We are heading to the south Island of NZ in two weeks (starting at the top), wondered if anyone knows must do cycle tracks on the south Island. If there are nice routes, we will try to plan our trip according to some of the routes. If there are routes to avoid, please let us know!
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Riding with or without panniers? On mtn bike or mtn bike tyres on a road bike?
Look at the Wilderness Trail on the West Coast, Mavora Lakes near Queenstown, Alps to Ocean sections, Molesworth and Rainbow Rd are the ones we have done on loaded road bikes with mtn bike tyres. Also enjoyed Gibbstown to Queenstown and the Clutha Gold Trail. Found Otago Rail Trail a little boring.
There are others which may need a bikepacking setup such as the Ghost Road (I haven't done this) which is said to be excellent.
Steve has covered the main routes.. BUt I would add the Otago Trail Route as being a good ride, not at all boring. If you are staring a "the top" and on loaded touring bikes, or mtb's, consider the Rainbow route (If it is open). Also the Nelson Lakes are beautiful. (Lake Arnard). If coming down the east coast, consider going inland to miss parts of HW 1 eg: south of Kaikoura, head intowards Hamner. At Waipara, again head inland through Rangiora and on the Paschendale route to Kaiapoi, then on to Chch.
Below Christchurch, definietly AVOID HW1 - instead go inland ( you can avoid the main west coast road at this point too) and then south through Geraldine to lake Tekapo. After the ORT, head south and through the Caitlins. If you have time, also visit Stewart Island.
RE: The Old Ghost Road. It all depends..... bike packers will tend to say that you need to NOT be carrying panniers. But I know several people who have gone thrrough the route with loaded front and back panniers, including one woman who did it alone, with no previous cycle touring expereince. But do ccheck the weather forecast first. It is not a safe trip in bad weather.
Whatever route you choose, there are sure to be some nice ones that you miss out on simply because of the logistics and time involved in getting around the country to the various routes.