Autumn revolutions – six great rides and fantastic festivals

Six cracking combos of great rides and fantastic festivals to make the most of New Zealand’s golden autumn.

Golden landscapes, luscious late harvest, mellow weather and fewer crowds make autumn a terrific time to explore the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s 23 Great Rides – with an action-packed festival calendar adding even more excitement into the mix. So, if your idea of an awesome autumn is good times and great biking, check out these six cracking combos.

Tasman’s Great Taste Trail & Marchfest

Winding through picturesque inland and coastal scenes at the sunny top of the South Island, Tasman’s Great Taste Trail dishes up cycle rides of various lengths, generously laced with cafes, wineries, breweries and fruit stalls along with galleries, shops, and other enticing stops. Held during the hop harvest at Nelson’s Founders Heritage Park, Marchfest celebrates the region’s bounty with lashings of local brews, wine, cider and delicious food, alongside music and fun for all ages. The daylong festival is the final fling of Nelson Beer Week (18–26 March) during which the region is awash with other beer-related events. 

Hauraki Rail Trail & Whangamata Beach Hop 

A fan of the ‘50s and fast cars? Hit the Whangamata Beach Hop (22–26 March) on the Coromandel Peninsula with its endless summer vibe. Over five days in late March, this ripper seaside resort celebrates all things rock ‘n’ roll with hot rods and other petrol-hedonism, vintage fashion, swinging bands, an old-school surf fest and many other retro spectacles. The nostalgia keeps rolling on the Hauraki Rail Trail, just an hour’s drive away. One of the scenic highlights of this easy, 82km countryside cruise is Karangahake Gorge, a rocky ravine lined with gold mining relics galore and an unforgettable 1100-metre long railway tunnel that will give you a wicked case of the wobbles. And, from 1 April, you could be one of the first to ride the new 48km section all the way to the beautiful Miranda sea coast.

Crankworx & The Timber Trail

In late March, bike fanatics need look no further than the heart of the North Island for awesomeness on and off the track. Get into the zone on the Timber Trail, a 1–2 day ride through remote Pureora Forest with its towering trees, abandoned timber-milling relics and epic suspension bridges. Less than 90 minutes’ drive away, New Zealand’s hottest geothermal and MTB hub – Rotorua – hosts the world’s largest mountain biking festival. Crankworx is nine days of enduro, slopestyle, downhill, other daredevil events and entertainment, (25 March–2 April), and a chance to see the legendary Skyline Gravity Park and Whakarewarewa Forest at full tilt.

Queenstown Trail & Queenstown Bike Festival 

The ridiculously popular resort of Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most exciting cycling destinations. It cranks into top gear during the annual Queenstown Bike Festival (8–22 April) – two weeks of races, skills comps and often crazy special events held when Queeny’s crowds are noticeably thinner. Hooray! In and around the festival there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the Queenstown Trail, the region’s epic cycleway network offering countless routes sandwiching stacks of must-see attractions between slices of mountain scenery all the more magnificent in autumn colours. 

Queen Charlotte Track & Classic Fighters Airshow

Easter is a great time to experience the Marlborough region’s extremes. On one side, the lush native forest and sparkling waters of the Marlborough Sounds, explored by mountain bike on the Queen Charlotte Track. The 70km trail can be ridden over 2–3 days stopping overnight in waterside lodges, or discovered on terrific day trips mixing biking with walking and kayaking. In striking contrast, the Wairau Valley’s dry, golden hills are a stunning backdrop for Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka air show (14–16 April). This exhilarating three-day extravaganza stars more than 100 aircraft and packs in plenty ground support including theatrical re-enactments and sampling some of the delicious food and wine that Marlborough is famous for.

Hawke’s Bay Trails & FAWC!

Hawke’s Bay is a delightful cycling destination all year round, with early winter particularly appealing for the F.A.W.C! (Food and Wine Classic) festival held over five weekends (9 June–9 July). The Hawke’s Bay Trails are perfect for working up an appetite, with more than 200km of quiet country roads and cycleways waiting to be sliced and diced into various day rides. Blending sublime countryside and coastal scenery, the trails also pass tasty attractions such as olive groves, cafes, wineries and world-renown art deco icons, many of which play host to the F.A.W.C! festival’s diverse and delicious events.