South Island Gravel Grind


    enquire now 7 Days From NZD $3,795 pp twinshare
    Small group
    Terms & Conditions apply

    Explore the vast and impressive Mackenzie Basin and remote Central Otago on this remarkable gravel tour from Christchurch to Queenstown. We trace the footsteps of the early pioneers, along gold mining trails and stock routes which now form quiet back country roads. Our journey begins with an awesome ride on the Banks Peninsula with views of the vivid blue Akaroa Harbour, the crater of an extinct volcano. We then travel through beautiful farm country to the stunning turquoise Lake Tekapo and into the “big-sky country” of Central Otago. We cross the Hakataramea and Danseys Passes and then follow the route of the historic railway, crossing viaducts, bridges and through railway tunnels dating back to the gold mining era of the 1880’s.  Our final two days take us into the Nevis and Von Valleys where we experience real isolation cycling through secluded farm country before arriving at shimmering Lake Wakatipu, surrounded by high mountain peaks. We finish this epic cycle tour with a voyage on the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamer to bring us to Queenstown, and the end of this amazing adventure.

    Highlights

    • Challenge yourself with 7 days of breath-taking gravel grinding
    • Enjoy incredible views of the Southern Alps from the Banks Peninsula
    • Cycle through arid McKenzie Country surrounded by the highest peaks in the country
    • Admire a contrast of vivid blue lakes, sparkling rivers, snow-capped mountains and golden tussock-lands
    • Indulge in award winning wine and local Kiwi cuisine
    • Ride a section of NZ’s famous Otago Central Rail Trail, along the course of a historic rail road
    • Immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Nevis Valley
    • Conclude the tour in iconic Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital

    Itinerary

    Day 1: Christchurch Port Hills & Banks Peninsula
    We will meet our guides this morning and be taken to the depot where we can assemble our bikes or for a bike fit of hire bikes and a tour briefing. Today we have the opportunity to find our cycle legs with a warmup ride on the Banks Peninsula. We will set off riding alongside the Akaroa harbour, starting on an undulating paved road and then beyond the settlement of Wainui on an extended climb up to the panoramic Bossu Road. The road turns to gravel at the top and we follow the crater rim of an extinct volcano with incredible views towards the Canterbury Plains, the snowy Southern Alps and into the vivid blue harbour. We enjoy a fast decent into the old railway town of Little River where we can have a well-deserved snack and a wander around the art gallery. There will be chance for another ride in the afternoon following the Lyttelton harbour from Diamond Harbour to the port town of Lyttelton. This ride is not gravel, but the scenery and views of the water and hills are too good to miss! Our route takes us around the seashore, with lots of short climbs between bays and some more fast descents. Once we reach Lyttelton we load up the bikes and drive back to the city centre and our hotel, arriving in the late afternoon. There will be time to explore the city centre before meeting for our first group dinner in the evening. Cycling Distance: Barry’s Bay to Little River – approx 35km, Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton – 26km (L, D)

    Day 2:Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
    After breakfast, we load up our gear and drive to the small settlement of Albury on the edge of the Canterbury Plains with a coffee stop at Pleasant Point. This area, New Zealand’s only “flat” land, is wide open country with braided rivers teeming with trout and salmon. Today our ride takes us up the Little Opawa River Valley and over the Waratah Saddle, winding through rolling farmland. We then head towards the tussock covered hills and over the Mackenzie Saddle (785m) which cuts through the ranges and gives us our first views of the vast arid Mackenzie Country, where rivers flow through sweeping tussock plains with a backdrop of the snowy alps. We head northwards to meet the main highway at Dog Kennel Corner, a memorial to the importance of sheep dogs, prior to formal fencing of farmland. Here there will be the option to jump onto the support van, or continue the last undulating 15km along the main road to Tekapo. In early summer this road is lined with lupins creating an incredible splash of colour to the arid landscape. Upon arrival in Lake Tekapo, we take in views of the amazing turquoise water and the Southern Alps from the Church of the Good Shepherd, and we can enjoy a soak in the Tekapo Hot Pools before dinner. Cycling Distance: Albury to Dog Kennel Corner – 46km Optional Ride: Dog Kennel Corner to Tekapo – 15km (B, L)

    Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Kurow
    This morning we retrace our steps by vehicle to Dog Kennel Corner and start riding southwards. The first part is paved road, but shortly after the turn off to Mackenzie Pass we see a sign pointing to Hakataramea Pass and we meet the gravel. We leave civilisation and climb towards an indigo sky, lofty views of the Southern Alps and the cloud piercer, Aoraki/Mt Cook behind us are now even more imposing above the Mackenzie Basin, whose truly vast scale is more easily appreciated as we approach the pass. The pass, marked with a fence-line, gate and signposts to destinations in both directions, proudly announces the pass is at 965m above sea level. A short winding descent leads to the broad Hakataramea Valley. The imposing Kirkliston Range to the west towers above the ordered, rolling farmland and we descend to Kurow, a small town where the Hakataramea and Waitaki valleys meet. Tonight we enjoy a home cooked meal and fine kiwi hospitality at our lodge in Kurow. Cycling Distance: Dog Kennel Corner to Kurow – 91km (B, L, D)

    Day 4: Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings
    Todays journey takes us over the remote alpine Dansey’s Pass, a historic stock route and gold mining route linking the Waitaki District with Central Otago. On leaving Kurow we start by following the famous Alps to Ocean trail, a designated cycle track that leads from Aoraki/Mt Cook to the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. We ride a section that follows the Waitaki River and passes Takiroa Maori rock art site before reaching Duntroon. Signposts lead us to the gravelled Dansey’s Pass road and we wind onward and upward over the fractured Kakanui Mountains. We cycle through sections of gorge where the road clings to the cliff side and finally up to the barren tussock covered pass at 935m where huge triangular faced mountains tower above. From the summit we coast for 9km descending to the Dansey’s Pass Coach House at the former gold mining settlement of Kyeburn Diggings. The hotel’s original stonework was constructed in 1862 by a mason known as “Happy Bill”. Bill’s remuneration was in beer, and he received one pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid! We can relax with a drink in front of the large fireplace and there is the opportunity to explore the old cemetery and mining relics before we load up the bikes and drive to our overnight accommodation in Ranfurly. Those eager to keep riding can ride the extra kms to our lodge. Cycling Distance: Kurow to Kyeburn Diggings – 75km Optional Ride: Kyeburn Diggings to Ranfurly – 30km (B, L, D)

    Day 5: Wedderburn to Clyde
    Today we embark on the best section of New Zealand’s original and most famous “Great Ride,” the Otago Central Rail Trail. Steeped in history, this off-road rail trail offers a scenic and historic journey into the Central Otago heartland. This ever-changing landscape includes rugged mountains, crystal clear rivers, and steep winding gorges. We set off from the iconic Wedderburn Station and cycle over the impressive Poolburn viaduct and Manuherikia Bridge and through the 229m Poolburn tunnel. With views of the Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range, we continue on to Clyde, a quaint historic town in this up and coming wine region. Clyde was once a wild and rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners, shop keepers and ever-present dancing girls. Dunstan House, significant as a social gathering point for the thousands of miners, was the first hotel built in Clyde. This unique hotel restored with an ambiance of yesteryear is our accommodation for the night. The “gold” that can be found in this region today is wine and before dinner, we have an option to try award-winning Pinot Noir with a private wine tasting at a local winery. Cycling Distance: Wedderburn to Clyde – 80km (B, L)

    Day 6: Bannockburn to Mossburn
    Today’s ride is epic! Taking us high on the Carrick and Hector Ranges we’ll experience amazing Central Otago scenery with views to the Southern Alps. After a short transfer to Bannockburn via the Dunstan Gorge, we start by climbing steadily and steeply over the next 15km to Duffers Saddle at 1300m, which is the highest public road in NZ. There are wonderful views back over Cromwell, Lake Dunstan and the Upper Clutha Valley before the descent into the Nevis Valley and the first of many river crossings. The valley is split by a steep, rocky gorge between the Lower and Upper Nevis, the road is rough in places with numerous fords, where we might get wet feet. Todays ride is supported by a 4WD vehicle to allow us to travel through this remote region. Towards the end of our journey the road starts to climb again to take us over a second lower saddle, affording more amazing views over a bright green valley ahead and with a back drop of large mountain ranges. We descend to the small settlement of Garston where today’s ride ends. We load up the bikes and transfer to Mossburn and our accommodation for the night. We will reminisce on today’s huge achievement over a drink in the local pub and celebrate new friendships and our unforgettable week of adventure. Cycling Distance: Bannockburn to Garston – 72km (B, L, D)

    Day 7: Mossburn to Queenstown
    Our final cycle ride take us into the hidden Mavora Lakes, a site of scenes from Lord of the Rings and the isolated Van Valley. We start by transferring by bus and set off cycling along the lakeside through beech forest with a stunning mountainous backdrop. The valley opens out into wide open tussock-land lined by high mountains and our gravel road heads towards the horizon. We climb gently to a low saddle and from the top we can see a deep gorge carved by the Von River. We descend quickly down the valley and approach Mt Nicholas Station on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here we are greeted by stunning views of snow covered Mount Earnslaw at the head of the lake. We follow the lake trail round to Walter Peak Station where we can browse around the historic farm buildings and enjoy some refreshments overlooking the lake. In the late afternoon we board the TSS Earnslaw Steamer to take us across the shimmering waters of Lake Wakatipu to the end of this incredible journey in Queenstown. We drop you to your accommodation and say a sad farewell to our guides and cycling companions. Cycling Distance: Mavora Lakes to Walter Peak Station – 55km (B, L)

    Inclusions

    • 6 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 4 dinners
    • 6 nights hotel/motel ensuite accommodation on twin share basis
    • Professional qualified driver/guide
    • 2 professional guides/drivers on trips with 8 or more people
    • Private vehicle transport
    • Entry to the Tekapo hotpools
    • Wine tasting at boutique Central Otago vineyard
    • A journey on the historic TSS Earnslaw Steamer
    • Water and snacks while cycling
    • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation

    WEX-GGR

    Images courtesy of WorldExpeditions; LachlanGardiner