Cycling is a popular New Zealand sport, and there are many destinations that offer visitors a chance to get to know the real New Zealand - fresh air, wildlife and songbirds, tasty regional fare and friendly locals.
Most tracks are open year-round, but some trails in remote regions may be closed for winter months. Multi-day tracks offer a variety of basic and luxury accommodation, cafés and food stops.
Auckland & Coromandel
Just north-west of Auckland - near Helensville - the dark trees of Woodhill Forest set a suitably foreboding scene for the White Witch’s camp in the Narnia films. The otherwise friendly forest also has an extensive network of 50 mountain bike trails with 150km of tracks for riders of all levels.
Waihi - on the Coromandel Peninsula - has a variety of rides through the historic gold mining region, including guided options with Cycle Escapes.
Hamilton and Waikato trails
The Te Aroha Mountain Bike Track - in the Waikato region - is a scenic year-round 10km ride that winds through bush-clad foothills, past waterfalls and the Mokena Geyser - the world’s only known hot water soda geyser. At the tracks end, hot soda spas and leisure pools are a great place to finish.
Near Tokoroa, the Cougar Mountain Bike Park off-road forest tracks are home to several mountain biking events. The 10 tracks across 35km of volcanic ash and clay, offer exhilarating rides for cyclists of all abilities.
Waikato River Trails is a cycling network for all abilities that includes riverside boardwalks, farmland, and native bush with unique geological formations and historical landmarks. The trail travels 100km from Lake Karapiro to the hydro dam at Atiamuri.
The Hauraki Rail Trail is an easy grade one track that takes in the towns of Te Aroha, Paeroa, Thames and Waihi that features vintage railways and old mining infrastructure. The full trail is a two-day ride combining a series of shorter rides.
The Timber Trail, in Pureora Forest Park travels through four ecological areas showcasing the remnants of ancient forests. The full trail is a two day ride with several options for shorter rides.
Bay of Plenty scenic rides
Coastal Bay of Plenty has many popular bike trails to suit both beginners and keen adventurists. Take a scenic bike ride on Tauranga’s urban trails, or opt for an adventurous mountain biking experience. The Tauranga City Walkways brochure from the local i-SITE visitor centre, covers dual-use trails, boardwalks and parks throughout the city.
Summerhill Farm - 10 minutes from Tauranga - is a privately-owned park with dedicated mountain biking and walking trails through a mix of native forest and rolling farmland. Tracks for first-timers to experienced riders include a swooping single track along with skills areas.
Adventure Bay of Plenty offers guided mountain biking tours and ‘freedom hire’ equipment. Tours include combination biking and kayaking options that have unique access to islands in the Tauranga Harbour.
Rotorua thermal region
Rotorua is a globally renowned mountain-biking destination. Local cycle shops offer hire bikes and maps to the 70km-plus of tracks that are just minutes from town. In Whakarewarewa Forest, graded tracks weave through a thick forest landscape, past lakes and geothermal activity.
Not far from Rotorua, Whirinaki Forest Trails include the Whirinaki Loop track and 36km epic Moerangi Trail which was rated "ride of the trip" by Australian Mountain Bike magazine in 2009.
Central North Island wilderness adventures
Cyclists in the central North Island Ruapehu region have a choice of 14 tracks for cyclists of all levels that are detailed in the Ruapehu Great Rides brochure including Tongariro Forest Parks 42 Traverse track - a renowned premium ride across 46km of challenging and diverse terrain on the volcanic Central Plateau.
The Waioni Tram Mountain Bike Track - which follows an old tram line with gentle gradients through Pureora Forest Park - is the first stage of the proposed 60km Central North Island Rail Trail, another part of the NZ cycleway project.
On Taranaki’s romantically named Forgotten World Highway, the 18km Whangamomona Road offers a serious grade 3+ back country mountain cycling track - beginning at the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and ending at the famed Whangamomona Pub. Not for the faint-hearted, this renowned mountain bike and 4WD route was carved through rugged hills and native bush more than a century ago.
Within easy distance of central New Plymouth, the Lake Mangamahoe mountain biking network offers everything from easy cross country to extreme downhill trails with lake and mountain views. Created by local volunteers, downhill trails - with names like the Drop Track and Number 2 Downhill - have bred many hardcore Taranaki riders, including cycling hero Glen Sisarich and rising star Wyn Masters.
Bikes can be hired from New Plymouth bike shops, and trail maps are available from the local mountain bike club website.
Hawke’s Bay landscapes
Hawke’s Bay is considered an important cycling destination because of the mild climate, bike-friendly landscape, and tourism infrastructure that includes vineyards and plenty of accommodation. The Hawke’s Bay Rotary Pathway offers 70km of trails through a gentle coastal landscape of vineyards, orchards and farms that will charm the novice cyclist with a penchant for a tasty interlude.
Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park - 10 minutes north of Napier - is one of New Zealand’s largest mountain bike destinations. The park, within the privately owned commercial Tangoio Forest, has been developed by the Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club. There are great views from the top peak (290m elevation), and 80km of purpose-built biking trails.
The Eskdale trails cater for all riding styles - from cross-country, free ride and downhill trails, to 25km of forestry roads and 4WD tracks - and everyone from the novice to professional rider. The park is open year-round to riders with a pre-purchased permit. Takaro Trails Cycle Tours offer hire equipment, maps and transport.
Wairarapa vineyard trails
March Hare Cycling offers self-guided vineyard cycling tours (October to April) in the northern Wairarapa wine region. This is cyclo-tourism at a leisurely pace - across country paddocks, through local vineyards and olive groves with plenty of stops to sample the local product. Each bike comes with a carrier basket for the gourmet picnic that goes with the tour, and the purchases that cyclists are likely to make en route.
The wineries and olive groves are all boutique, family-owned operations and visitors will experience first-hand the personalities and behind-the-scenes award-winning production.
Wellington - capital city capers
Within sight of central Wellington, the Makara Peak Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular mountain bike tracks. More than 100,000 bikers a year pedal their way up and down steep hills and through native bush, catching spectacular views across Cook Strait to the South Island.
The Makara Peak Park covers 200 hectares, and the track was developed under the guidance of New Zealand’s famous mountain biking brothers - Simon, Jonathan and Paul Kennett.
Just north of Hutt city, the Rimutaka Rail Trail offers 18km of easy-graded mountain bike track in the foothills of the Rimutaka Ranges. The fine gravel trail passes over restored railway bridges and through historic tunnels that were once part of the old Wellington - Wairarapa railway line. The local Hutt City i-SITE has bikes to hire.
New Zealand's champion mountain biking spots
South Island cycling trails