Gravel Cycling New Zealand Overview
A ride off the beaten track through the interior of the South Island of New Zealand. Taking the road less travelled via alpine lakeshores and gravel passes. Our route links together sections of NZ’s national cycle trail network and remote back roads to experience the rugged high country and quaint, historic townships of Canterbury and Otago.
This was conceptualised by our NZ Trip Specialist Rich Mortiboys who is based in Christchurch and knows the lay of the land intimately. His choice of routes and abodes along the way reflect his ability to get you off the beaten track and provide a wonderful immersion into life in New Zealand.
Gravel Cycling New Zealand Highlights
• Cycle up onto the rim of the extinct volcano that now forms Lyttelton Harbour and the Port Hills.
• Let us take you away from the crowds as we explore the gravel roads that pre-date New Zealand’s highways.
• Tour Christchurch, a city still in flux following the earthquakes of a decade ago; discover new architecture and some of the innovative uses of new-found space.
• Ride from Lake Lyndon to Lake Coleridge, surrounded by mountains of the Southern Alps.
• Take a dip in the glacially-fed, turquoise waters of the Rakaia River.
• Ride the road less travelled across the Hakataramea and Dansey’s passes.
• Visit heritage townships and see how farming has been vital to these communities for 150 years.
• See Māori rock drawings and learn how indigenous people have settled and cultivated these places for over 700 years.
• Explore the remnants of the Otago Gold Rush and the legacy of the people that came to earn their fortune.
• Sample the produce at wineries in the heart of New Zealand’s Pinot Noir country, Central Otago.
• Take a thrilling jet boat ride through the Roxburgh Gorge on the mighty Clutha River.
• And finally a bonus ride on the final day that takes in the newly inaugurated Lake Dunstan Trail
New Zealand Gravel Explorer Bike Tour Dates & Prices 2021
|Tour||Start Date||End Date||Days||Cost|
|Custom New Zealand Gravel Cycling||22nd October||30th October||8 days (7 nights)||NZ$4520 (SOLD OUT)|
|Custom New Zealand Gravel Cycling||Your Choice||Your Choice||8 days (7 nights)||NZ $4520|
Gravel Cycling New Zealand Hotel Selection
As befitting a tour that seeks to take you off the beaten track our accommodation options are eclectic given that we combine a city start – Christchurch – with heading into the interior of the South Island. Along the way, we immerse ourselves in the natural surroundings we find and stay in historic townships. Our accommodation options are limited in terms of the number of choices available but they all share a charm and level of hospitality that won’t disappoint. Below are a selection of the hotels that we have chosen for this tour.
Peppers Bluewater Resort Lake Tekapo
On the shore of Lake Tekapo in the heart of Mackenzie Country our hotel has a spectacular natural setting. With its secluded position, it provides a wonderfully relaxing stay in an intensely beautiful part of the world.
Hawkdun Lodge, Central Otago
The Hawkdun Lodge is a modern spacious motel-style hotel located beside the Rail Trail in Ranfurly, in the Maniototo. A peaceful place to rest and relax in the indoor hot tub.
Pavilions Hotel, Christchurch
Situated in the heart of Christchurch this 4-star family-run hotel manages to combine providing all the amenities one would expect of a city hotel without losing any of its charm. We spend two nights here at the start of our tour.
Dunstan House, Clyde
This Heritage NZ listed hotel used to welcome weary travellers from the Cobb & co stagecoach. Visitors today can enjoy the elegance of a bygone-era beautifully combined with modern facilities.
Waitaki Braids Lodge, Kurow
Opened in 1888 as the Kurow Store, this historic building is now a beautiful boutiue hotel. The hotel restaurant has local produce at the heart of its menu, so expect good cheeses, seasonal fruit, and local beer & wine.
The Old School, Enfield
This school house has been lovingly renovated to create a spacious modern retreat with a luxurious feel, and all the amenities you could possibly need.
Gravel Cycling New Zealand History
Finding a consistent historical theme for this tour was not easy but we were very taken by the legend of the folk hero James McKenzie & his dog Friday. Since we will be travelling through the territory in which their legend was created we thought we’d focus on them as our historical focus.
Born in Scotland around 1820 McKenzie emigrated to Australia in 1849. He bought himself some bullocks and started to earn a living carrying goods to the gold-digging sites. His plan obviously worked as he was able to save up enough money to get himself to New Zealand, disembarking at Nelson. His aim was to acquire some land to call his own. He worked his way south, buying more bullocks along the way, eventually applying for a land grant in the Mataura District.
It was rumoured that he would travel north to ‘obtain’ stock, and in March 1855 some 1,000 sheep were found to be missing from Levels Station, South Canterbury – they were tracked over the low passes and on to the plains, now known as Mackenzie Country. His pursuers, reportedly a Mr J.H.C. Sidebottom and his two Maori companions, caught up with him on the 4th March, but McKenzie somehow managed to escape. He fled and covered the 100 miles to Lyttelton, before the law caught up with him and he was arrested. In April 1855 he was sentenced to 5 years hard labour, but proved difficult to contain, managing to escape twice, in May and June that year, each time being recaptured within a few days. After another failed escape attempt in September he was placed in irons and monitored closely.
But all was not lost. It is said the Sheriff of Lyttelton, H.J. Tancred, believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and closer inspection showed significant flaws in the investigation and trial. There was a talk of an ‘unknown man’ who employed James to drive the sheep from Canterbury to Otago. He was eventually pardoned in January 1856 after spending only 9 months in prison. He didn’t stick around and the last we know of his movements are that he paid passage and sailed from Lyttelton to Australia that very month.
Over the years Mckenzie’s story became surrounded by mystery and legend and he became a local hero. He was subject of myths and stories, many of which included his dog, and he was even immortalised in a folk ballad, Mckenzie Song by Mike Harding. More recently, he was the inspiration for the 2008 novel Chandler’s Run, by Denise Muir – a sweeping romantic epic set in New Zealand’s southern mountains, in which the heroine is torn between her dependable consumptive husband, and the swarthy Scottish drover, James McKenzie, and his faithful dog Friday.
The Mackenzie Basin, the area of New Zealand’s South Island that still bears his name, sits between the sprawling plains of Canterbury and the Southern Alps, and is home to beautiful glacial lakes and Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Tour at a Glance
Length: 8 days / 7 nights
Distance: 639km I 397 miles
Elevation: 6384m I 20944ft
Dates: Custom Dates Availableaa
Length: 8 days / 7 nights