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South Island Grand Tour (TourzPlus™)
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Bicycle Tours in New Zealand: South Island Grand Tour (TourzPlus™)

Chosen by Bicycling Magazine as "One of 15 Trips We Love" in their December 2008 issue.

This is the grand South Island experience. Wonderful biking with a superb range of magnificent scenery that includes four National Parks.

The Grand Tour is comprised of two short tours:

The Southern Scenic 7 days works nicely as an extension to the Grand Tour.

Learn more about our TourzPlus™ partner tours and how they differ from regular ExperiencePlus! bicycle tours.

Day 1: Meet in Picton

Highlights: Introductions & bike fitting

Our South Island Adventure starts at Picton, a picturesque fishing town at the northern tip of the South Island. It is a small town (pop.2,600) nestling under bushclad hills of Queen Charlotte Sound, named by Captain Cook in 1770.

Day 2: Picton to Nelson

Highlights: Coastal views, bush reserve, beaches

We climb out of Picton along a delightful, twisty little road to Mahau Sound and the sleepy town of Havelock, from where the mail boat leaves. There is an attractive bush reserve at Pelorus Bridge. Through Rai Valley and over the climbs of Rai Saddle and Whangamoa Saddle we descend to the cathedral city of Nelson (pop 43,000), New Zealand's sunniest city with its neighbouring orchards and sandy beaches.

Bicycling Options:

Picton to Havelock: 35km / 22 mi

Picton to Pelorus Bridge: 56km / 35 mi

Picton to Nelson: 110km /69 mi

Day 3: Nelson to St. Arnaud

Highlights: Motueka Valley, orchards & vineyards, Lake Rotoiti

We cycle up the Motueka Valley, a delightful quiet road that passes apple orchards, berry farms and wineries before reaching open sheep country. Through Golden Downs forest we continue to climb to St. Arnaud, set in beech forest by beautiful Lake Rotoiti.

Bicycling Options:

Motueka to Kohatu: 52 km / 33 mi

Motueka to Golden Downs: 56km/ 35 mi

Motueka to St Arnaud: 97 km / 61 mi

Day 4: St. Arnaud to Murchison

Highlights: Beech forest walk, goldmining town

We take a short walk in the beech forest by the lake before starting the day's ride. From St. Arnaud we follow the Buller River downhill through sheep farming country to Murchison. Once a goldmining town, it is best known for the devastating 1929 earthquake.

St Arnaud to Murchison: 63 km / 39 mi (downhill)

Day 5: Murchison to Westport

Highlights: Optional rafting on the Buller Gorge, quiet coastal riding, wildlife viewing

There is the option (at extra cost) to raft down the impressive Buller Gorge to Lyell for lunch, or cycle the road which follows the river. We then continue down hill to the attractive old pub at Berlins, before heading for the sea and Westport. The sparsely populated West Coast is relatively isolated being cut off by the Southern Alps. Before dinner at Cape Foulwind there will be an opportunity to see seals and cheeky black wekas (flightless native birds).

Bicycling Options:

Murchison to Berlins: 64 km / 40 mi

Murchison to Westport: adv. 97 km/ 61 mi

Day 6: Westport to Punakaiki

Highlights: Optional caving, coastal views, Pancake Rocks

At Charleston you may wish to go caving or rafting. The rolling coastal road offers many spectacular views and delightful sandy coves. At Punakaiki we explore the fascinating Pancake Rocks and watch the sea surge through blow holes.

Bicycling Options:

Westport to Charleston: 26 km / 16 mi

Westport to Punakaiki: 57 km / 36 mi

Day 7: Rest Day in Punakaiki

Highlights: Paparoa National Park, kayaking, or just relaxing

Options today include swimming with dolphins and seals, kayaking, walks in Paparoa National Park, or simply relaxing in the beautiful surroundings

Day 8: Punakaiki to Hokitika

Highlights: Flat coastal riding, Hokitika

We head south to Greymouth, the principal town of Westland. Named after Sir George Grey, New Zealand's first Governor, it was the site of Mawhera, the largest Maori settlement on the West Coast. From here it is a flat run to Hokitika, a town famous for its goldrush in the 1860's and more recently timber milling. The town has greenstone (jade) and glass blowing factories and now relies on tourism.

Bicycling Options:

Punakaiki to Greymouth: 44 km / 28 mi

Punakaiki to Hokitika: 84km / 52.5 mi

Day 9: Hokitika to Whataroa

Highlights: Lake Ianthe, views of wild native vegetation

Much of the ride today is through native bush. The tavern at Lake Ianthe is well worth a stop, as is beautiful Lake Ianthe, renowned for trout fishing. Harihari is a small logging town which has an excellent craft shop.

Bicycling Options:

Hokitika to Lake Inathe tavern: 49km / 31 mi

Hokitika to Whataroa: 85.5 km / 53 mi

Day 10: Whataroa to Fox Glacier

Highlights: Westland National Park

It is a flat run into Westland National Park and Franz Josef Glacier where you will have superb views of snowcapped peaks.

Bicycling Options:

Whataroa to Franz Josef: 50 km / 31 mi

Whataroa to Fox Glacier: 74 km/ 46 mi

Day 11: Rest day in Fox Glacier

Highlights: Optional glacier walks, seal colony or Okarito Beach

A walk up the glacier valley gives spectacular views of the terminal ice, while the Westland National Park Visitors Centre houses a wealth of information. (Thirteen percent of N.Z. is national park.) Also highly recommended are ski-plane or helicopter flights over snowfields, forests and glaciers. Okarito Beach, site of Abel Tasmans landfall and once a thriving town, is a further option, as is the seal colony at neighbouring Gillespies Beach.

Bicycling Options:

Fox Glacier to Bruce Bay: 48km / 30 mi

Fox Glacier to Salmon Farm: 65km / 41 mi

Fox Glacier to Lake Moeraki: 90 km / 56 mi

Day 12: Fox Glacier to Lake Moeraki

Highlights: Native rainforest, river and mountain views

From Fox to Lake Paringa the road passes through lush rain forest of rimu and rata, flax filled swamps and past rugged hills. The many rivers become raging torrents after rain. With fine weather there will be superb views of Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps.

Bicycling Options:

Fox Glacier to Bruce Bay: 48km / 30 mi

Fox Glacier to Salmon Farm: 65km / 41 mi

Fox Glacier to Lake Moeraki: 90 km / 56 mi

Day 13: Lake Moeraki to Makarora

Highlights: Knights Point, waterfalls and native birds

Just south of Lake Moeraki, Knights Point affords excellent views of the rugged coastline where seals can often be seen basking in the sun. From Haast we head inland, following the Haast River towards the snowcapped peaks. We pass innumerable waterfalls and much bird life, notably keas, fantails and bellbirds. After lunch at Depot Creek the stiff climb through the Gates of Haast is negotiated before the gentle descent to Makarora.

Bicycling Options:

Lake Moeraki to Haast: 30 km / 19 mi

Lake Moeraki to Haast Pass: 81km / 51 mi

Lake Moeraki to Makaroa:112 km / 70 mi

Day 14: Makarora to Wanaka

Highlights: Lakes Hawea and Wanaka

The country is now dramatically drier, dense bush giving way to open sheep paddocks. The road closely follows Lake Wanaka, crosses the Neck to Lake Hawea and then recrosses to Lake Wanaka.

Bicycling Options:

Makarora to Hawea turnoff: 50 km / 31 mi

Makarora to Wanaka: 66 km / 41 mi

Day 15: Wanaka to Queenstown

Highlights: The Remarkables, Queenstown

Our route today takes us up the Crown Range, over the Cardrona Road. We climb past the historic Cardrona Hotel; on reaching the top there will be amazing views of The Remarkables mountains and Queenstown. We descend the exhilarating hairpin bends down to Arrowtown, with its quaint old cottages and avenues of elms.

A short leisurely ride beneath Coronet Peak, a winter ski field, takes us to Arthur's Point where we cross the Shotover River on our way to Queenstown.

Bicycling Options:

Wanaka to Cardrona Hotel: 27km / 17 mi

Wanaka to Queenstown via Cardrona: 78 km / 49 mi

Day 16: Tour ends in Queenstown


Our tour ends this morning in Queenstown. Stay a while and explore the nearby mountains (including the famous Remarkables) and Lake Wakatipu, or take a little time in Christchurch before departing. Whatever your plans, have a safe journey and come back soon!
  • Highlights
    Alpine scenery, Tasman Sea, Buller Gorge, Queenstown, National Park Visits, Fox Glacier
  • Includes
    Use of a quality 27-speed bicycle, 16 days, 15 nights accommodation, 12 dinners, 9 lunches, & 15 breakfasts
  • Countries
    New Zealand
  • Begin/End
  • Arrive/Depart
    Christchurch Int'l Airport (CHC) / Queenstown Airport (ZQN)
  • Total Distance
    543-1035 km (340-647 miles)
  • Daily Distance
    26 -117 km (16-73 miles) at your option
  • What to Expect
    Some long days with shuttle options for those who want shorter or intermediate mileage. Challenging rides for more avid cyclists.
  • Rating
  • Notes
  • Terms
Dates Price Single
Nov 29 - Dec 14, 2014 NZ$7460 NZ$1470 Book It
Jan 06 - 21, 2015 NZ$7460 NZ$1470 Book It
*We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the single supplement rate. This fee will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available this fee will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.

Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.

Map Key

Green pinStart
Yellow pinCity (on route)
Red pinEnd
Other city dotCity (not part of route, provided for reference)
Hard to say [what was my favorite part]. The whole thing was great! The ride up the Haast River was magical, especially since the weather was perfect!
Cammie B.
Alton, MN
We were very pleased with the leaders. We were pleased that the Pedal Tours philosophy and approach to the trip was similar to that of ExperiencePlus! ... The comraderie of the group added to an overall excellent experience
Rob B.
Afton, MN