Imagine cycling through New Zealand bush, surrounded by light dappled foliage and the tuneful sounds of unique native songbirds. Or, picture a trail that rounds a sweeping bend to a breath-taking view of snowcapped peaks mirrored in a deep green lake.
Experiences like these are real examples of what visitors can encounter on Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail - an innovative national project developing cycle trails in different parts of New Zealand.
Nga Haerenga, which means 'the journeys' in both a physical and a spiritual sense, will offer a two-wheeled immersion in New Zealand landscapes on purpose-built cycle-friendly terrain.
A grand dream
The New Zealand Cycle Trail dream was to build a collection of cycle trails that would be a healthy and enjoyable way for Kiwis and international visitors to see the country, and provide economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities.
The national initiative was inspired by the success of another New Zealand cycleway, the Otago Central Rail Trail - a grassroots community project that has become a major tourism attraction. The easy three-day ride is renowned for its dramatic landscape, and hospitable local hosts.
The Great Rides
Nga Haerenga - a series of regional projects driven by the New Zealand Government in partnership with regional bodies and enthusiastic locals - covers 22 trails dubbed ‘The Great Rides’.
While cyclists won’t be able to travel the length of New Zealand on Nga Haerenga because it’s a network rather than one uninterrupted trail, they will be able to taste almost every region and landscape.
The Great Rides traverse a variety of landscapes on New Zealand’s North and South islands, taking travellers into subtropical fern forests in the far north, along remote historic roads and rail tracks, to stunning lake and mountain views, past wild beaches, through lush rainforests and wetlands.
Cycling at all levels
There is something for everyone to enjoy on the trails that have been constructed with all levels of cyclists in mind.
Experienced cyclists will be able to ride challenging multi-day alpine tracks, while novice or less experienced travellers will find quiet country roads, coastal meanders, vineyard and forest trails offering easy riding.
The first Great Ride, the 60km St James Cycle Trail near Hanmer Springs in Canterbury, opened in late 2010. It crosses a high country alpine landscape that will appeal to experienced riders.
The recently finished Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail is the longest continuous ride in New Zealand and covers both the Waitaki and Mackenzie regions. Riders start on the iconic Mt Cook and travel 310km over six days finishing in Oamaru, 120km north of Dunedin.
In the Central North Island, keen cyclists can try two trails that are part of the Ruapehu - Whanganui Nga Ara Tuhono trail. The Old Coach Road section is a family-friendly 11km day ride, while the longer two-day Mangapurua Track ride is for more experienced cyclists.
All 22 cycle ways provide more than 2000km of trail.
Cycle trail online
Prospective cyclists can check out the range of the 22 Great Rides on the nzcycletrail.com website.
The cycle trail website features detailed information about each of the Great Rides including recommended itineraries, photographs, interactive maps, trail elevation graphs and scenic highlights.
Users can also link easily to individual trail websites to book guided tours.
A range of cycling product is already available including excursions that last only an hour or two through to a 15-day tour that incorporates parts of four different cycle trails.
The first product directory published covers 50 tourism businesses with 63 tourism experiences.