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7 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

Days
7

Pricing From
$3795

Difficulty

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Overview

Join us on a remarkable 8 day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour from Christchurch to Queenstown. We will set out to explore the impressive Mackenzie Basin and the lesser-known parts of the Central Otago region. We will follow the footsteps of the early pioneers, along gold mining trails and stock routes that now form the quiet back country roads of these regions.

We will start our ride on the Banks Peninsula and enjoy the breathtaking view of Akaroa Harbour, which is the crater of an extinct volcano. We will then continue through a beautiful farm country before arriving at the stunning turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo and then into the “big-sky country" of Central Otago.
On our last two days, we will pedal through isolated valleys and farm countries until we arrive in Queenstown, which is a beautiful lake town surrounded by beautiful high mountain peaks.

Trip Highlights

  • Challenge yourself with 7 days of breathtaking gravel grinding
  • Enjoy incredible views of the Southern Alps from the Banks Peninsula
  • Cycle through arid McKenzie Country and a section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle trail, surrounded by the highest peaks in the country
  • Admire a contrast of vivid blue lakes, sparkling rivers, snow capped mountains and golden tussock-lands
  • Indulge in award winning wine and local Kiwi cuisine
  • Ride a section of NZ’s famous Otago Central Rail Trail, along the course of a historic rail road
  • Immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Nevis Valley
  • Conclude the tour in iconic Queenstown, New Zealand's adventure capital

Trail Surface: 90% Gravel

Cyclists need to be comfortable riding on a mix of compacted and rough gravel surfaces.

8 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

8 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

8 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

8 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

8 Day South Island Gravel Grind Bike Tour

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Christchurch Porthills and Banks PeninsulaCycling Distance: Approx. 61 km

We will meet our guides at 8:30am in the reception of the Pavilions Hotel. Please be wearing your cycling clothing as we will be riding on the first morning. We will be taken to the depot where we can assemble our bikes or for a bike fit of hire bikes and a tour briefing.

Today we have the opportunity to find our cycle legs with a warm up ride on the Banks Peninsula. We will start with a 1 hour drive out of Christchurch and set off riding along side the Akaroa harbour. We start on an undulating paved road and then beyond the settlement of Wainui sees us on an extended climb up to the panoramic Bossu Road. The road turns to gravel at the top and we follow the crater rim of an extinct volcano with incredible views towards the Canterbury Plains, the snowy Southern Alps and into the vivid blue harbour. We enjoy a fast decent into the old railway town of Little River where we can have a well deserved snack and a wander around the art gallery.
There will be chance for another ride in the afternoon following the Lyttelton harbour from Diamond Harbour to the port town of Lyttelton. This ride is not gravel, but the scenery and views of the water and hills are too good to miss!

Our route takes us around the sea shore, with lots of short climbs between bays and some more fast descents. Once we reach Lyttelton we load up the bikes and drive back to the city centre and our hotel, arriving in the late afternoon. There will be time to explore the city centre before meeting for our first group dinner in the evening.

Cycling Distance: Barry's Bay to Little River - approx 35km

Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton - 26km

Elevation Gain: 1500m/4900ft

Meals:  L,D

Day 2Christchurch to Lake TekapoCycling Distance: Up to 61km

After breakfast, we load up our gear and drive to the small settlement of Albury on the edge of the Canterbury Plains with a coffee stop at Pleasant Point. This area, New Zealand’s only “flat” land, is wide open country with braided rivers teeming with trout and salmon. The Canterbury Plains are also rich in sheep and dairy farming and today’s ride finds us traveling through a pastoral landscape.

Today our ride takes us up the Little Opawa River Valley and over the Waratah Saddle, winding through rolling farmland. We then head towards the tussock covered hills and over the Mackenzie Saddle (785m/2575ft) which cuts through the ranges and gives us our first views of the vast arid Mackenzie Country, where rivers flow through sweeping tussock plains with a backdrop of the snowy alps.

We head northwards to meet the main highway at Dog Kennel Corner, a memorial to the importance of sheep dogs, prior to formal fencing of farmland. Here there will be the option to jump onto the support van, or continue the last undulating 15km along the main road to Tekapo. In early summer this road is lined with lupins creating an incredible splash of colour to the arid landscape.

Upon arrival in Lake Tekapo, we take in views of the amazing turquoise water and the Southern Alps from the Church of the Good Shepherd, and we can enjoy a soak in the Tekapo Hot Pools before dinner.

Cycling Distance: Albury to Dog Kennel Corner - 46km

Optional Ride: Dog Kennel Corner to Tekapo - 15km

Elevation Gain: 900m/2950ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 3Lake Tekapo to KurowCycling Distance: 91km

This morning we retrace our steps by vehicle to Dog Kennel Corner and start riding southwards. The first part is paved road, but shortly after the turn off to Mackenzie Pass we see a sign pointing to Hakataramea Pass and we meet the gravel. We leave civilisation and climb towards an indigo sky, lofty views of the Southern Alps and the cloud piercer, Aoraki/Mt Cook behind us are now even more imposing above the Mackenzie Basin, whose truly vast scale is more easily appreciated as we approach the pass. The pass, marked with a fence-line, gate and signposts to destinations in both directions, proudly announces the pass is at 965m (3230ft) above sea level. A short winding descent leads to the broad Hakataramea Valley. The imposing Kirkliston Range to the west towers above the ordered, rolling farmland and we descend to Kurow, a small town where the Hakataramea and Waitaki valleys meet. Tonight we enjoy a home cooked meal and fine kiwi hospitality at our lodge in Kurow.

Cycling Distance: Dog Kennel Corner to Kurow – 91km

Elevation Gain: 500m/1640ft

Meals:  B,L,D

Day 4Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings - Alps 2 OceanCycling Distance: Up to 105km

Todays journey takes us over the remote alpine Dansey's Pass, a historic stock route and gold mining route linking the Waitaki District with Central Otago.

On leaving Kurow we start by following the famous Alps to Ocean trail, a designated cycle track that leads from Aoraki/Mt Cook to the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. We ride a section that follows the Waitaki River and passes Takiroa Maori rock art site before reaching Duntroon. Signposts lead us to the gravelled Dansey's Pass road and we wind onward and upward over the fractured Kakanui Mountains. We cycle through sections of gorge where the road clings to the cliff side and finally up to the barren tussock covered pass at 935m where huge triangular faced mountains tower above.

From the summit we coast for 9km descending to the Dansey's Pass Coach House at the former gold mining settlement of Kyeburn Diggings. The hotel's original stonework was constructed in 1862 by a mason known as “Happy Bill”. Bill’s remuneration was in beer, and he received one pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid!

We can relax with a drink infront of the large fireplace and there is the opportunity to explore the old cemetery and mining relics before we load up the bikes and drive to our overnight accommodation in Ranfurly. Those eager to keep riding can ride the extra kms to our lodge

Cycling Distance: Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings - 75km

Optional Ride: Kyeburn Diggings to Ranfurly - 30km

Elevation Gain: 1100m/3600ft

Meals:  B,L,D

Day 5Wedderburn to Clyde - Otago Central Rail TrailCycling Distance: 80km

Today we embark on the best section of New Zealand’s original and most famous “Great Ride,” the Otago Central Rail Trail. Steeped in history, this off-road rail trail offers a scenic and historic journey into the Central Otago heartland.

This ever-changing landscape includes rugged mountains, crystal clear rivers, and steep winding gorges. We set off from the iconic Wedderburn Station and cycle over the impressive Poolburn viaduct and Manuherikia Bridge and through the 229m Poolburn tunnel. With views of the Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range, we continue on to Clyde, a quaint historic town in this up and coming wine region.

Clyde was once a wild and rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners, shop keepers and ever-present dancing girls. Dunstan House, significant as a social gathering point for the thousands of miners, was the first hotel built in Clyde. This unique hotel restored with an ambiance of yesteryear is our accommodation for the night. The “gold” that can be found in this region today is wine and before dinner, we have an option to try award-winning Pinot Noir with a private wine tasting at a local winery.

Cycling Distance: Wedderburn to Clyde - 80km

Elevation Gain: 275m/900ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 6Bannockburn to MossburnCycling Distance: 72km

Today's ride is epic! Taking us high on the Carrick and Hector Ranges we'll experience amazing Central Otago scenery with views to the Southern Alps. This barren landscape is dominated by tussock grass and huge rocky tors.

After a short transfer to Bannockburn via the Dunstan Gorge, we start by climbing steadily and steeply over the next 15km to Duffers Saddle at 1300m, which is the highest public road in NZ. There are wonderful views back over Cromwell, Lake Dunstan and the Upper Clutha Valley before the descent into the Nevis Valley and the first of many river crossings. Numerous reminders of the gold mining history of the area are evident with dredge ponds and tailings, gold mines, dwellings, and cemetery. The valley is split by a steep, rocky gorge between the Lower and Upper Nevis, the road is rough in places with numerous fords, where we might get wet feet.

Todays ride is supported by a 4WD vehicle to allow us to travel through this remote region. Towards the end of our journey the road starts to climb again to take us over a second lower saddle, affording more amazing views over a bright green valley ahead and with a back drop of large mountain ranges. We descend to the small settlement of Garston where today's ride ends.

We load up the bikes and transfer to Mossburn and our accommodation for the night. We will reminisce on today's huge achievement over a drink in the local pub and celebrate new friendships and our unforgettable week of adventure.

Cycling Distance: Bannockburn to Garston - 72km

Elevation Gain: 1750m/5740ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 7Mossburn to QueenstownCycling Distance: 55km

Our final cycle ride take us into the hidden Mavora Lakes, a site of scenes from Lord of the Rings and the isolated Van Valley.

We start by transferring by bus and set off cycling along the lakeside through beech forest with a stunning mountainous backdrop. The valley opens out into wide open tussock-land lined by high mountains and our gravel road heads towards the horizon.

We climb gently to a low saddle and from the top we can see a deep gorge carved by the Von River. We descend quickly down the valley and approach Mt Nicholas Station on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here we are greeted by stunning views of snow covered Mount Earnslaw at the head of the lake.

We follow the lake trail round to Walter Peak Station where we can browse around the historic farm buildings and enjoy some refreshments overlooking the lake.

In the late afternoon we board the TSS Earnslaw Steamer to take us across the shimmering waters of Lake Wakatipu to the end of this incredible journey in Queenstown. We drop you to your accommodation and say a sad farewell to our guides and cycling companions.

Cycling Distance: Mavora Lakes to Walter Peak Station - 55km Elevation Gain: 330m/1080ft

Meals:  B,L

COST PER PERSON

March 2020 - March 2021

  • Twin: NZ$3,795

Single supplement: NZ$895

Itinerary

Open All
Day 1Christchurch Porthills and Banks PeninsulaCycling Distance: Approx. 61 km

We will meet our guides at 8:30am in the reception of the Pavilions Hotel. Please be wearing your cycling clothing as we will be riding on the first morning. We will be taken to the depot where we can assemble our bikes or for a bike fit of hire bikes and a tour briefing.

Today we have the opportunity to find our cycle legs with a warm up ride on the Banks Peninsula. We will start with a 1 hour drive out of Christchurch and set off riding along side the Akaroa harbour. We start on an undulating paved road and then beyond the settlement of Wainui sees us on an extended climb up to the panoramic Bossu Road. The road turns to gravel at the top and we follow the crater rim of an extinct volcano with incredible views towards the Canterbury Plains, the snowy Southern Alps and into the vivid blue harbour. We enjoy a fast decent into the old railway town of Little River where we can have a well deserved snack and a wander around the art gallery.
There will be chance for another ride in the afternoon following the Lyttelton harbour from Diamond Harbour to the port town of Lyttelton. This ride is not gravel, but the scenery and views of the water and hills are too good to miss!

Our route takes us around the sea shore, with lots of short climbs between bays and some more fast descents. Once we reach Lyttelton we load up the bikes and drive back to the city centre and our hotel, arriving in the late afternoon. There will be time to explore the city centre before meeting for our first group dinner in the evening.

Cycling Distance: Barry's Bay to Little River - approx 35km

Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton - 26km

Elevation Gain: 1500m/4900ft

Meals:  L,D

Day 2Christchurch to Lake TekapoCycling Distance: Up to 61km

After breakfast, we load up our gear and drive to the small settlement of Albury on the edge of the Canterbury Plains with a coffee stop at Pleasant Point. This area, New Zealand’s only “flat” land, is wide open country with braided rivers teeming with trout and salmon. The Canterbury Plains are also rich in sheep and dairy farming and today’s ride finds us traveling through a pastoral landscape.

Today our ride takes us up the Little Opawa River Valley and over the Waratah Saddle, winding through rolling farmland. We then head towards the tussock covered hills and over the Mackenzie Saddle (785m/2575ft) which cuts through the ranges and gives us our first views of the vast arid Mackenzie Country, where rivers flow through sweeping tussock plains with a backdrop of the snowy alps.

We head northwards to meet the main highway at Dog Kennel Corner, a memorial to the importance of sheep dogs, prior to formal fencing of farmland. Here there will be the option to jump onto the support van, or continue the last undulating 15km along the main road to Tekapo. In early summer this road is lined with lupins creating an incredible splash of colour to the arid landscape.

Upon arrival in Lake Tekapo, we take in views of the amazing turquoise water and the Southern Alps from the Church of the Good Shepherd, and we can enjoy a soak in the Tekapo Hot Pools before dinner.

Cycling Distance: Albury to Dog Kennel Corner - 46km

Optional Ride: Dog Kennel Corner to Tekapo - 15km

Elevation Gain: 900m/2950ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 3Lake Tekapo to KurowCycling Distance: 91km

This morning we retrace our steps by vehicle to Dog Kennel Corner and start riding southwards. The first part is paved road, but shortly after the turn off to Mackenzie Pass we see a sign pointing to Hakataramea Pass and we meet the gravel. We leave civilisation and climb towards an indigo sky, lofty views of the Southern Alps and the cloud piercer, Aoraki/Mt Cook behind us are now even more imposing above the Mackenzie Basin, whose truly vast scale is more easily appreciated as we approach the pass. The pass, marked with a fence-line, gate and signposts to destinations in both directions, proudly announces the pass is at 965m (3230ft) above sea level. A short winding descent leads to the broad Hakataramea Valley. The imposing Kirkliston Range to the west towers above the ordered, rolling farmland and we descend to Kurow, a small town where the Hakataramea and Waitaki valleys meet. Tonight we enjoy a home cooked meal and fine kiwi hospitality at our lodge in Kurow.

Cycling Distance: Dog Kennel Corner to Kurow – 91km

Elevation Gain: 500m/1640ft

Meals:  B,L,D

Day 4Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings - Alps 2 OceanCycling Distance: Up to 105km

Todays journey takes us over the remote alpine Dansey's Pass, a historic stock route and gold mining route linking the Waitaki District with Central Otago.

On leaving Kurow we start by following the famous Alps to Ocean trail, a designated cycle track that leads from Aoraki/Mt Cook to the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. We ride a section that follows the Waitaki River and passes Takiroa Maori rock art site before reaching Duntroon. Signposts lead us to the gravelled Dansey's Pass road and we wind onward and upward over the fractured Kakanui Mountains. We cycle through sections of gorge where the road clings to the cliff side and finally up to the barren tussock covered pass at 935m where huge triangular faced mountains tower above.

From the summit we coast for 9km descending to the Dansey's Pass Coach House at the former gold mining settlement of Kyeburn Diggings. The hotel's original stonework was constructed in 1862 by a mason known as “Happy Bill”. Bill’s remuneration was in beer, and he received one pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid!

We can relax with a drink infront of the large fireplace and there is the opportunity to explore the old cemetery and mining relics before we load up the bikes and drive to our overnight accommodation in Ranfurly. Those eager to keep riding can ride the extra kms to our lodge

Cycling Distance: Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings - 75km

Optional Ride: Kyeburn Diggings to Ranfurly - 30km

Elevation Gain: 1100m/3600ft

Meals:  B,L,D

Day 5Wedderburn to Clyde - Otago Central Rail TrailCycling Distance: 80km

Today we embark on the best section of New Zealand’s original and most famous “Great Ride,” the Otago Central Rail Trail. Steeped in history, this off-road rail trail offers a scenic and historic journey into the Central Otago heartland.

This ever-changing landscape includes rugged mountains, crystal clear rivers, and steep winding gorges. We set off from the iconic Wedderburn Station and cycle over the impressive Poolburn viaduct and Manuherikia Bridge and through the 229m Poolburn tunnel. With views of the Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range, we continue on to Clyde, a quaint historic town in this up and coming wine region.

Clyde was once a wild and rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners, shop keepers and ever-present dancing girls. Dunstan House, significant as a social gathering point for the thousands of miners, was the first hotel built in Clyde. This unique hotel restored with an ambiance of yesteryear is our accommodation for the night. The “gold” that can be found in this region today is wine and before dinner, we have an option to try award-winning Pinot Noir with a private wine tasting at a local winery.

Cycling Distance: Wedderburn to Clyde - 80km

Elevation Gain: 275m/900ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 6Bannockburn to MossburnCycling Distance: 72km

Today's ride is epic! Taking us high on the Carrick and Hector Ranges we'll experience amazing Central Otago scenery with views to the Southern Alps. This barren landscape is dominated by tussock grass and huge rocky tors.

After a short transfer to Bannockburn via the Dunstan Gorge, we start by climbing steadily and steeply over the next 15km to Duffers Saddle at 1300m, which is the highest public road in NZ. There are wonderful views back over Cromwell, Lake Dunstan and the Upper Clutha Valley before the descent into the Nevis Valley and the first of many river crossings. Numerous reminders of the gold mining history of the area are evident with dredge ponds and tailings, gold mines, dwellings, and cemetery. The valley is split by a steep, rocky gorge between the Lower and Upper Nevis, the road is rough in places with numerous fords, where we might get wet feet.

Todays ride is supported by a 4WD vehicle to allow us to travel through this remote region. Towards the end of our journey the road starts to climb again to take us over a second lower saddle, affording more amazing views over a bright green valley ahead and with a back drop of large mountain ranges. We descend to the small settlement of Garston where today's ride ends.

We load up the bikes and transfer to Mossburn and our accommodation for the night. We will reminisce on today's huge achievement over a drink in the local pub and celebrate new friendships and our unforgettable week of adventure.

Cycling Distance: Bannockburn to Garston - 72km

Elevation Gain: 1750m/5740ft

Meals:  B,L

Day 7Mossburn to QueenstownCycling Distance: 55km

Our final cycle ride take us into the hidden Mavora Lakes, a site of scenes from Lord of the Rings and the isolated Van Valley.

We start by transferring by bus and set off cycling along the lakeside through beech forest with a stunning mountainous backdrop. The valley opens out into wide open tussock-land lined by high mountains and our gravel road heads towards the horizon.

We climb gently to a low saddle and from the top we can see a deep gorge carved by the Von River. We descend quickly down the valley and approach Mt Nicholas Station on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here we are greeted by stunning views of snow covered Mount Earnslaw at the head of the lake.

We follow the lake trail round to Walter Peak Station where we can browse around the historic farm buildings and enjoy some refreshments overlooking the lake.

In the late afternoon we board the TSS Earnslaw Steamer to take us across the shimmering waters of Lake Wakatipu to the end of this incredible journey in Queenstown. We drop you to your accommodation and say a sad farewell to our guides and cycling companions.

Cycling Distance: Mavora Lakes to Walter Peak Station - 55km Elevation Gain: 330m/1080ft

Meals:  B,L

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