West COAST OF THE SOUTH ISLAND Tour #1 | NELSON TO QUEENSTOWN
Via the Buller Gorge, Arthurs Pass, Hokitika Gorge, Franz & Fox, Haast & the Crown Range
14 - 26 MARCH 2022 (13 Days / 12 Nights) | Sold Out
New Zealand's West Coast is without doubt spectacular. And, COVID gives us the unique chance to ride roads that are normally filled with tourists from all over the world. We're expecting only locals and visitors from Australia will be here in March 2022. We plan to take advantage of that.
Normal Ride Holidays conditions apply. Fully supported for both cyclists and Team Mac (non-riders). Choice of 3 rides most days - cappuccino 50km, latte 70-80km and espresso - 100km plus. Staying in great hotels and including as many meals as possible.
This trip has been designed around riding from hotel to hotel however some of the distances are challenging so we'll certainly have many plan B's on offer.
There will be many highlights. Earlier this year we rode Haast Pass and it's as good as any European ride you'll ever do. On this trip we combine that with Arthurs Pass and many other unforgettable days. Concluding with the one and only - Crown Range.
It's not all about the bike. We've factored in free time in Franz Josef and a spare day in Haast. More importantly - we eat and drink at the best restaurants, wineries and cafes. How many Whitebait fritters can you eat??
A note about bikes. This is suitable for road bikes, cross bikes and e-bikes. 99% of the trip will either be on the road or a grade 1 trail. Those who want to ride the West Coast Wilderness Trail will have the option to hire mountain bikes.
This could quite possibly be the only time we have this amazing scenery to ourselves. Let's make the most of it.
Look forward to riding with you,
West Coast Tour #1 | Tour Details
Tour Inclusions & Highlights
Our team for this trip. At this early stage the team will come from Karl, Jonny, Nathan, Geoff, Abram, Frank, Michael and Richard. We will do our best to confirm this in late September, October.
The Tour Price Excludes
The Tour Cost
Discount - if you are prepared to share a 2 bedroom apartment in a couple of places then we can offer a $250.00 discount per person. Please let Karl know and he'll give you the specifics.
Single travellers - if you want to share a room then we will try and find someone for you to share with. We can normally do this 95% of the time. In the unlikely event that we can't then the single room rate will apply. Sorry but it is a physical cost that we simply can't absorb. We don't put a margin on the single room rate as that would be unfair.
Mountain bike hire for the West Coast Wilderness Trail $90.00 or $150.00 for e-bikes.
There is a $750.00 deposit for this trip. Which is refunded if we can't travel due to Covid. Balance will be due 90 days prior to departure. We will monitor the COVID situation and keep you posted if things change. We are happy for you to book flights. This trip is guaranteed to operate as we have already reached minimum numbers.
Click on the map to view a larger version
Day 1, Monday 14 March
We suggest you arrive mid to late morning if you can. We'll meet you at the airport and transfer you to our central Nelson hotel.
Early this afternoon we put the bikes together and head out for a short (about 3pm) spin. We'll have the support vehicles close by to catch up with those first day mechanicals. Today's ride is only 20km. We'll build things up slowly as the tour goes on.
Team Macchiato head off for a nice wine with Geoff - your Team Mac (or should we say Team Sav) guide for this adventure. As you know - our Team Mac program will have structure however we are very open to suggestions, this afternoon is a good chance for you to share those with Geoff.
Tonight, we've picked one of Nelson's best restaurants - it's important we start appropriately. We introduce the team and run through the plan for the next few days.
/ Accommodation: Delorenzos Studio Apartments, Nelson
Ps, we are happy to arrange accommodation for those wanting to arrive in Nelson early.
Day 2, Tuesday 15 March
Lakes, lakes and lakes. I've just had a very rough count and I believe we'll encounter over 15 different lakes on this trip. So, it's important that we start with a lake.
Coffee is important. Cycling is coffee. We start with coffee.
After caffeine we start our journey south. Queenstown is only 1000km away. That's a big figure but remember - we aren't in a rush and there will always be vehicles around you. "Taxi please"
Today's ride is a shade over 90km. Hotel to hotel. We've even included almost 15km of Great Taste cycleway. (which is absolutely fine on your standard road bike) And, just before I'm accused of telling lies, I can assure you our ride is not flat. We are after all riding in the Southern Alps. Let's call today undulating with a shade over 1300VM from A to B.
Lunch is at a small country café near Spooners Tunnel. Originally built in 1891, the tunnel was dug by hand with two groups of men working at each end to meet in the middle and was a crucial connection between Nelson and Glenhope for 79 years. The intention was to eventually link Nelson with the West Coast, but the tunnel was never connected to the national rail network and closed in 1955, before reopening to cyclists and walkers a few years back.
Team Mac - we thought it would be nice starting with a cup of tea at the Miyazu Japanese Gardens. Before moving on to the hard stuff - yes, this is by far you best chance to visit a winery or two. We see you arriving in Nelson Lakes at about the same time as the cyclists.
Tonight's destination is the village of St Arnaud. Which sits at the edge of Lake Rotoiti - one of the 16 picturesque lakes that make up the Nelson Lakes National Park.We will try and arrive at a decent time so you can head off around the lake for a walk.
/ Accommodation: Alpine Lodge, St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes
Day 3, Wednesday 16 March
As nice it would be to say let's ride hotel to hotel - sometimes safety is more important. Today we'll have our official traffic management vehicle behind us. However, visibility in the upper gorge simply isn't worth the risk.
Here's the plan.
Although Geoff will have Team Mac up nice an early for a long walk.
It's a relaxed start to the day for the cyclists. We will then offer the safest 100km of the approx. the 250km we have to travel. So, 150km in the toot toot. Although we will try and catch up with Team Mac who will be spending time at the Pancake rocks near Punakaiki.
You could tick today off as a transition day. It's the only day where you can't ride hotel to hotel. We're expecting the traffic to be less the further south we go.
Tonight's home is none other than another gorgeous Lake Brunner. And, you all have lake view rooms because life is short and lake view is where it's at.
Tonight, we've asked for a BBQ on the lawn. If we arrive early enough then we may even be able to encourage a couple of the local trout population to join us for dinner.
/ Accommodation: Lake Brunner Hotel
Day 4, Thursday 17 March
Arthurs Pass - Wilderness Lodge
On the Tour de France they have what is called the Queen stage. As a tour operator we also like to have what we'd call a Queen day. Today is that day. Very early in the planning I wanted to make sure that Arthurs Pass featured in our itinerary.
We'd like to leave Lake Brunner reasonably early. No time for fishing I'm afraid. The actual bike ride is only 75km however you are climbing 1200VM. For those who want more mileage there's certainly nothing stopping you carrying on past Arthurs Pass and down the other side. Turning around when you've had enough. If you take this option we will insist on testing you for drugs.
For all the normal people - the reason for leaving Moana early is to maximise our time at the luxurious Wilderness Lodge. At over $500.00 per person per night I'm expecting big things. It's not your normal hotel. Our package includes guided walks on the 4000-acre farm & nature reserve. It really is the type of place you want to spend as much time as possible. Team Mac - your Wilderness Lodge guides will be waiting as you'll get a very private station tour while we are huffing and puffing.
In typical RH tradition we are also not likely to lose any weight on this trip. I'm very much looking forward (vegetarians turn away now) to meeting Flossy the Wilderness Lodge lamb. Flossy is a merino-hampshire cross lamb. Raised on the property. She (Flossy) will be joining us for dinner. (yes, there will be other options… in fact, we could also meet Peppa the pig although that's more than likely to be at breakfast)
This evening would be the ideal time to sit back in the lounge bar with a single malt whisky. One of our guides - Abram is great on the guitar.
This part of the world is also famous for it's night sky due to lack of artificial lighting. Well worth a short walk once darkness hits.
Enjoy your 24 hours in paradise. Even the Queen wouldn't be disappointed staying here.
/ Accommodation: Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge
Day 5, Friday 18 March
Pretty much all downhill… Well it is!!
Except for about 760m of uphill which doesn't seem like a very big number. If you get enough speed up on the descent then you should be able to roll up the other side. (yes, I know)
We don't see a need to rush this morning. Keeping in mind that the lodge is almost 1000m above sea level. Things could be a bit chilly first thing. Sleep in. Have that 2nd cup of coffee. Relax - it's a holiday remember.
Team Mac - after we've prized you away from the lodge we would suggest you visit the National Kiwi centre in Hokitika. Town is also big enough for a spot of retail therapy and also offers a couple of spa treatments if you are that way inclined. As you know - Geoff will make sure that everyone is happy.
Cyclists - our destination for tonight is Kumara which is precisely 86.4km away. Again, it would be fairly easy to find the extra 13.6km for those who want to tick off the 3 digits. Our hotel is actually only about 6km from the coast so maybe we could ride until we hit water and then turn around.
Speaking of our hotel - like last night it isn't an ordinary hotel. The Theatre Royal is the West Coast`s only fully restored gold miners' hotel, and once world-renowned theatre. Each room is unique, with its blend of Victorian decor, antique furnishings and modern amenities. Please be aware though that as the Royal is small we have also had to book some 2 bedroom cottages which aren't in the main building.
It's not all about the food. Well, actually yes, it is all about the food. The Theatre Royal has one of the best restaurants on the West Coast so that is where we shall dine this evening.
/ Accommodation: Theatre Royal, Kumara
Day 6, Saturday 19 March
Road or trail?
Speak to any Tour of Aotearoa rider and they'll tell you that their off-road highlight was the West Coast Wilderness trail. Offering up to 120km off trail cycling. Starting in Greymouth and finishing in Ross. You wind your way through ancient rainforests, along glacial rivers, around moody lakes and across some downright cracking wetlands.
So, 2 choices.
1, we've talked to a local trail company who will bring mountain bikes to us. Our hotel is literally at the halfway mark so you can choose to do as little or as much as you want. We'll have a couple of guides join you on the trail section. You can then spend the day riding without any worry of cars, trucks or motorbikes. Sounds peaceful. In fact - Team Mac this trail is graded # 1 which means it's really really easy. How about hiring an electric bike for a couple of hours?
Or 2, stick to the road and we'll head off to explore the Hokitika Gorge as well as Lake Kaniere. If you choose this option then there is actually about 10km of gravel. It's not compulsory but it would be nice.
Both options finish back in Kumara. We were originally planning on staying tonight in Hokitika however 1 night stays are a pain and we've already had a couple of them. Spending 2 nights in one location means you have the chance to catch up on washing etc. Besides - the restaurant at the Theatre Royal is worth returning to.
/ Accommodation: Theatre Royal, Kumara
Day 7, Sunday 20 March
Today is one for the whippets. Let me describe a whippet for you. They're the cyclists who race up a hill without knowing they're actually on a hill. Often, they look like they could do with a good feed. "Here - have this pie".
160km for normal people would produce a bit of a frown but for your average whippet they'll be smiling and licking their lips. 160 is just a number to a true whippet.
Whippets - off you go. We'll see you later. Keep the green stuff to the left and the blue stuff to your right. Stop when you get to a glacier. Who could possibly get lost with those instructions?
Hmm, has anyone seen Graham White?
For the majority - we will pick the nicest 60 or 100km and that's your day. I'm doing a recce trip to this area later in the year so I'll decide then which segment offers the best coffee. Speaking of coffee - I don't believe we've seen the RH coffee cart yet. Keep an eye open because it's sure to make an appearance at some stage.
For the next couple of nights, we're staying in Glacier Country. Fox and Franz Josef Glacier offer the most accessible rivers of ice in the world. Plunging down through rainforest almost to sea level. Some of you will have sore bottoms. Tomorrow is a day off the bike.
/ Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Day 8, Monday 21 March
Rest day. End of.
If ever a region warranted a rest day. This is it. There are literally hundreds of choices. Many of which I will arrange, book in advance. Here are but a few of your choices.
1, Do nothing. Go for a walk. Support the local shops.
2, You are certainly free to hop on your bike and go for a bit of an explore. Please note that the guides, vehicles won't be around today as even we get sore bottoms.
3, Glacier Heli flight and landing - Approx $360.00 per person.
4, As above but also includes a 2 hour hike $450.00 per person.
5, 3 hour kayak tour on Lake Mapourika $120.00 per person. I have done this in a previous life and it's absolutely amazing.
6, Yup, you could skydive Franz Josef glacier. $600.00 and a good travel insurance policy. Actually - make that a good life insurance policy.
7, Personally - I'll be drinking coffee in the morning and then heading off to the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools in the afternoon. I love hot pools are you are very welcome to join me.
Speaking of giving back to your legs. Today would be your ideal time to book a massage. Our hotel has it's very own Amaia Luxury Spa.
Tonight, is a free night. SnakeBite brewery sounds interesting.
/ Accommodation: Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier
Day 9, Tuesday 22 March
We hope you enjoyed your rest day. That's because the next 4 days are pretty full on.
Actually - all 4 days offer exceptional cycling and sightseeing. Given that it's winter in the Northern Hemisphere I'd say that we could be the luckiest cyclists on the planet over the next few days.
What an agenda - Franz Josef - Haast - Jacksons Bay - Wanaka - Queenstown. Boom.
By now we'll well and truly be in the groove. The whippets will all start grouping together. Talking about FTP, VO2max, EPO and all that sort of good stuff.
The rest of us will huddle together and start to talk about where our first latte will be.
Today's start is quite lumpy. In fact, we climb almost 750m in the first 20km. If you would rather avoid that then how about we run you up the road which means you have a nice gentle 100km to the hotel in Haast. Like on all rides we will have a vehicle at the front and at the back.
Oh, have just checked the map again. There's another 400m of climbing just before you hit Hasst. So, for those vertically conservative we would suggest starting at the 30km mark and pulling the plug at 120km. That gives you 90km (Upper Hutt maths right there) of flatness. (ish)
Team Mac - you can't visit the coast without a cruise on Lake Mapourika.The Jurassic rainforest fringed bays which reflect the surrounding Alps and Glaciers will leave you in awe of its beauty. Dale - your skipper has been guiding passionately in the region for the last 15 years! He'll take you on a scenic journey, through the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary & much more. Enjoy a great cup of tea or coffee while you watch curious native birdlife in the surrounding rainforest shoreline. Lake Mapourika is a landscape photographers dream!
Haast is our home for the next couple of nights. It is absolute raw West Coast. The actual town is reasonably small. In fact - the last census shows it has a population of 84. Not thousand. Yes, 84 in total. 42 males and 39 females.
I wonder if they'll notice 30 odd people in pink lycra riding through town?
/ Accommodation: Heartland Hotel Haast
Day 10, Wednesday 23 March
Crayfish for lunch?
We see today as a relaxed day ahead of 2 reasonably long days.
You can choose exactly the mileage you want to ride. It's out and back on one road.
On that note - our New Zealand tours offer a lot of flexibility. We understand that our clients are mainly Kiwi's visiting their own country. If there's someone you want to catch up with or something you want to do then you only need to say the word. Flexibility is key.
Our ride today offers very little pressure. Again, keep the blue stuff to the right on the way down and on the left when you return.
Jackson Bay is the farthest south on the West Coast road network. It is the end of the line. A small road that meanders along the coast from Haast, 32 kilometres away. Even I can add that up - that means 64km in total.
Jackson Bay is a working fishing port - boats are tied up at the long wharf that stretches out into deep waters. A popular fishing spot in summer. Speaking of crayfish - there's 1 spot for lunch and it's ironically called - The Craypot. Personally, I'll be opting for the Blue Cod.
Team Mac - we see you joining us today. It's a pretty quiet part of the world. This afternoon we advise a long walk on the beach or even up the Haast river.
Our guides will tune all the bikes as we want to make sure they're in tip top shape as we take on the last 2 days.
Tomorrow will be epic. You will see.
/ Accommodation: Heartland Hotel Haast
Day 11, Thursday 24 March
Gates of Haast
We'll have plenty of ride options today. Whatever you choose will be special.
Please keep in mind that we won't be afraid to change the plan if the weather looks dodgy. People who risk bad weather in this part of the world usually get very wet and very cold. We'll be mindful of that throughout our whole trip.
Right'o… Whippets - please gather over there. Thank you. On your agenda is 145km of possibly the best riding this trip will offer. We did this ride twice in 2021. It's O for awesome. Let's break down the 145km because the cappuccino and latte riders can choose when to come to the party.
The first 50km leaving Haast is relatively flat. You pretty much follow the river at 1-2% gradient. The spectacular Gates of Haast sits at the half century mark and that's also where the sh*t hits the fan as far as climbing is concerned.
It's likely that you'll feel pretty fit by this stage of the trip so I'd encourage you to take on this small hill which snakes on up through Mt Aspiring National Park. It's a spectacular 10km climb where you gain about 700VM. Spectacular if you are a goat I guess. But great fun regardless.
Cappo's - feel free to skip the climb and start from the top. It's then exactly 80km to our lakefront hotel in Wanaka. The ride from Makarora to Hawea is my favourite part as we pretty much ride lakeside the whole way. Halfway is aptly named - the Neck which sits on a small 200m section in between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. From here it's a short 35km to Wanaka although there are a couple of hills. (having been accused in the past for not telling the truth or the whole truth when it comes to slight gradient increases)
Team Mac - there are a large number of not-to-be-missed waterfalls. I'd suggest Geoff picks a couple of these and also shows you the blue pools on the Makarora River. You can then decide if you'll join us for lunch in Makarora or head off early to Wanaka. This afternoon is your only chance to hit the Wanaka shops, art galleries etc.
We see tonight as a free night as there are hundreds of restaurants to choose from. The staff will no doubt head to the Speights Ale House and you are very much welcome to join us.
/ Accommodation: Edgewater, Wanaka
Day 12, Friday 25 March
Queenstown via the Crown Range
After breakfast we throw the luggage in the vans and hop on our bikes one last time. The Crown Range ride is one of New Zealand's best and is always included in the Tour of Southland. For us - it won't be a race!! There is no rush. Just as well - it's a bit lumpy although certainly easier from the Wanaka side.
Speaking of lumpy - here's a useless fact for you. Of all the climbs in NZ there's only 1 that is considered Hors Category. And that's the Turoa access road in the North Island. Which pretty much means that the rest of our climbs are reasonably easy. Pretty much.
Today's ride is only 80km from door to door however we anticipate that a few of you may want extra km's which can easily be arranged. Lunch is at the historic - Cardrona Hotel. Rumoured to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.
Team Mac - this may sound strange be we've booked the Cardrona distillery tour for you. Our Team Mac last year rated it really highly. (certainly a lot higher than the jet boat ride where they all got soaked) It's not just Whisky but offers a variety of drinks and also has an award winning restaurant - your lunch spot for today. It's then on to Arrowtown for a coffee before reaching Queenstown at a reasonable hour.
Wānaka to Cardrona is 25kms of false flat through farmland which eases you into the more challenging part of the climb, but which only starts to get steep in the last 5kms before the summit, which is at 1,121m altitude. It's then a roll down into Arrowtown and on to Arthurs Point before hitting the big smoke of Queenstown. I suspect that most of us will find a nice spot for an afternoon beer. It's then time to pack down the bikes etc.
And that's a wrap. Tonight, we fine dine so bring some nice kit. Let's have a glass of bubbles and celebrate good times, new and old friends.
/ Accommodation: Peppers Queenstown
Day 13, Saturday 26 March
Let's recap - Starting in Nelson we've covered the entire length of the Sothern Alps. How many lakes, gorges, passes?? What a trip.
More importantly - how many whitebait fritters?
Seriously - could this have been any better!!! We doubt it.
After breakfast we'll transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Thank you for travelling with Ride Holidays.
We look forward to travelling with you again in the near future.
Karl and RH team