New Zealand and walking have always been linked together. Now cycling-the new kid on the block, is elbowing its way in. Since 2009 the New Zealand government has been developing, increasing and extending its routes, in a $50 million NZ dollar effort to increase healthy exploration of its country by all who choose to use them, home-grown or international visitor.
Nelson, New Zealand. Accessed from Picton either by the world renowned Queen Charlottes Drive or by Highway 6 via Blenheim, is a great place to start your journey into the two wheeled world. Easy to reach via the Wellington to Picton Ferry or from Auckland/Wellington airports. Whether you want to hire a motored bike for a lazy cycle or its more rugged mountain counterpart to explore some of its more uneven terrain, neither way will you be disappointed.
Hire a cycle from local company uBike, located in the little city on the bank of the Maitai River, and you can immediately follow the track up into the hills.
Follow their Beach Cruisin route which will lead you out to Tahanuni Beach, along Nelson Harbour front with its magnificent views of Boulder Bank and the Cook Strait, once out of the city the on road cycle lanes will guide you to the reserve, there are many detours along the way waiting to grab your interest and encourage you to explore – but one thing to remember about Nelson is that it is nestled in a mountainous area which is reflected in its cycle paths, so at times some serious stamina is needed.
Another trip will take you through the city centre and into the outskirts, on hilly quiet roads offering interesting aspects of heritage housing architecture, some dating back to the 1800’s, eventually you will arrive at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary (this is where my family and I stayed for the duration of our time in Nelson).
Pack a picnic, cycle through the site and up to the visitor centre, leaving it in the provided bike stop, give your weary legs a rest before ambling into the dense fern forest, a 45 minute loop which leads to the uppermost point-Jacobs Ladder and past the 19th century waterworks which use to provide the city.
Check out the streams for freshwater eels, trees for common sightings of busy fantails and other indigenous birds, before wandering back down, once again to the grassed area around the visitor centre. A great place to sit in peace, fill yourself with grub before climbing back aboard your bike. Returning, riding mostly downhill to Nelson City and the little uBike silver bullet mobile base from the bird sanctuary, you can drop the bike off at its river edge location near the Visitor i-SITE building in the CBD and a short walk from the cinema, library and car park.
The city itself has some much to offer, for those of you more interested in a leisurely slow cycle. You can enjoy stopping at all the main roads: sipping a coffee at one of the many coffee shops, cycling in on a Saturday morning to experience Nelson Market, up to Flounders Park to check out life as it was in Nelson in the 1880’s to the 19.30’s. Although in the city centre the streets can get busy, the traffic levels are nothing compared with cycling on the road in the UK.
Challenge yourself with one of the 50 tracks in the area including the new Great taste trail, which can take you on a four day trip with a total length of 175 km, if you feel up to it. It will lead you through Nelson to Wakefield, Wakefield to Woodstock, Woodstock to Moteuka, side trip to Kaiteriteri (well worth a visit) Motueka to Mapua, then catch the ferry back to Rabbit Island on the fourth day and cycle back into Nelson.
Whatever trip you choose to do, there are many bike hire companies in the area, so you can rent one suitable for you. From electric bikes to city ones, mountain up to cruiser – you can decide which level of comfort you prefer and what routes and trails are right for you.
Investing in the off-road trails and routes, New Zealand intends to continue the high standard previously experienced on its Tramping tracks, enabling visitors to explore its glorious countryside and on-road expansion. Its desire to develop a nationwide cycle network shows New Zealand, is once again putting on offer another way to see its glorious countryside, get up close and personal with nature and enjoy the expansive tracks of solitude being developed throughout the country.