Southern Alps - 15 days  (TourzPlus™)

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.

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Trip At-A-Glance

  • Length / 15 Days
  • Total Distance / Short Rides: 500 km (315 miles), Long Rides: 1075 km (668 miles)
  • Avg. Distance / Short Rides: 27-67 km (17-42 miles), Long Rides: 50-148 km ( 31-92 miles) per riding day
  • Tour Level / 1.0
  • Countries / New Zealand
  • Begin/End / Christchurch/Christchurch
  • Price / From NZ$5315
  • Tour Summary
  • Daily Itinerary
  • Travel Information
  • Map
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Tour Summary

Tour Summary

  • Highlights
    • Hooker, 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 Beach

    Keep 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.

    Some long days with shuttle options for those who want shorter or intermediate mileage.
  • Includes
    15 days, 14 nights accommodation, 11 dinners, 9 lunches, & 14 breakfasts. Hybrid or road bike rental available for an additional fee
  • Arrive / Depart
    Christchurch Int'l Airport (CHC)
  • Overall Tour Level
  • Daily Ride Summary

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    Tour Level Note: There are three levels of rides available on most days.

    **We use Ride With GPS (ridewithgps.com) to calculate elevation and mileage information. Due to variance between mapping technologies, totals may differ slightly across devices and applications

Terrain Legend

Mostly flat Mostly flat

Rolling hills Rolling

Hilly Hilly

Very hilly Very hilly

Mountainous Mountainous

Daily 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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Distances:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

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.

Bicycling Options:

Cave turn off to Timaru: 36 km / 23 mi.

Fairlie to Timaru: 64 km / 40 mi.

DAY 15: Tour ends in Christchurch

Highlights:

It is here that we must say farewell, a safe journey home and hope to see you again.

Travel Information

Travel Information

What's Included

For a full list of what's included before, during and after your bike tour, visit our What's Included page.

Keep 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.

Some long days with shuttle options for those who want shorter or intermediate mileage.

Pre-Trip Planning Checklist

To do right after you booked!

6 to 3 Months Prior to Tour Start Date

  • Check the online itinerary of your trip and review the arrival and departure information under the "Travel Information" tab to see meeting place and time, if a reservation on a complimentary ExperiencePlus! Shuttle (if applicable) is required, and other important information to help you plan your arrival and departure.
  • Reserve your flights after you know you have a confirmed tour departure. Please check with our office if you do not know if your trip is confirmed.
  • Book your pre and post-tour hotel nights.
  • 12 weeks before your tour begin your training program: https://www.experienceplus.com/blog/travel-planning/bicycle-tour-training/
  • Final payment is due 90 days prior to the tour start. Please refer to your Deposit Payment Invoice and the Final Payment Reminder e-mail you have received for detailed instructions.

6 to 2 Weeks Prior to Tour Start Date

Day of Your Flight

Get as much sleep on the plane as you can. Pack your one day of cycling gear in your carry-on. See you soon!

What to Expect on Tour

Bicycles

Your bike will be equipped with: a men's or women's saddle, a quick release style seat post adjustment, rear rack and expandable pack, pump, patch kit, spare tube, cable lock, cyclometer, rear lights, a water bottle cage (or two) and a water bottle (or two) and in some cases a bell. If you would like to bring your own pedals and shoes we recommend doing so—your tour leaders will install them during the bike fitting. We have flat pedals with or without cages available. For safety and hygiene reasons you are responsible for bringing a helmet.

Daysheets

Each day you'll receive a daysheet with information on the day's activities, meals and ride. These also include Tour Leader phone numbers, hotel information and interesting historical and cultural information about sites that you may want to stop and see along the route. Your Tour Leaders will also post daily announcements in the hotel lobby with information about sightseeing in town or restaurant recommendations for dinners on your own as well as important information about breakfast, luggage down and "arrows down" time.

Navigating on Tour

Each day we will provide you with a route map with the day's ride highlighted route. Of course, we also mark the route every day with our signature chalk dust arrows. Our arrows make navigating very easy—you may never need to look at the map! The arrows also allow you to ride at your own pace. There is no need to "keep up" with the group—this is your ride!

But what if it rains? What happens to the arrows? In a light rain, the arrows actually "set up" and become more permanent. In a heavy rain, they do wash away. If that happens, we'll re-group to cycle together for those who want to continue cycling while those who prefer to stay dry can shuttle.

For the tech-loving riders out there we offer the opportunity to download GPS tracks of most tour routes to your personal GPS device using RideWithGPS.com. Tracks are available upon request approximately three to four weeks prior to the departure.

Van Support

The van carries luggage and supports cyclists. It also has water, fruit and snacks. Though the van has snacks, we encourage you to stop and enjoy markets and find your own favorite local specialty.

Hotels

We have carefully chosen all of our accommodations for their charm and location. They are typically small, family run hotels that offer you a glimpse into the local culture.

We prefer hotels near interesting sites in the center of town located along the best cycling route in the area. Because many of the hotels are small not all of the rooms will be exactly the same. We keep this in mind and do our best to distribute rooms fairly by the end of the tour. Our itinerary lists our primary hotels. On rare occasions, listed hotels are subject to change.

Meals and Restaurants

Breakfasts: we work hard to arrange complete breakfasts but some hotels still serve continental style breakfasts; cycling is energy intensive so we do recommend you plan for a morning or mid-morning snack on the road at a local café or market.

Water is OK in almost all hotels and in country fountains; if there is a problem, we will advise you.

We'll recommend lunch locations en route and most itineraries include a few group picnics. We limit the number of picnics so you don't feel pressured to be at a certain place in the middle of your ride.

Dinners together are often pre-planned and pre-ordered. We'll ask you prior to your trip if you have special dietary requirements. Preplanned meals allow us to provide a variety of regional specialties and facilitate efficient service. Water, wine and beer are included.

Tipping Your Tour Leader Team

If you feel your tour leader team has demonstrated great expertise and service, common practice within the travel industry is to tip. Tipping is voluntary and greatly appreciated, and gratuity amounts vary widely. Should you decide to leave a tip, as a guideline, we suggest 5% of the tour cost per traveler – this for the entire tour leader team, not each Tour Leader. If you’d like to show your gratitude for your Tour Leaders’ excellent service you can give the tip to any member of the tour leader team, as they share it evenly. In order to avoid social tensions, we encourage you to tip as individuals and not as a group. If you feel your Tour Leaders did not quite meet your expectations, then we would like to know about it. You will also have the opportunity to leave your comments in our evaluation survey which we email to you after your trip.

Photos

By reserving space on tour, you agree that ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours may use, re-use and reproduce any images, photos or videos that you send to us, or that are taken by our guides and/or other travelers of you individually or in a group, in any medium, including but not limited to print, electronic media, or Internet, free of charge and without your right to inspection, for promoting and publicizing our travel products and services worldwide. If you do not want us to use any images of you that are taken by us or other participants during the tour, you must inform us or your tour leader in writing at the start of the tour.

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