Here is my experience cycling in New Zealand on both islands during 2 months. If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact me via Facebook or Instagram!
WHEN TO GO?
The weather is a bit unpredictable in NZ. Kiwis sometimes say: “if you don’t like the weather, wait for 5 minutes”.
The best months to cycle is in summer, from January to March, when days are hotter, usually sunny and longer too. December and April are good too.
Obviously it is still chilly in altitude especially at night, West Coast is usually wetter and North Island sunnier. Kiwis said that wind is stronger in spring (october nocember) but we had strong wind even in summer…
Summer is also the busiest season, Kiwis are on holidays in January and most European/Asiatic toutists come from January to March. (Try to avoid Chinese new year holidays…)
VISA, RETURN TICKET AND INTERNATIONAL VISITOR CONSERVATION AND TOURISM LEVY (IVL)
For some nationalities, NZ requires visitors to hold an electronic visa “NZeTA” before travelling and to pay for a visitor tax for conservation called IVL. A return or onward ticket to your home OR 3rd country is also mandatory for tourists.
Click here for the official NZ immigration website and info how to request the visa/pay IVL.
WHAT TO CARRY IN SUMMER?
We cycled wearing TShirts most of the time but you’ll need a cycling windproof and waterproof jacket plus a warm jacket if you camp and go in the mountains. Well, I even had a hat and gloves but I really don’t like to be cold!
The sleeping bag will depend if you are sensitive to cold or not. A 0-10 or 5-15 degrees celsius should be enough for summer or spring.
Bring a strong tent, so it can resist in case of strong wind or rain. Sometimes it’s not easy to find a good shelter. I’m happy with my “Naturehike Star river 2”, bought on Amazon for 135 euros. It is also big enough inside for 2 people.
We used a MSR stove with gas cartridge, easy to find in any city in NZ. We saw the same in Auckland 3 times more expensive!
I take few spare pieces as bike shops are found almost everywhere in NZ. I found it useless to carry extra weight for a relatively short trip.
The bikes and the load, we carry a lot… but I brought a lot of warm clothes and we were coming back from shopping…
WHERE TO GO AND FOR HOW LONG?
This is up to you, depending how long you have available. A bit further I detail the roads, hikes and places I liked the most.
In 2 weeks we had time to cycle both islands, at our own pace and enjoying free time off the bike to hike!
We didn’t cycle from Turangi to Wellington and Tekapo to Christchurch for instance to have more time elsewhere. We would have liked to cycle Northland but we would have needed a lot more, maybe 2 or 3 weeks.
Here is the map of my itinerary cycling. Purple marks are each night/stops.
THE BEST OF NZ CYCLING
Of course the countryside!!! Everywhere you look is beautiful. You cycle close to blue or green lakes, lush forests, rugged coastline, snowed-peak mountains… it is absolutely stunning!!!
NZ hospitality. Warmshowers is quite popular in NZ, Kiwis themselves are cyclists and they like to welcome travelers by bike and share moments and experiences with us. They have a kind heart and we felt very comfortable, even coming with short notice. We even tried door to door to find a shelter, especially in villages or when the weather was bad and we met very generous people who make the experience very nice and good memories. Kiwis are nice, simple people, generally naturelover and honnest. That’s also why NZ is a safe country with a low delinquency rate.
Wildcamping: in NZ, wildcamping is forbidden and you’ll receive a 200$ fine if authorities catch you. Sometimes when you’re cycletouring, you have no choice, or sometimes you find a beautiful spot where you want to stay overnight. With our bikes, it is easy to hide. We are always very carefull, we are quiet and never light a fire, we get up super early and leave no trace! We slept sometimes close to beautiful beaches, rivers or lakes and even on top of Isthmus peak!
But shhhh…. it’s a secret…
BAD THINGS ABOUT CYCLING IN NZ…
The food: we found it too… “fast food” style… and we found products in supermarkets a bit expensive even fruits and vegetables produced locally. But I have to say that we ate very good meals when we were invited by people!
The wind: very strong headwind. I’m not particularly in shape and some days have been very tough for me cycling against the wind. But the landscape is always nice, it’s our reward!
Drivers: they don’t pay attention to cyclists! They often drive too fast on narrow and windy roads and sometimes too close to cyclist when they overtake. We try to avoid the busiest roads as I’m a bit scared.
Tourists who have just arrived can be a bit dangerous too as they are not used to drive big vans and on the left side on NZ roads.
Sandflies: on the West coast, they are almost everywhere! They bite a lot and it’s itchy for days! We sometimes run into the tent to protect ourselves even for dinner. They also wait for us in the morning, look how many we found on the tent!
OUR FAVOURITE ROADS AND PLACES:
Coromandel, windy road with many lookouts from Thames to Coromandel village
Trek Tongariro Crossing
Queens Charlotte drive along the bays of Marlborough sounds and Abel Tasman national park
The West Coast: wild and rugged landscape, rough sea and green lush forests
Haast to Wanaka road, along the river with views and many waterfalls
Wanaka: Wanaka/Hawea lakes, trek to Roys peak and Isthmus peak
Queenstown: trek to Ben Lomon
Lac Pukaki and Aoraki, Mt Cook views, Mueller Hut and Hooker valley trek at sunrise
Banks Peninsula: from Diamond Harbour to Akaroa
Northland: no time to cycle but I did it driving and hiking: beautiful hills and quiet beaches
Hahei – Cathedral Cove
Hot water beach
We saw many tourists digging with no luck but I advise you to first walk slowly to feel the “hot spots” with your feet before starting digging a hole. Come 1h30/2h BEFORE low tide to have time to dig and enjoy before high tide covers the place again.
ROTORUA – WAI O TAPU
QUEENS CHARLOTTE DRIVE
HAAST PASS ROAD
Trek Ben Lomon
Trek Gertrude saddle
LAKE PUKAKI AND AORAKI/MT COOK
Trek Mueller hut
Diamond Harbour – Pigeon Bay
We liked NZ mailboxes a lot and we had fun discovering them along the way, we took pictures to a few of them!