From New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook, the trail descends over 2000ft and travels 300km to the coastal town of Oamaru. This trail showcases New Zealand’s geological, geographical and historical highlights from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.
Experience an unspoilt paradise in the South Island halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown where people come from all over the world to enjoy stunning vistas, wide open spaces and expansive landscapes.
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail encompasses a World Heritage National Park, glacial-fed lakes, hydro dam lakes, golden grasslands, limestone cliffs, Maori rock art and more.
The trail starts at the White Horse Hill Campground, 2km north of Aoraki Mt Cook Village. A 7.2km off-road trail takes you to Mt Cook Airport, where riders need to take a short helicopter flight across the Tasman River.
If you wish to avoid the helicopter crossing there are several different starts: from Lake Tekapo, from the Tekapo B Power Station or from the Jollie car park.
The trail continues along a quiet country road that follows the eastern shores of Lake Pukaki, passing the Tekapo B power station. Riders will enjoy outstanding views across Lake Pukaki towards the Southern Alps.
The off-road trail starts at the bottom of Hayman Rd and follows the Lake Pukaki shoreline before passing over the Pukaki Dam and heading across the Pukaki Flats to Twizel.
From Twizel, head off on Mackenzie Dr then follow the signs. You’ll head across a canal bridge just past Loch Cameron then follow the road until the edge of Lake Ohau.
From here the trail descends to the lake foreshore, taking you to the Ohau Weir. Then skirt around the foreshore before heading for Lake Ohau Lodge.
NOTE: when the Ohau Weir is in flood, there is no way across.
See alps2ocean.com for alternative route.
This section traverses the lower slopes of the Ruataniwha Conservation Park, with views across the basin to the Benmore Range.
After easy cycling to Freehold Creek it’s a steady climb to the high point, 900m above sea level (bring high-energy food, drinking water is available from various mountain streams).
The trail then descends to Quailburn Rd. From the Quailburn Rd intersection you can detour 2km to the historic woolshed at the end of the road where there are toilets.
On the way down Quailburn Rd you can take a side trip to the Clay Cliffs (14km return) before following the highway to Omarama.
Ride east down the Waitaki Valley, over Chain Hills and on past Pumpkin Point to Sailors Cutting – a popular boating, fishing and camping destination.
The trail then follows SH 83 (extra care is needed on the highway). There’s a short climb to Otematata Saddle with views of Lake Aviemore, then it’s downhill to Otematata.
From Otematata, take the sealed pathway beside Loch Laird Road, then follow the gravel track beside the lake. This takes you through several camping areas. You then ride up Loch Laird Road onto the massive Benmore Hydro Dam 6km. It’s a steep road up to the dam, so you may need to walk the last 800 metres. Follow the Te Akatarawa Road along the margins of Lake Aviemore to the Aviemore Dam 28km. After crossing the dam the trail follows State Highway 83 to Lake Waitaki and the Waitaki Dam 36km. 1km after the Awakino River, turn right onto the off road trail that links to Kurow. This section of trail has an interesting hydro history with dams and project towns.
A gravel track takes you across to the Waitaki River which you follow down the valley, traversing ancient alluvial plains through Kurow’s wine country.
The off-road trail then follows alongside the highway to the Maori rock art site. From there it’s back to the Waitaki River, and through the wetlands into the township of Duntroon.
From Duntroon head south-east along the footpath and over the Maerewhenua bridge, then follow the off-road trail through several farms to the unique rock formations known as Elephant Rocks 7km. Ride through to Prydes Gully Rd, then continue off-road through Island Cliff 13kmwhich is surrounded by limestone escarpments. Ride up the track beside Karara Creek to Cants Rd which takes you to the high point of the section. Drop down Peaks Rd then Tunnel Rd to the Rakis Railway Tunnel 26km where there is a toilet and picnic spot. Follow the old railway line to Windsor32km then the off-road trail takes you through to Enfield 42km and onto Weston 48kmwhere you rejoin the old railway line for a flat run to Saleyards Rd. Follow the sealed cycleway downhill to the Oamaru Gardens. Bike through the gardens, across SH1, then through the park to the main street (Thames Street). Turn right into the far lane and ride south past the i-SITE, turning left on Itchen St, right onto Tyne, then left onto Harbour St. Go through the Victorian Historic Precinct to the Oamaru Harbour where the trail ends at Friendly Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Credit photo to Miles Holden & content to NZ Cycle Trail
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