Cycling NZ's South Island: Queenstown Trails

Not content with being the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown also boasts one of the finest of the New Zealand Cycle Trails.

Along with four ski-fields, remote wilderness hikes, a shot of adrenalin activities and superlative wine country, the Queenstown region also boasts one of the finest of the New Zealand Cycle Trails.

Easy lakeside jaunts

Ranging from easy lakeside jaunts to cross-country treks, the Queenstown Trails network is an unbeatable way to tick off some of the area’s most famous attractions while soaking up spectacular scenery.

The cycle ways thread their way throughout the Wakatipu Basin for more than 100km, and are easily accessed from numerous points including central Queenstown. Starting on the lakefront and hugging the shore most of the way, the Lake Wakatipu Trail is a leisurely way to explore the resort town’s surrounds. 

It begins by skirting around the botanical Queenstown Gardens before ambling through to Frankton, around 30 minutes’ ride away. The Boat Shed Cafe offers refreshment in a picturesque waterside spot.

Bike companies galore

There are numerous bike hire and cycle tour companies based in Queenstown and Arrowtown. The best place to find them is on the official Queenstown Trails website. 
 
After crossing the historic Kawarau Falls Bridge, the Lake Wakatipu Trail continues past the snazzy Hilton Hotel (cyclists welcome), then through to residential Kelvin Heights and Queenstown Golf Course for a mostly flat ride of totalling just 15km. Riders can be collected with pre-arranged transport, or turn-tail and pedal back to Queenstown – a round trip of 2–3 hours.
 
The irresistibly old gold village of Arrowtown is also a good base for trails take-off, with plenty of loop rides in its ambit and ready shuttle services available for drop-offs and pick-ups.
 
The Arrow River Bridges Trail is a rewarding half-day, one-way ride towards the wine-soaked Gibbston Valley. The Wakatipu Basin scenery – complete with picture-postcard cottages and quiet country lanes – will stop riders in their tracks as they wend their way along the riverside path.
 
Beyond a suspension bridge high above the Arrow Gorge, the trail follows an old goldminers’ road towards the historic Kawarau Bridge, home to the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre. Here riders can knock the big bounce off their bucket list, or just sip a cuppa on the sidelines while being thoroughly entertained.
 
A fitting finish to the Arrow River Bridges Trail is a visit to nearby Chard Farm winery. After a 2–3 hour ride of 16 kilometres, a luscious riesling might be the order of the day.
 

Valley of the Vines

Riders with juice in the tank and a taste for the grape can extend their ride into the ‘Valley of the Vines’ on the Gibbston River Ride. The area’s cool, gently sloping hills produce some particularly fine pinot noir and stellar aromatics.
 
Early on, Gibbston Valley Winery is must-visit for its wine caves and restaurant, and cheesery next door. Further along is the unmistakeable architectural statement of Peregrine winery, and the historic Gibbston Tavern. Waitiri Creek winery marks the end of the 13km-long Gibbston River Ride, where riders can arrange to be collected.
 
Arrowtown is also a convenient base for the Lake Hayes Circuit, an 8km, one-hour trail featuring a couple of short hill climbs. This lake is a photographer’s dream, its mirrored surface reflecting graceful willow and poplar, and surrounding mountains. Adding to its appeal are a couple of notable eateries within close proximity.
 
Walnut Cottage is a restful spot for home-cooked food and coffee in the shade of a century-old walnut tree, while Amisfield is a simply stunning winery restaurant serving up one of New Zealand’s finest dining experiences.
 
The Arrowtown–Lake Hayes Road car park is a good place to set off for the circuit, which links up with other sections of the Queenstown Trails heading in various directions. As a loop ride from Arrowtown, the Lake Hayes Circuit is around 20km in total, and will take a couple of hours.
 
There are numerous bike hire and cycle tour companies based in Queenstown and Arrowtown. The best place to find them is on the official Queenstown Trails website.