Valley, to take on the Crown Range.
We’ll make our way up steadily, eventually reaching the source of the Cardrona River and the top of the Crown Range road. Once you’re up it’s time to give yourself a pat on the back! This road is a Category One class from the other direction, so going down the far side is a real hoot – and you can go fast! Once at the base, we’ll catch our breath before making our way through the Wakatipu Basin and on to Queenstown, our home for the next two nights. Notes: Cycling distance 37 miles (60 km) - Makarora to Wanaka (ascent 200 m, descent 225 m, rolling hills). Then 40 miles (64 km) - Wanaka to Queenstown (ascent 700 m, descent 825 m, 1 big hill). Accommodation: Heartland Hotel, Queenstown. Includes: (B, L).
Day 8: Free Day in Queenstown. Today you’ve earned yourself a day off. M08304 is based in Queenstown for a good reason – it’s the adventure capital of New Zealand and you’ll find all sorts going on here! You can choose from a myriad of ‘optional extra’ activities including hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, canyon swinging, horse trekking, fishing or perhaps take a more sedate winery tour if you’re more that way inclined. You’ll also find all the comforts of civilization: massage therapists, restaurants, cafés and plenty of shopping.
Alternatively, you can opt to stick with your bike to explore the local trails. There are some brilliant single track downhill trails for anyone keen on mountain biking, either in Skippers Canyon or in the forests of Queenstown, as well as ample road biking opportunities too. Queenstown isn’t a big place – the population is about 8000 – so it’s easy to explore, or just relax and enjoy the view from our snug little home in the mountains. Accommodation: Heartland Hotel, Queenstown.
Day 9: Cycle Queenstown to Te Anau. It’s all on again this morning and we look forward to hearing what you got up to in Queenstown! We’ll catch up over breakfast at a local café before jumping back on our bikes again to burn it off. Today we’re biking from Queenstown to Kingston and when you’re winding along the road with Lake Wakatipu on one side and the towering mountains of the Remarkables on the other, you’ll see why previous explorers were so wowed by this area they saw it as being fit for Kings and Queens!
The Wakatipu Basin was once a huge glacier back in the last ice age, and from Kingston south you’ll see evidence of old glacial moraines. We’ll stop at Five Rivers and Mossburn for a quick breather or a longer rest in the bus when you’ve had enough, and finish the day in Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. Notes: Cycling distance 105 miles (170 km) – Queenstown to Te Anau (ascent 200 m, descent 325 m, rolling terrain). Accommodation: Te Anau lodgings, Te Anau. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 10: Cycle Fiordland National Park and Cruise Milford Sound
Today is an exciting day and a real highlight of the Deep South Ride. We’ll start out in rolling Southland farmland and carry on past Lake Te Anau before entering Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Area of vast wilderness and breathtaking scenery. There are a few small gradual climbs past pretty lakes enclosed by forests and then we’ll enter the alpine region of the Darren Mountains, a mountaineer’s paradise.
Eventually we’ll arrive at the Homer Tunnel, which workers started to dig through in 1935 and didn’t finish until 1954! The view at the other end of the tunnel is almost overwhelming, so take a moment to pause and enjoy this moment before the fun descent all the way down to the sea and one of the most remote parts of our country. The only way to experience Milford Sound is from the water so we’ll catch a boat out to explore the fiord and learn about the region.
If you’re still keen afterwards, you’re welcome to jump back on your bike for the long slog back up the hill, or the bus will be there if you prefer. We’ll relax back in Te Anau for the evening to reflect on a memorable day. Notes: Cycling distance - 73 miles (117 km) – Te Anau to Milford Sound (ascent 720 m, descent 920 m, gradual then 1 big hill). Then 25 miles (33 km) – Milford Sound to The Divide (ascent 920 m, descent 390 m, 1 big hill). Accommodation: Te Anau lodgings, Te Anau. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 11: Cycle Lindis Pass to Ohau. Today we have a relaxed start before we drive back up the road to Queenstown where you’ll have a couple of hours to grab some lunch, do a spot of shopping or send a few postcards before we carry on. Taking the road north to the Lindis Pass, we’ll jump back on our bikes and do the downhill section of the pass into the Mackenzie District. We’ll ride on through to Ohau Lodge, a cosy Kiwi lodge beside Lake Ohau with a stunning view of Mount Cook when the sky is clear. This remote lodge is a real home away from home and you probably won’t want to leave. Notes: Cycling distance - 45 miles (72 km) - Lindis Pass to Ohau (ascent nil, descent 430 m, gradual). Accommodation: Ohau Lodge, Lake Ohau. Includes: (B, D).
Day 12: Cycle Mackenzie Basin and hot pools. We’ll drag ourselves away this morning after another tasty breakfast accompanied by a fantastic view, and bike out of Ohau to the main road. The wide open expanses of the Mackenzie Basin offer up spectacular vistas of the Southern Alps from the eastern side as we cycle past. On the way, we’ll detour along one of the main canals that have helped to shape this arid landscape, and arrive at our destination on the shores of the stunningly blue Lake Tekapo.
Tonight you can take a well-deserved soak in Tekapo’s hot alpine springs while gazing up at the Southern Cross in the sky. This area is a special spot for astronomers as well who take advantage of the amazingly clear skies and minimal light pollution from an observatory on a nearby hill. Notes: Cycling distance - 56 miles (90 km) - Ohau to Tekapo (ascent 250 m, descent 70 m, mostly flat). Accommotion: The Godley Hotel, Tekapo. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 13: Cycle Tekapo to Canterbury. Today it’s back on the bikes once again for a ride across rolling hills, past winter ski fields and farming communities, and through the rural townships of Burkes Pass, Fairlie, and Geraldine. The choice is yours; as little or as much riding as you want today! If you still have the energy you can do it all, or if you’re starting to wind down then you can keep your guide company in the support vehicle. Say goodbye to the Southern Alps as you make your way further into the Canterbury region.
We’ll enjoy a final meal together to celebrate our adventures and achievements and there’s bound to be plenty of stories to share. Notes: Cycling distance - 27 miles (43 km) - Tekapo to Fairlie (ascent nil, descent 450 m, mostly flat). Then 28 miles (46 km) - Fairlie to Geraldine (ascent 100 m, descent 350 m, rolling hills). Then 30 miles (49 km) - Geraldine to Mt Somers (ascent 250 m, descent nil, gradual). Accommodation: Mt Somers lodgings, Mt Somers. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 14: Cycle Mt Somers to Darfield, depart Christchurch. After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll take our final ride through to the alluvial Canterbury Plains and the farming township of Darfield. You’ve made it! You have completed a loop of the South Island. It’s time now to swap your bikes for the bus and head into Christchurch. We’ll arrive by early afternoon, so make sure your international flight leaves after 3 pm ideally, or 2 pm for domestic flights are manageable if you let us know beforehand.
International flights from Auckland usually leave early evening, so if you’re heading back to North America, you’ll get home some time on Sunday, even though you left on Sunday evening! Flights back to Europe, of course, take a little while longer. We’ll wave goodbye and leave you refreshed, invigorated and full of lasting memories of the fun times you’ll have had cycle touring in New Zealand with us. Notes: Cycling distance - 46 miles (74 km) - Mt Somers to Darfield (ascent 100 m, descent 290 m, 1 hill). Includes: (B, L).
The trip fare is US$3999 + 15% NZ government taxes. Join us for shorter periods of time, at a pro-rated fare. Includes just about everything, specifically:
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Australia and Oceania New Zealand Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring