• This topic has 25 replies, 19 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by dafoj.
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  • New Zealand suggestions
  • Matt_SS_xc
    Full Member

    The plan is to go to NZ next summer (UK school summer holidays.)
    We would be there for 6 weeks.
    The plan is to hire a van and take bikes and surfboards with us.

    Rough idea is 6ish places across the 6 weeks rather than a new area everyday, we would rather get familiar with a smaller area than the usual campervan and drive everyday, always exploring never really getting a feel for a place.

    Obviously if there are areas for riding and surf then brilliant, but otherwise does anyone have any areas for riding?

    Trail centres are great or navigation. Not really into just jump line bike parks, do like natural tech and scenic riding.

    Obviously we are fully aware its their winter so high mountain stuff is out but we aren’t afraid of wet, cold and mud!

    Any other advice also welcome.


    Full Member

    I’ve got to recommend the Redwoods in Rotorua, all grades of tracks n drains well during winter. Option of shuttles or roads for climbing with great descents.

    Are you looking at both Islands or just one?

    Surfing, Raglan and Gisbourne spring to mind but I’m not sure what the riding is like at Raglan but I know it’s sparse around Gisbourne.

    I live in Whakatane and am happy to answer any questions I can.

    Free Member

    Yeah the redwoods (Whakarewarewa Forest) just outside of Rotorua are ace and should be fine in winter. Sticky woods just outside (15mins ride) of Wanaka will probably still be ok – but would have thought all the bike parks would be shut, and most stuff on the South Island pretty crappy for riding in winter. There might be skiing/boarding if that’s your bag.

    In my experience, outdoor kit hire was way cheaper and easier than in the UK, so might be worth considering ditching either the boards or bikes to make life easy – assuming places still rent over winter.

    Full Member

    Get hold of the trail guide books by the Kennet brothers for riding locations and routes, there’s every sort of riding available in NZ, from gravel days in amazing places to full on hardline tech riding and everything in between, depending upon what you want I think I’d stick to the South Island for sheer variety although the weather will likely be rough at that time of year

    As for surfing, I’d say Raglan is a must do, so much of NZ surfing history there, plus a brilliant surf museum for those flat days, the riding around here is mostly gravel roads, although last time I was there in 2020 there was talk of an mtb park being built by the locals, in fact a lot of places have their own trails that never get any publicity or are overshadowed by the biggger places, probably worth looking at mtb groups on Facebook for better upto date info, from my experience the locals are very keen to show you around and then drink beer with you 🙂

    Good plan to stick around places, it’s easy to get sucked into driving every day, mostly because driving over there is a pleasure to do compared to here, as for taking bikes and boards, I think I’d rather take just bikes and hire boards as you need them, getting both onto and more importantly off a plane in the right places will be a nightmare !

    Full Member

    Thanks for all the advice, really helpful.
    Redwoods will go on the list for sure.
    Both islands would be the initial idea, id like to see both.
    Books are a great shout, i will have a look!

    Full Member

    You’ll be quite limited in many places as it’s mid winter in NZ then, Nelson and Rotorua would be the obvious choices but it’s very common for places in NZ to close trails when the weather is bad. Queenstown stuff will pretty much all be shut, Wanaka’s best stuff too. Christchurch maybe have some stuff open.

    Full Member

    We did a month waaaay back in NZ spring of 2001, with both of us dragging bikes over. If doing it again we’d just take kit and hire bikes when needed. Long flights with transfers so bikes got some damage in transit, border control want them clinically clean and in winter weather they are a big lump of oily and muddy pain in a hired camper.

    Hiring will also be a fast track into local riding knowledge. Hire folks / guides might be keen for some proper riding – back then normal clients for the guy at Rotorua were Japanese honeymoon couples so he loved having the chance for a blast.

    Touched on and would revisit Marlborough Sounds / Abel Tasman area but that is more kayaks than surfing (might be an option for other water stuff if west coast is too grim).

    Singletrack only exists where there are people to ride it and in winter I’d be thinking same as the others – Rotorua, Nelson, Christchurch, Otago etc. Not sure what the newer Kennet stuff is like but the older book farm fire road stuff might be a bit bleak in winter.

    Free Member

    Top tip would be to go to NZ in their summer, so December-April and not in mid-winter. Winters can be cold wet and very muddy if you are planning to ride a bike.

    Full Member

    I’d echo others’ sentiments and advise you come to NZ sometime other than winter. Dark by 5pm and lots of rain can be pretty miserable in a camper van. Add to that it will be ducking cold on the South Island and most campers are not well insulated.

    If your travel window is fixed on winter maybe consider renting a car and airbnb rather than camper. It will probably work out cheaper (decent size camper is about $250/day + nightly fees at campsites) and you’ll be much more comfortable, especially since you’re not planning to be on the move regularly.

    For surfing in winter I’d suggest Northland. Hundreds of spots to choose from, it won’t be too cold and the area is stunning. BUT, expect quite a bit of rain. Shipwreck bay in Ahipara is a world-class break and never busy (made sort of famous by the classic movie Endless Summer). As others have suggested Raglan is also great, if a bit busier. Gisborne also has a pretty good reputation for surf but I’ve never been.

    I agree with Rotorua for biking. Nelson would be the other top pick – It’s one of the driest, sunniest parts of NZ and the trails are outrageously good. Further south, I think most of the trails in Alexandra stay open in winter and they’re excellent. You’ll need a guide though as they don’t do maps due to land ownership politics. Again though, you’ll miss out on lots of what the country has to offer. Most of the multi-day rides (Old Ghost Road, Paparoa etc) are off-limits for much of the winter. The other issue is that, although us Brits ride in all weathers the trails here will often be closed when it’s wet to protect them from damage.

    Full Member

    Some really helpful advice, thank you.
    We are planning to hire an empty van then air bnb etc. Already pre-empyed the challenge and cost of campervan, in winter with bikes and boards.
    Definitely interesting to hear which trails would be closed, we are both teachers so time of year is fixed, if we could go in their summer we would.

    Some super helpful stuff, thank you.
    Taking our own bikes and boards is important to us so probably time to start looking for decent bike travel boxes, fly with boards often and no the dangers but riding trips are always in our own van!

    Full Member

    We lived in Christchurch for 2 years so can help a little.

    YSK the snow-line we generally thought to be around 1100-1400m depending on the weather.

    Our rule of thumb was – been warm (rain on the ski fields?) – go biking. Been poor (wet in the city, snow on the hills?) go skiing. From ChCh your best bet is Porters. They now have chair lift all the way to the top and you should be able to hire from there.

    Firstly as steve_makin suggested – get hold of the Kennet Brothers’ book (books?) and absorb them. They are very XC orientated though.

    What sort fo riding are you in to? Gravel? XC? Trail? Enduro?

    I’ve not really ridden the ChCh bike part (the “adventure park”) as it was still Worselys Forest when we were there. I know they do try and stay open all year round (you’ll be descending from about 400m to seal level ish, so well below the snow line) but they will be closed when it’s wet.

    There is Victoria Park, which has good trails, is still shuttle-able but you should avoid in the wet.

    There is loads of singltrack around ChCh that is much more all-weather. Big XC/Trail loops out to Godley Head, Taylors Mistake, Captain Thomas, Anaconda. the Port Hills (AKA the Crate Rim) runs around the perimeter of ChCh on the south and there is gold in them hils. I hear there are also some great tracks down the far side to Lyttleton.

    There’s a bit of surfing around out of Sumner and Taylors Mistake too…

    More XC stuff like “Double Fenceline” is fun fun.

    There is also great stuff in the Canterbury high country. Drive an hour out across the plains and you’ll be in the hills. Go looking for tracks like the Blowhard, Mount Thomas*, Mt Richardson. Mt Oxford.

    *I dind’t enjoy Mt Thomas last time I rode it. OK I pushed most of the way down.

    Further afield, Alexandria is an otherworldly riding experience. I hear they have a permit system and a days pass is hideously expensive now though. It’s amazing though.

    TLDR, ChCh is amazing, it has everything, I should never have left.

    Full Member

    Raglan for surfing watch out for the Orca’s.

    Full Member

    We did September and the weather was good – believe we got lucky and that summer was then awful 🙂

    At the time we were convinced taking bikes was essential. That was two lifetime mtbers, one of whom rode at 95 and 96 worlds and was sswc. And we were joined by a friend who later rode mtb at the Commonwealth games. And if going again we’d still hire bikes 🙂

    But if you insist then a bare hire van and airbnb is the way we’d do it. Also a lot of campgrounds have kitchens and cabins if they are open.

    Free Member

    As others have said winter is pretty bleak in NZ even in the North Island, that is much milder temperature wise than the South. Imagine the UK December to January.
    Do you really want to spend as much as you are likely to and go all that way for a poor experience when compared to the summer riding here.
    As you have so much time available surely a North American or European summer experience with some sun and warmth is a much better idea.

    Free Member

    We went in March/April and it was a good compromise – you could use your Easter holidays? It would give you much better opportunities to see and do more.

    Abel Tasman sea kayaking was a highlight, the weather was good and the seal pups were in their breeding colonies and really playful. I don’t know if they would have gone out to sea by July but I expect so and you would need time for a weather window to hike or kayak there. We did a quick drive through the North Island and did the Tongariro Crossing, which was also amazing but in winter would need winter skills and equipment (ice axes, crampons).

    Or if you want to spend 6 weeks somewhere in July/August then you might consider Australia, or a combination or Aus and NZ, planning to see the bits of NZ that are ok in winter. Tasmania can get snow on the high peaks but the low lying areas are just as amazing, wonderful wildlife, and variety. Derby MTB and Maydena MTB are both really good ‘centres’. If you go further north it is warmer. And if you persist with July/August anywhere south of the tropics +1 to hiring a car and airbnb not a campervan.

    Full Member

    Another one here to think about somewhere else perhaps. Not just from a weather perspective but also short days/dark evenings and mornings. Limits amount of daylight hours for doing stuff.

    I’d go somewhere northern hemisphere tbh

    (I spent a year in NZ, oooof, nearly 20 years ago. a great chunk of that time was in Rotorua, so Whakarewarewa forest was on my doorstep. Great place, spent a lot of time there.

    Full Member

    We spent two weeks on the north island in November 2015, started in Aukland went to the Coromandel, Rotorua, Taupo and back to Aukland. It easily filled up our two weeks stay. Don’t be fooled by the size of the islands, you can get sucked into too much time travelling and not enough time looking around. The roads are traffic free but lots of twists and turns and you won’t find too many fast “motorway” type roads once away from the main cities. We used a car and found accommodation as we went, never had any problems finding somewhere to stay.

    We went back for 6 weeks in February/March 2017 and hired a camper wagon to tour the south island (4 weeks) and then the north island (2 weeks). Be careful of the weather on the south island, even in midsummer we woke up to frost on the windscreen and snow-capped mountains while in Manapouri near Doubtful Sound (which by the way is a much better day trip than the overcrowded Milford Sound). It also rains a lot on the south island.

    Which was better car or motorhome? I did some rough calculations and reckoned the car/hotel option was slightly cheaper and more flexible. Obviously with the motorhome you unpack once and don’t have to spend time looking for somewhere to stay. We stayed mostly on good sites with good facilities and that adds to the daily cost of the motorhome. In winter I would definitely go for the car/hotel option, living in a motorhome when coming back from walks, rides, etc, wet and muddy isn’t much fun in my opinion.

    We hired bikes whenever we needed them, which was relatively cheap and easy to do. In hindsight on the longer trip I would have bought a couple when we arrived in NZ and sold them on at the end of the trip, but I have friends in Auckland who could do that for me.

    We noticed on the second trip that prices (food and drink) had gone up a lot, almost on a par with Australia. On the first trip NZ was much cheaper than Oz. Don’t suppose it’s got much better following the pandemic and with NZ being closed to the rest of the world for a long period.

    Free Member

    Just an after thought as you’re both teachers and you want to come to NZ.
    New Zealand is crying out for teachers atm. Would you consider coming to teach over here for a year or two? That way you could get all the riding in you want all over the country and in the best weather and maybe some bits of Australia as well.

    Full Member

    Yes do what Royston said.
    There’s even a recruitment ad for teaching in NZ that’s carefully disguised as a TV series, so you can get an idea of what it would be like to work there:

    Full Member

    We would definitely be seeking trail-enduro stuff. Still worth buying the kennett books? Otherwise we will go for suggestions on here and trail forks probably! Not really interested in big xc loops unless its a lovely day (sounds unlikely from responses!!)

    Wouldn’t rule out a move, however we are both fortunate to be PE teachers in Devon, which is a popular and hard to find job so once we leave its probably for good! No plans at the moment that’s for sure

    Free Member

    Going to NZ in their winter would be like coming to Scotland in our winter – feels a long way to go for short days and crap weather…

    Free Member

    Checkout getabmx.com

    He has a brilliant article service on a mtb road trip he did in NZ. Link to random article.


    Full Member

    I’d seriously consider pricing skiing or snow boarding.

    We loved our time in New Zealand. We arrived in Late November and left in Early March. Even in November we were thinking we’ve arrived to soon weather wise

    So why not embrace what will be in season, snow sports. I’m sure you can learn in a week

    Full Member

    I’ve been to NZ in August, it was OK, bit chilly on South Island at times. I’m not sure I’d have chosen to go had I not had family there though.

    Full Member

    Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with the Kennett bros books. They’re most useful for the bigger, classic rides, a lot of which probably won’t be an option while you’re here. In places like Nelson, Rotorua, Alexandra etc. the trails evolve too quickly for the publishing cycle to keep up. If you want more specific advice on trails and, to a lesser extent, waves I’m happy for you to send me a message.

    Free Member

    We didn’t have bikes on our trip, but my highlights were Kaikoura for whales, dolphins and albatrosses, queenstown was awesome, jetboating and skiing, glacier walks and the fjords, the glow worm caves in Waitomo, we spent a few days bivying and kayaking in Abel Tasman Park too.

    Take a waterproof.

    It’s a great place, with so much to do

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