14 days, Road Cycling, South Island (shorter options available on request)
The Deep South Ride is the ride of all rides! This circuit takes you from Christchurch, across the mountains, down the West Coast, into Queenstown, and through the Southern Alps back to Christchurch again. On the way you’ll be able to enjoy the most incredible scenery, from the coastal beaches of the West Coast, to the wilderness of Fiordland and Milford Sound. Distances covered during this trop vary from 25 and 75 miles (40 – 120km) per day, with the opportunity to do more or less if you prefer. The trip is fully vehicle-supported, so there is plenty of flexibility and freedom on the road. You can bike as little or as much as you like. With specialist cycling guides at your side, this surely will be one of the rides of your life.
Who did we design this trip for?
This trip is for serious cyclists wanting to take on the ultimate challenge while enjoying the stunning scenery the South Island has to offer. You must have a good level of cycling fitness to enjoy yourself on the Deep South Ride. You don’t have to be young and extremely fit, but you should be in the habit of cycling regularly. Age and experience are not as important as attitude. If you have any concerns regarding your level of fitness, have a chat with us so we can help make sure you’ve chosen the most suitable trip.
Meal Code: B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner
If you're flying in long-haul, you'll leave the Northern Hemisphere on a Saturday, arriving in New Zealand early Monday morning. You'll need to arrive in Christchurch by around 10am. Once you are in Christchurch you will be set up with your bike and it will be adjusted your liking. You'll then have a chance to stretch your legs and get that first dose of NZ air in your lungs with a ride from Springfield into the heart of the Southern Alps and over Porters Pass. You'll cycle past Castle Hill Scenic Reserve, an area once quoted by the Dalai Lama as the ‘Spiritual Centre of the Universe’, and then on to your accommodation for the night on a working sheep station. Take a walk outside after dinner to savour the night sky and enjoy the fact that you are finally here in New Zealand.
Notes: Cycling distance 25miles (40km) – Springfield to Flockhill Station (ascent 878m).
ACCOMMODATION: Flockhill Station, Flockhill (L,D)
Today we'll take on the highest pass through the Southern Alps. From Flockhill, we'll head further into the depths of the South Island. We will go over the Waimakariri River, through native beech forest and into the small township of Arthur’s Pass. After having enjoyed lunch in the mountains, we'll continue through the mountains all the way over to the rainforests and rivers of the West Coast. At the end we will emerge at the beach in Hokitika for our first glimpse of the Tasman Sea. Hokitika is famous for its local art galleries and pounamu, which is Maori for jade, carving workshops. You will have the opportunity to enjoy watching the locals carving jade in the shops around town. Tonight we'll enjoy an evening by the sea.
Notes: Cycling distance 22miles (35km) - Flockhill to Arthur’s Pass (ascent 160m). Then 57miles (92km) – Arthur’s Pass to Kumara Junction (ascent 100m, descent 900m, 1 big downhill).
It’s time to tackle the wild and rugged West Coast. This isolated area is full of dense native rainforest, huge fast-flowing rivers and spectacular views of the Southern Alps, which we will get to explore all day. We'll follow the main inland road, with its sweeping views of deserted West Coast beaches, and end up at the Okarito Lagoon. Okarito is a hidden gem that is all but untouched due to it being 10 miles down a one-way road from an obscure highway turnoff. With a permanent population of only approximately 37 people, there are no shops, no restaurants and no traffic. We'll spend the night in our off-the-beaten-path, isolated and cosy beach house, enjoy a home-cooked meal and celebrate another day in the outdoors as we watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea.
Notes: Cycling distance 78miles (126km) - Hokitika to Okarito Beach (ascent 250m, descent 250m, 1 hill).
Yet another day with incredible scenery. From Okarito we'll cycle into Westland Tai Poutini National Park and glacier country. After a quick stop at the Franz Josef Glacier, we'll hop on our bikes and attack the three hills between Franz Josef Glacier and its twin, Fox Glacier. These hills are quite demanding so pace yourself. However feel free to catch a ride whenever you like. Once we are in Fox, we'll hike to the terminal face of the glacier and see the 2,600m of ice falling towards us from the Southern Alps. If you're still keen for more biking after visiting the glacier, a late afternoon ride out to Lake Matheson with a short hike is in order, where there are more mountain views to gaze upon. We will spend the night at the Mt Cook View Motel in Fox Glacier.
Notes: Cycling distance 15miles (24km) - Okarito to Franz Josef Glacier (ascent 175m, gradual). Then 16miles (25km) - Franz to Fox Glacier (ascent 400m, descent 300m, 3 big hills).
The fifth day on the road will take us south through West Coast farmland to the deserted mineral beaches of Bruce Bay and Ship Creek. Here you will learn the legends and stories of the area as you take a break from the saddle. Finally it will be time to take one last look at the rainforests and ferns before we head away from the beaches and inland again. Tonight we stay in the West Coast village of Haast, a quiet place just inland from the coast.
Notes: Cycling distance 75miles (119km) - Fox Glacier to Haast (ascent 200m, descent 275m, 1 hill).
Today we'll travel inland, away from the “Gates of Haast”, up and over Haast Pass. It’s another big hill to tackle, but we should be in great shape by now! We'll go back over the Southern Alps and into the stunning Makarora Valley bordering Mt. Aspiring National Park. We'll finish up in Makarora, a small farming village, with a population of approximately 30, bordering the park. We'll stay the night at a beautifully landscaped, family-style homestead on the edge of the village with incredible alpine views. Watch the colours of the landscape change in the setting sun as it goes down behind the mountains tonight.
Notes: Cycling distance 47miles (75km) - Haast to Makarora (ascent 600m, descent 100m, 1 big hill).
Today is a big day. After a sumptuous home-cooked breakfast, we depart following the Makarora River as it joins into Lake Wanaka. We'll ride past this beautiful lake, the fourth largest in New Zealand. Then we will head over to neighbouring Lake Hawea and follow the winding roads back to Lake Wanaka again. It’s a beautiful ride through a stunning area, and popular with local cyclists who are training for their next event. Give them a wave as you pass. Departing Lake Wanaka, we'll ride through the historic gold-mining area up the Cardrona Valley, to take on the Crown Range. We'll make our way up steadily, eventually reaching the source of the Cardrona River and the top of the Crown Range road. Once you're up it’s time to give yourself a pat on the back! This road is a Category One class from the other direction, so going down the far side is a real hoot – and you can go fast! Once at the base, we'll catch our breath before making our way through the Wakatipu Basin and on to Queenstown, our home for the next two nights.
Notes: Cycling distance 37miles (60km) - Makarora to Wanaka (ascent 200m, descent 225m, rolling hills). Then 40miles (64km) - Wanaka to Queenstown (ascent 700m, descent 825m, 1 big hill).
Today you’ve earned to have a day off. And enjoy this day in Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand and you'll find all sorts going on here! You can choose from a myriad of ‘optional extra’ activities including hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, canyon swinging, horse trekking, fishing or perhaps take a more sedate winery tour if you're looking for something a bit more relaxing. You'll also find all the comforts of civilisation: massage therapists, restaurants, cafés and plenty of shopping. Alternatively, you can opt to stick with your bike to explore the local trails. There are some brilliant single track downhill trails for anyone who wants to enjoys some more mountain biking, either in Skippers Canyon or in the forests of Queenstown, as well as ample road biking opportunities too. Queenstown isn’t a big place – the population is about 8000 – so it’s easy to explore, or just relax and enjoy the view from our cosy little home in the mountains.
It’s all on again this morning and we look forward to hearing what you got up to in Queenstown! We'll catch up over breakfast at a local café before jumping back on our bikes again to burn it off. Today we're biking from Queenstown to Kingston and when you're winding along the road with Lake Wakatipu on one side and the towering mountains of the Remarkables on the other, you'll see why previous explorers were so wowed by this area they saw it as being fit for Kings and Queens! The Wakatipu Basin was once a huge glacier back in the last ice age, and from Kingston south you'll see evidence of old glacial moraines. We'll stop at Five Rivers and Mossburn for a quick breather or a longer rest in the bus when you’ve had enough, and finish the day in Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.It’s all on again this morning. Exchange stories with your fellow travelers on what you got up to in Queenstown! We'll catch up over breakfast at a local café before jumping back on our bikes again to burn it off. Today we're biking from Queenstown to Kingston and when you're winding along the road with Lake Wakatipu on one side and the towering mountains of the Remarkables on the other, you'll see why previous explorers were so mesmerized by this area they saw it as being fit for Kings and Queens! The Wakatipu Basin was once a huge glacier back in the last ice age, and from Kingston south you'll see evidence of old glacial moraines. We'll stop at Five Rivers and Mossburn for a quick breather or a longer rest in the bus when you’ve had enough. Then we will finish the day in Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.
Notes: Cycling distance 105miles (170km) – Queenstown to Te Anau (ascent 200m, descent 325m, rolling terrain).
Today is an exciting day and a real highlight of the Deep South Ride. We'll start out in rolling Southland farmland and carry on past Lake Te Anau before entering Fiordland National Park. This National Park is a World Heritage Area of vast wilderness and breathtaking scenery. There are a few small gradual climbs past pretty lakes enclosed by forests and then we'll enter the alpine region of the Darren Mountains, a mountaineer’s paradise. Eventually we'll arrive at the Homer Tunnel, which workers started to dig through in 1935 and didn’t finish until 1954! The view at the other end of the tunnel is almost overwhelming, so take a moment to pause and enjoy this moment before the fun descent all the way down to the sea and one of the most remote parts of our country. The only way to experience Milford Sound is from the water, which is why we'll catch a boat out to explore the fiord and learn about the region. If you're still up to it afterwards, you're welcome to jump back on your bike for the long slog back up the hill, or the bus will be there if you prefer. We'll relax back in Te Anau for the evening to reflect on a memorable day.
Notes: Cycling distance - 73miles (117km) – Te Anau to Milford Sound (ascent 720m, descent 920m, gradual then 1 big hill). Then 25miles (33km) – Milford Sound to The Divide (ascent 920m, descent 390m, 1 big hill).
Today we have a relaxed start before we drive back up the road to Queenstown. In Queenstown you'll have a couple of hours to grab some lunch, do a spot of shopping or send a few postcards before we carry on. Taking the road north to the Lindis Pass, we'll jump back on our bikes and do the downhill section of the pass into the Mackenzie District. We'll ride on through to Ohau Lodge, a cosy Kiwi lodge beside Lake Ohau with a stunning view of Mount Cook when the sky is clear. This remote lodge is a real home away from home and you probably won’t want to leave.
Notes: Cycling distance - 45miles (72km) - Lindis Pass to Ohau (ascent nil, descent 430m, gradual).
After another tasty breakfast accompanied by a fantastic view, we'll bike out of Ohau to the main road. The wide open expanses of the Mackenzie Basin offer spectacular vistas of the Southern Alps from the eastern side as we cycle past. On the way, we'll detour along one of the main canals that have helped to shape this arid landscape, and arrive at our destination on the shores of the stunningly blue Lake Tekapo. Tonight you can take a well-deserved soak in Tekapo’s hot alpine springs while gazing up at the Southern Cross in the sky. Lake Tekapo is known to be a special spot for astronomers as well who take advantage of the amazingly clear skies and minimal light pollution from an observatory on a nearby hill.
Notes: Cycling distance - 56miles (90km) - Ohau to Tekapo (ascent 250m, descent 70m, mostly flat).
Today it’s back on the bikes once again for a ride across rolling hills, past winter ski fields and farming communities. We'll also go through the rural townships of Burkes Pass, Fairlie, and Geraldine. The choice is yours; as little or as much riding as you want today! If you still have the energy you can do it all, or if you're starting to wind down then you can keep your guide company in the support vehicle. Say goodbye to the Southern Alps as you make your way further into the Canterbury region. We'll enjoy a final meal together to celebrate our adventures and achievements and there’s bound to be plenty of stories to share.
Notes: Cycling distance - 27miles (43km) - Tekapo to Fairlie (ascent nil, descent 450m, mostly flat). Then 28miles (46km) - Fairlie to Geraldine (ascent 100m, descent 350m, rolling hills). Then 30miles (49km) - Geraldine to Mt Somers (ascent 250m, descent nil, gradual).
After a leisurely breakfast, we'll take our final ride through to Canterbury Plains and the farming township of Darfield. You’ve made it! You have completed a loop of the South Island. It’s time now to swap your bikes for the bus and head into Christchurch. We'll arrive by early afternoon, so make sure your international flight leaves after 3pm ideally, or 2pm for domestic flights are manageable if you let us know beforehand. We'll wave goodbye and leave you refreshed, invigorated and full of lasting memories of the fun times you'll have had cycle touring in New Zealand with us.
Notes: Cycling distance - 46miles (74km) - Mt Somers to Darfield (ascent 100m, descent 290m, 1 hill).
Sun:Mt Somers to Darfield, depart Christchurch
Mon:Arrive, cycle Springfield to Flockhill
Wed:Cycle the West Coast to Okarito
Thu:Cycle Okarito to Fox Glacier
Fri:Cycle Fox Glacier to Haast
Sat:Cycle Haast Pass, Mt Aspiring National Park
Sun:Cycle Wanaka and the Crown Range road
Mon:Free day in Queenstown
Tue:Cycle Queenstown to Te Anau
Wed:Cycle Fiordland and Cruise Milford Sound
Thu:Cycle Lindis Pass to Ohau
Fri:Cycle Mackenzie Basin and hot pools
Sat:Cycle Tekapo to Canterbury
Sun:Mt Somers to Darfield, depart Christchurch