There were plenty of reasons NOT to go on an epic bike trip to New Zealand – worries about time, money, leaving the kids. My fretful mind considered all possible negative outcomes. In the end, we jumped on the bikes, let go of the handlebars and took that beautiful ride. No regrets (and thankfully, no problems) – only spectacular sights, active adventures, great company and lots of great food! It was a true trip of a lifetime!
So what exactly were we up to these past few weeks? After a quick pit-stop in Fiji, my husband and I joined about 20 other people for a 12-day bike tour through New Zealand’s South Island with Great Bike Tours. We pedaled (or peedled as the New Zealanders say) a lot of miles but what I really loved about Great Bike Tours is that there were so many other active things to do on the trip – hikes, beach walks, boat trips, train rides and much more (read more about the tour itinerary here).
If you love active vacations and New Zealand is on your bucket list, here are 10 reasons to make it happen by bicycle!
See incredible natural beauty
The South Island of New Zealand is packed with natural wonders – and what better way to see it than by bike? On a bike you are much more likely to notice the details and to stop along the way to see the sights or take a hike. We were floored by the incredible landscapes and natural beauty we saw every day!
Hang out in the rainforest
We knew we had entered the rainforest when the vegetation suddenly changed, the humidity rose, the birds began to tweet and the cicadas began to hum incessantly. The South Island’s temperate rainforests are sandwiched between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, so while biking through the rainforest, we could see the coast and the mountains at the same time! We got a close-up look at the rainforest vegetation (so many shades of green!) by taking a few hikes in the area.
Stop at the beach
A beach break is definitely in order after a long day of biking or even as a stop during the day. The beaches in New Zealand are amazing – with incredible rock formations, cool shells and smooth beach rocks to collect, and sea creatures to discover.
Take amazing hikes
Our tour included some non-biking and shorter biking days which allowed us time for some really cool hikes in the rainforest and wilderness areas. Some of them were naturalist guided which was great because we learned so much about the plants, animals and geography of the area. One of the most memorable was a beach + rainforest hike which involved scrambling over rocks at the surf’s edge, climbing up the side of a cliff using ropes and a peek at a molting penguin hiding in the brush. Other hikes were much more mellow but no less thrilling like the famous Blue Pools (which were actually green) or the otherworldly Castle Hill.
Tour a sheep farm
A sheep farm tour is almost obligatory in New Zealand. I mean this is a country where sheep outnumber people by at least 6 to 1 – you simply can’t ignore them. We had a lively and informative tour at the Wilderness Lodge at Arthur’s Pass, where they run a working merino sheep farm. We saw the sheep dogs in action and were treated to a live sheep sheering demonstration.
Enjoy great food and wine
What’s the best bonus of biking and hiking every day? Eating as much as you want! We were seriously impressed with New Zealand’s food. Breakfast was my favorite meal with muesli and stone fruits always available. Mushroom toast is another breakfast specialty – who knew? A flat white was my coffee of choice (similar to a cappuccino). And after a tough day on the trails, a glass or two of New Zealand wine was totally justified! I think we put a dent in the Sauvignon Blanc supply.
See some cool animals
New Zealand is host to many birds and animals that are rare or endangered and you will probably see some of them along the way. Our sightings included albatross flying over the ocean, a fiordland crested penguin molting in the rainforest, graceful kotuku (white herons) flying in the wetlands, a hedgehog wandering down a path, fur seals basking on the beach, flightless brown weka hiding in the bushes and mysterious glow worms hanging from the underbrush. However, the famous kiwi remained elusive as it is nocturnal and is rarely seen by day.
Experience Lord of the Rings territory
Whether or not you are a Lord of the Rings fanatic, you will be awestruck at the geography of the various regions where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. We were near quite a few of these areas and the thought that there might be some Orcs in the distance kept me pedaling faster than ever.
Ride the rail trail
The Otago Central Rail Trail is an off-road trail built on an old railway line that takes you through dramatic landscapes and farmlands, including the region where the village of Rohan was created for the Lord of Rings movies. We biked over some crazy high bridges and even went through old train tunnels in the dark! Prepare to see a LOT of sheep and cows and enjoy some cute cafes and brewpubs along the way.
Visit a glacier
When in New Zealand, everyone seems to want to stop for a peek at the Franz Joseph glacier – one of the world’s fastest flowing glaciers. Unfortunately our “heli-hike” (hiking on a glacier after a wild helicopter ride!) – was cancelled due to cloudy weather but we did get a peek at the glacier from the ground.
FYI – the next Great Bike Tours trip to New Zealand is scheduled for February 2017. It’s not too early to sign up!!
Have you ever been to New Zealand? What was your favorite part?
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. This was a personal vacation paid for out of my own pocket! 🙂