Southern Alps - 15 days (TourzPlus™)
The Southern Alps tour takes one on a breathtaking loop through some of the world's finest scenery. Stay in charming inns and hotels. Walk on a glacier, experience the rainforest on a range of short hikes and meet friendly New Zealanders. Ride to Mt Cook and stay on a sheep farm. This is one of our most popular New Zealand bicycling trips.
Learn more about our TourzPlus™ partner tours and how they differ from regular ExperiencePlus! bicycle tours.View Day-by-Day ItineraryHide Day-by-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Meet in Christchurch
Highlights: Introductions & bike fitting
Arrive in Christchurch. Orientation, fitting bikes and then take a short cycle ride to stretch our legs. Both lunch and dinner are included.
Day 2: Christchurch to Arthur's Pass National Park
Highlights: Descent from Porters Pass, lake views
The minibus takes us through the suburbs and across the Canterbury Plains to the Torlesse Range and Porters Pass (929m). At the top of the pass we unload the bikes to enjoy an exhilarating descent to Lake Lyndon. The terrain is rolling as we pass Lakes Pearson, Grasmere and Sarah on our way to the Waimakariri River and the gentle climb through dense beech forest to Arthur's Pass National Park.
Porter's Pass to Arthur's Pass: 51km / 32 miles.
Springfield to Arthur's Pass: 68km / 42.5 miles.
Day 3: Arthur's Pass National Park to Hokitika
Highlights: Arthur's Pass, Otira Gorge, Taramakau River Valley
We ride through beech forest to Arthur's Pass village and then climb to the top of the pass, dominated by Mt Rolleston (2270 m.) The descent through Otira Gorge is very spectacular and initially steep. From Jacksons (a quaint old pub) the terrain is gentle as we ride alongside the Taramakau River. Through stands of native forest, we reach Kumara (tavern) where we meet to drive the last few miles to our lodging.
Wilderness Lodge to Jackson's 50km / 31 miles.
Wilderness Lodge to Kumara: 89km / 56 miles.
Arthur's Pass to Hokitika: 119km / 74 miles.
Day 4: Hokitika to Franz Josef Glacier
Highlights: Jade workshops, ride through rolling bush coutry, Lake Mapourika
Hokitika is known for greenstone (jade) which is collected from local river beds and can be seen worked in a shop factory. Crossing the Hokitika River we head south through native bush of rimu and kahikatea (white pine). The country is rolling with one climb after the town of Harihari and a final flat run from Whataroa. Entering Westland National Park as we pass beautiful Lake Mapourika, we have superb views of snow-capped peaks.
Mt Hercules to Franz Josef: 51km / 32 miles.
Lake Ianthe to Franz Josef: 80km / 50 miles.
Hokitika to Franz Josef: 135km / 84.4 miles.
Day 5: Rest day in Westland National Park
Highlights: Glacier hikes, Okarito Beach
A walk up the the Franz Josef glacier valley gives spectacular views of the terminal ice, while the Westland National Park Visitors Centres house a wealth of information. (Thirteen percent of New Zealand is national park.) Also highly recommended options are ski-plane or helicopter flights over snowfields, forests and glaciers. Neighbouring Okarito Beach, site of Abel Tasman's landfall and once a thriving town, is a further option.
Day 6: Westland National Park to Lake Moeraki
Highlights: Mountainous riding, rainforest and Southern Alps scenery
From Franz Josef to Fox Glacier is just 24 km, but includes three quite severe climbs (and descents); it is through beautiful native forest. The remaining terrain is very gently undulating. 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.
Bruce Bay to Lake Moeraki: 43 km / 27 mi.
Fox Glacier to Lake Moeraki: 89 km / 56 mi
Franz Josef to Lake Moeraki: 114 km / 71 mi
Day 7: Lake Moeraki to Makarora
Highlights: Basking seals, waterfalls, 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 the stiff climb through the Gates of Haast is negotiated before the gentle descent to Makarora.
Haast to Pleasant Flat: 49 km / 31 mi.
Lake Moeraki to Pleasant Flat 78 km / 49 mi
Lake Moeraki to Makarora: 112 km / 70 mi
Day 8: Makarora to Lake Wanaka
Highlights: Scenic riding through open bush country, Lakes Wanaka and Hawea
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.
Makarora to Hawea: 50 km / 30 mi.
Makarora to Wanaka: 66km / 41 mi.
Day 9: Lake Wanaka to Queenstown
Highlights: Views of The Remarkables and the Crown Range; 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 mountain range and Queenstown. We descend the exhilarating hairpin bends down to Arrowtown, with its quaint old cottages and avenues of elms. An easy flat 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. Surrounded by mountain peaks (including the famous Remarkables), and set on Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has much to offer.
Wanaka to Cardrona Hotel: 27 km / 17 mi.
Wanaka to Queenstown via Crown Range: 78 km / 49 mi.
Day 10: Rest day in Queenstown
Highlights: Optional rafting, gondola or steamer ride, botanical gardens....
Options today include a jet boat or rafting trip on the Kawarau or Shotover Rivers, the steamer "Earnslaw" to visit a high country sheep station, the gondola cableway, Skippers canyon, a flight to Milford Sound (fjord), and much more. Queenstown also has an excellent botanical garden and a very good shopping center.
Day 11: Queenstown to Omarama
Highlights: Lindis Pass views
We drive from Queenstown to Cromwell, on Lake Dunstan, as we head for Lindis Pass (971m), with its huge sheep stations of 25 to 30 thousand acres. From the tiny settlement of Tarras the road climbs gently beside the Lindis river with its weeping willows. The summit affords sweeping views of Otago tussock country and a wonderful descent to Omarama. Omarama is known for fly fishing and gliding.
Lindis Pass to Omarama: 32 km / 20 mi.
Tarras to Omarama: 80 km / 50 mi.
Cromwell to Omarama: 111 km / 69 mi.
Day 12: Omarama to Mt. Cook
Highlights: Twizel, Lake Pukaki, Tasman Glacier & Mt. Cook
Mt. Cook, our next destination, should be visible before Twizel is reached (the town was built to house dam and canal construction workers and has an interesting audio-visual display centre). The road to Twizel is flat and thereafter gently undulating. The ride alongside Lake Pukaki will bring spectacular Tasman Glacier and Mt. Cook village ever closer.
Peter's Lookout to Mt Cook: 44 km / 27.5 mi.
Twizel to Mt Cook: 66 km / 41 mi.
Omarama to Mt Cook: 94.5 km / 59 mi
Day 13: Mt. Cook to Fairlie
Highlights: Hooker Valley, Lake Tekapo, farm stay
The Hooker Valley is the start of the trans-alpine Copland Track and we may have time to explore a bit before we spin our way to Fairlie. First we'll head by lovely Lake Tekapo, down Burke's Pass to stay on a sheep farm at Fairlie.
Tekapo to Fairlie: 44 km / 28 mi.
Lake outlet to Fairlie: 91 km / 57 mi.
Mt Cook to Fairlie: 148 km / 93 mi.
Day 14: Farmstay to Christchurch
Highlights: Quiet roads, Pareora Gorge, farm stay
Your hosts will show you their property and a little of their lifestyle and then we cycle along a very attractive quiet road through a gorge to Cave; the road then sidles above the Pareora Gorge, following the main water route to Timaru. Approaching Timaru you will pass lifestyle blocks (small farms). From Timaru we'll shuttle to Christchurch.
Cave turn off to Timaru: 36 km / 23 mi.
Fairlie to Timaru: 64 km / 40 mi.
Day 15: Tour ends in Christchurch
It is here that we must say farewell, a safe journey home and hope to see you again.
HighlightsHooker, Fox and Tasman Glaciers, The Remarkables, Otago tussock country, Arthur's Pass & Westland National Parks, Small farms and sheep stations, Christchurch & Queenstown, Otira Gorge, Okarito BeachKeep in Mind: We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.
Includes15 days, 14 nights accommodation, 11 dinners, 9 lunches, & 14 breakfasts. Hybrid or road bike rental available for an additional fee
Arrive/DepartChristchurch Int'l Airport (CHC)
Total DistanceShort Rides: 500 km (315 miles), Long Rides: 1075 km (668 miles)
Daily DistanceShort Rides: 27-67 km (17-42 miles), Long Rides: 50-148 km ( 31-92 miles)
Rating301-401 There are three levels of rides available on most days.
TermsTerms & Conditions
Dates Price Private Room Charge Notes
* 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 private room charge. This charge will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available it will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.
From the Road: New Zealand's South Island
New Zealand expatriate and ExperiencePlus! tour leader Annie Apgar offers her thoughts on this tour.
Joe Friel - Cycling past 50
This book contains a wealth of information for the over fifty rider who wants to take charge of the aging process and become a better cyclist at the same time.
ExperiencePlus! has contracted with national fitness expert Joe Friel to create customized, day by day, training programs to ensure you are ready for your biking tour.
- From the Road: New Zealand's South Island