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Ride the length of New Zealand – all 3000km of it!

It is the quintessential dream of any adventure-curious traveller. To ride the length of a country. When choosing which country, it would be hard to look past one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world: New Zealand.

Riders walk across a log during an adventure exploring the remote Te Iringa trail near Taupo. Photo: Camilla Rutherford

Exploring New Zealand by bike will take you away from the crowds into some untouched areas of New Zealand. Photo: Camilla Rutherford

Races such as Tour Aotearoa cover similar ground, but with limited positions available and tight deadlines, events such as this are difficult for even the fittest and most versatile of riders. With this in mind, many people are opting to ride the length of New Zealand in their own time, on their own schedule and with no rules to follow.

Guide book author Jonathan Kennett knows the mountain bike trails in New Zealand better than most and is the mastermind behind extreme cycling event Tour Aotearoa.

New Zealand is an ideal country for bike-packing, where you travel light and fast, with fat tyres so that you can ride the great cycle trails and tracks, and gravel roads, where you’ll find the best scenery and the fewest cars.

Jonathan Kennett, New Zealand trail guide book writer and Tour Aotearoa founder Share

Replicating the route of Tour Aotearoa will be the best choice for those looking for an end-to-end cycling holiday with a difference. And there is even an acknowledgement for completing it.

“The route description will be available in the Kennett Brothers book Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails. Riders can contact the Kennett Brothers with their intention to do the ride and then take photos at the 30 control points in order to receive their Tour Aotearoa certificate,” Jonathan adds.

The Kennett’s provide a couple of tips for those traveling to New Zealand to ride the length of New Zealand.

“First, New Zealand has great cycling routes and it has horrible cycling routes, so choose carefully to ensure you ride the safest and most enjoyable routes. Secondly, this is a hilly country – if you arrive with loads of gear in front and rear panniers, you will probably regret it."

For most people, the ride will take at least a month, but the times will range from two weeks to eight weeks. Along the way, riders are encouraged to log in to the Tour Aotearoa Facebook page where riders will be encouraged to post on, and blog their journey.

It comes as no surprise that this ride will bolster tourism in New Zealand. Time will tell, but Jonathan predicts: “…after Kiwis, the most common nationalities to do the replica ride are likely to be Australian, American, British and French, although there is no reason why riders from any country would not be interested.”

There will be something for everyone on this truly special New Zealand adventure. New Zealand's topography and variety of landscapes in such close proximity make it ideal for bike-packing. Expect to see completely different things every day, from massive iron-sand beaches, to ancient forests, to lush farmland, volcanoes, modern cities, mountains, rivers and lots more.

Insider Tips

  • travel light – there are a lot of hills to climb
  • choose your route carefully making sure to link in as many of the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail as you can
  • allow plenty of time – it will take at least a month

Try to link these trails for the ultimate bike-packing tour

  • AC65-MoutainsToSea-Camilla-Stoddart.jpg
    The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail involves four to six days of riding through remote areas of native bush. The Grade 2-3 trails use a combination of local mountain biking trails, public roads and a jet-boat to take riders from the mountains of the Central Volcanic Plateau to the sea in Whanganui. Riders will traverse two national parks that are rich in natural and cultural heritage, enjoying stunning scenery along the way. 
  • The lads relax alongside the Pakihi River at the end of the Motu Trail, Eastland, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison
    Motu Trails provides a trilogy of contrasting trails that can be ridden in a loop totalling 93km. The three links offer a range of all-terrain riding, which includes stunning beaches, spectacular native forest and family friendly rest stops. This cycle trail can be ridden all year as a full loop, or can be split into the three shorter sections. As a popular 1-3 day ride, it offers options for all ages, abilities, fitness levels and preferences. 
  • Riders meet their transport – the Chris Jolly Outdoors water shuttle on the Waihora section of the Great Lake Trail, Taupo. Photo: DGLT
    The Great Lake Trail is a scenic 71km Grade 3 trail that follows the northeastern shoreline of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. The all-weather, all-season trail traverses through native forest providing stunning views across Lake Taupo to the majestic volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. With three distinct sections, the trail has something to suit all fitness levels. 
  • 20150930_HRT_0074.jpg
    The 77km Hauraki Rail Trail showcases New Zealand’s rich pioneering history against a backdrop of stunning rural and mountain scenery. Take two days to make the most of the experience which includes an historic gold mining town, luxurious mineral spas and the spectacular Karangahake Gorge. This easy to ride Grade 1 trail is suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. 
  • Timber_Trail_Mountain_Bike_Trail_Image_1U0A9304.jpg
    Rejuvenate yourself with a ride through the ancient forests of the Timber Trail. This ride is a must do for any rider. The scenery is spectacular, the history unique and the track is a complete adventure experience. Expect to be surprised by the views offered by the eight large suspension bridges along the trail, the splendour of the forest, and the sounds of bird calls as you meander across the middle of the North Island. 
  • 20160226_WRT_02.jpg
    The Waikato River Trails follow the meandering riverbanks of the Waikato River with a vista around every corner. The 100km trail travels south as it heads upstream alongside New Zealand’s longest river. The trail takes in native forest, wetlands teeming with wildlife, historic landmarks and volcanic formations. 
  • Kerosene_016.jpg
    Ever imagined riding through a thermal wonderland of steaming vents, bubbling mud pools and spectacular geysers in a chronically volcanic area? We certainly did and the Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike trail in Rotorua offers exactly that. The 51km Grade 2-3 cycle trail weaves through some of Rotorua’s most impressive thermal hot spots and is rich in Maori history, folklore and geothermal flora and fauna. 
  • A couple stop to soak in the experience of a fire on the beach along the Hawkes Bay Trails, Napier. Photo: Tourism Hawkes Bay
    Boasting more than 180km of trails the easy grade Hawke's Bay Trails feature a clover leaf of superb cycling between and around Napier and Hastings. The Grade 1-3 trails offer year-round cycling that will suit most skill and fitness levels. The network is mostly flat as it sprawls out across the Heretaunga Plains, waterways and beachfront. You can plan a trip for 1-4 days on the three distinct sections of trail, which each feature a unique part of the Hawke's Bay experience: expansive ocean views, world-class wineries and beautiful New Zealand countryside. 

More top stories

  • AC65-MoutainsToSea-Camilla-Stoddart.jpg
    During February 2016, 200 mountain bike riders will leave Cape Reinga at the very tip of New Zealand and undertake a 3000km journey as they make their way to Bluff at the very southern tip of the South Island for the inaugural Tour Aotearoa. The riders will follow a route carefully chosen by the Kennett Brothers – pioneers in this type of endurance distance event. “The route covers many iconic sites of natural beauty and cultural importance,” explains Jonathan. Scarlett Hagen spoke to Jonathan Kennett to get the inside scoop on how the ride will work and what could be expected as riders tap into the Great Rides of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.