How to take on New Zealand’s longest cycle trail

Cycling near Lake Ohau | Daniel Thour
Cycling near Lake Ohau | Daniel Thour

Extending more than 300 kilometres from the base of the mighty Southern Alps to the vibrant coastal town of Oamaru at the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail is world-class riding. And you don't need to be a keen cyclist to enjoy it.

Located in the South Island, it is the country’s longest continuous cycle route – and one of the most diverse bike trails – with a combination of on and off-road trails. It's the next most popular trip after the Otago Rail Trail (watch our video below to see why).

Throw in spectacular backdrops of Aoraki Mount Cook, rolling farmland, a network of turquoise lakes and the welcoming hospitality of Kiwis and it comes at no surprise why the Alps 2 Ocean trail is world-famous.

The Lake Ohau inlet |  <i>Daniel Thour</i> Lake Aviemore is one of 5 lakes you'll see along the trail |  <i>Daniel Thour</i> Cyclists taking in the majestic views of Aoraki Mt Cook |  <i>Colin Monteath</i>
 

Along the way, small towns and rural settlements offer friendly pubs and cafés as well as unique and local accommodation to relax after a day on the bike. There's plenty to do off the bike as well. Soak in thermal hot pools, enjoy a wine tasting in one of the Waitaki vineyards, discover ancient Maori rock art, marvel at otherworldly limestone outcrops, stargaze under the most incredible night sky and explore the towering clay cliffs.

What it’s like to cycle the Alps 2 Ocean Trail guided in under 4 minutes:

 
 

We've been offering quality, Qualmark Gold awarded guided adventures in New Zealand through our Adventure South NZ operation, who have pioneered trips since 1992. All of our Alps to Ocean itineraries are fully supported and include accommodation, a support vehicle, experienced guides and delicious meals. E-bikes are available for hire on itineraries.

Find more helpful information and frequently asked questions on the Alps to Ocean cycle below.

How difficult is the Alps to Ocean cycle?

Overall the trail descends 780m from the Southern Alps to The Pacific Ocean, although don’t be fooled into thinking it's all downhill. There are some introductory sections and some moderate sections with a variety of ‘cruisy’ downhill sections, flat trail sections and several rewarding uphills that you will need to be prepared for.

Our Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail is graded introductory to moderate and is suitable for almost anyone with a moderate level of fitness. So you don’t have to be an avid cyclist to enjoy a cycling trip in New Zealand, just to be reasonably fitness with a spirit of adventure and a love of nature.

Three or six days, there’s an itinerary to suit a variety of riders – from beginners to those who are comfortable in a saddle, with an e-bike option also available.

When to ride the Alps to Ocean trail?

The riding season on the Alps to Ocean trail is from October to April, with each season providing its own unique experience on the trail.

Spring (October - November)
Come spring, the weather is starting to warm up, the flowers start to bring colour to the trail and there are fewer people around meaning uninterrupted views – there is a higher chance of rain, however, the spring flowers can often make up for that.

Beautiful local flora around New Zealand's Lake Tekapo |  <i>Learna Cale</i>

Summer (December - February)
Summer is a great time to ride the trail. The trail is buzzing with people, and with lupine in bloom. The days are hot but not too hot for cycling and the daylight hours are longer meaning more time to explore. 

Autumn (March - April)
Crisp sunny days, long fine spells of weather and cooler temperatures make Autumn a great time to ride the trail. The summer crowds have moved on and autumn shows its true colours as the changing leaves transform the landscape into a golden paradise.

What gear should I bring?

The weather can change unexpectedly in New Zealand as cold fronts and warm highs quickly blow in, so it’s important to have the right gear. This basically means having a good waterproof jacket and several layers of warm clothing for any cold spells and lightweight clothing for the hotter days.

A fleece and/or jumper and good thermals are a must (even in summer). Gloves are always handy to have as well as padded cycling shorts for those long days on the bike.

We supply a full gear list for the trip before you arrive to make sure your trip is as comfortable as possible.

How much training do I need to do? What is the trail surface like?

Cycling distances range from 30 kilometres to 65 kilometres on the trail each day, so you will need a reasonable level of fitness. We suggest 90 minutes of cycling three to five times a week for the three months leading up to your trip.

There is a mix of surfaces on the trail from gravel, to dedicated cycle trail (small stones) and sealed roads. We do recommend spending some time cycling on loose gravel to make your cycling experience more enjoyable. 

What do I do if I get tired on the bike?

One of the best parts about a guided trip is having the support vehicle nearby if you get tired or want a break. Your guide will let you know where the next vehicle can next access the trail and you can hop on-board.

Cycling through Pasquale Kurow Winery |  <i>Daniel Thour</i>

What happens if I get hungry or thirsty while I’m cycling?

There is always a selection of fresh fruit and snacks in the support vehicle, which you will have access to at the stops along the trail or can carry with you in your bike bag. There is also a supply of water in the support vehicle, which you can access regularly to refill your water bottle.

Will I have cell phone reception?

There is good mobile reception along most of the trail.

Is Wi-Fi available along the trail?

Most of the accommodation we use along the trail will have Wi-Fi. This may not be unlimited and there may be the occasional place without it but it's always good to detach from the screen every now and then.

Can I bring my own bike?

Yes, you can bring your own bike. You can also bring your own pedal or seats, however, you just need to check in with our bookings team to make sure they are the right fit for our bikes.

Cycling, New Zealand, Cycle Trails, Bike Adventures, South Island, Southern Alps, Alps 2 Ocean, Cycling Trails, bikes

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