CYCLING NEW ZEALAND – Queenstown to Wanaka

It's hard to imagine a more beautiful country to cycle in, or a hillier one. Hugo was the only one of us who made it up the Crown Range under his own steam. I had to take the sag wagon...so I could be there at the top to take this shot.

So here we go, on a six-day cycling tour of New Zealand’s lovely South Island.

Seven riders, two guides, several hundred kilometres (I’ll tell you the exact figure when it’s all over), lots of hills, one van for carrying gear, and us too if things get really grim, wind and sandflies guaranteed, rain forecast.

We’re from Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong via South Africa and Peru. The planned route is roughly from Queenstown up to Wanaka, then out to the West Coast and north past the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, then back inland towards Christchurch.

Here’s the report on Day One…so far so very good!

The road out of Queenstown ‘undulated’, which is cyclist-speak for ‘was hilly’.

We stopped for a break in touristy Arrowtown, former goldmining town, now souvenir shop goldmine.

The gold has run out in Arrowtown, but the tourists have run in.


It is a very attractive place all the same. I spent some time in the former Chinese settlement, where the sites of Tin Pan and Ah Gum’s huts are remembered and other huts restored. The Chinese were invited but not welcomed into New Zealand in the 1860-80’s.

Some of the Chinese miners' huts have been preserved.

Only the hard men attempted the climb up up the 1100m Crown Range, and only one of them made it to the top with the bike. I dips me lid to all of them, particularly Hugo.

The wind was predicted to be ‘predominantly from the north’, cyclist-speak for ‘howling gale blowing straight into our faces for the next 40km’. It was pedalling downhill all the way, despite the big descent to our lunch spot at Cardrona.

Cardrona Hotel may not be much to look at, but it does a mean flat white and chicken salad.

Onwards and downwards we rode towards Wanaka, into the teeth of that howling gale – I tried to photograph it, but it was hard to see the wind. You had to be there.

My shot of this windsurfer coming to grief on Lake Wanaka is the best impression I can give of the hurricane we rode into.

Tomorrow is another day…rainforest and rain as we head for Haast.

I’ll send more reports from the road from time to time…stay tuned.

The writer was the guest of Adventure South.

14 Comments

Filed under Cycle touring, Cycling

14 responses to “CYCLING NEW ZEALAND – Queenstown to Wanaka

  1. Richard,
    We did it the other way last year – by car. It’s truly beautiful but if you think the wind on the hills was a problem wait till you get the rain on the West Coast. Check out the cinema in Hokatika – a real experience!

  2. steven

    Hi Richard,
    I’m with you in spirit – cheering from the sag wagon. I drove that route a few years ago – the wind scared me even in the car, although as Libby mentioned, the west coast rain can also be… problematic. But, remember, you’ve ridden the M7 and survived!

  3. That bike ride looks fantastic. You would need legs of steel to make it up the hill in your photo.

  4. Thanks for the comments, L, S and L. Yes, so far it’s been so very good – the most beautiful ride, though tough climbing when my legs are made not of steel, Leigh, but of jelly mixed with porridge.

    Where are those performance-enhancing drugs when I need them?

  5. I’d tip my hat to you, Richard, but it would blow off.
    Well done for getting out there seeing the road up close. Riding up a hill is a great way to make time slow down.

    • Hi Pat,

      We could say slowing time is a way to live longer, but I’m afraid I feel as if I lost a month or two of life expectancy over the past three days. Tennis is easier!

      Thanks for the visit and nice to hear from you.

  6. Ian mcnab

    Hi Richard, pity Andrew didn’t tell me earlier about your blog – I could have saved you some pain. Glenorchy air will fly you over the crown range for next to nothing, And you can ski downhill at treble cone as part of the deal – sure beats riding uphill!! But like all men of Melbourne I can understand your addiction to pain….Ian mcNab

  7. NeilA

    Maaate, you walked up the Crown Range Rd??? You must be getting soft in your old age (I know I am) but when I was there in 1999 it was unsealed. I rode it all, admittedly in a 24 to 28 gear, but I was carrying camping equipment. Then it was downhill to the Cardrona Hotel, “surfing” over the railway ballast-sized gravel. Outside the Cardrona was an old American car, like something out of the Blues Brothers, with the number plate: SHERUF. Aaah, the New Zealand sense of humour!
    A fantastic day’s riding in a fantastic country for cyclists.

    • Oh, well Neil, of course way back in 1999 I was also young, slim and fit. But doing it on the gravel…that’s a feather in your helmet and a notch on your belt!

      I did manage to ride the rest of the climbs to Haast, however, as well as everything the West Coast Rd could toss in front of me, so I’m feeling a sense of achievement.

      Isn’t it great riding there though?

  8. Stephen Whiteside

    I’m interested in those two Chinese miners’ huts near Arrowtown – one made of stone with a peaked roof, and one made of wood with a flat roof. Are they both of the same vintage?

  9. Great to read of your travels. Have done, and blogged about, lots of trips with Adventure South (who are awesome). Have ridden The Crown Range both ways. I remember getting to the top only to meet a westerly wind, gale, which meant had to pedal down the hill on the other side!

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