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Four great bike rides near New Zealand's capital

Simon Parker's picture
The view from Makara Peak near Wellington. Cycle Traveller

Surrounded by harbour and hills, Wellington has a strong claim to some of New Zealand's most accessible and stunning bicycle routes and trails.

In a route list compiled by the city's bike-friendly tourism body, it's possible to tackle everything from aggressive single-track mountain bike trails starting just above the CBD, through to a two to three day rail trail that winds into the forested Rimutaka Ranges.

All these rides are not too far away from the city's numerous cafes, bars and restaurants – of which, Wellington claims to have more per capita than New York – making it a great place for a long weekend getaway.

In a country criss-crossed by a large selection of cycling routes, here are four rides within easy reach of New Zealand's beautiful capital city:

The Rimutaka Cycle Trail, New Zealand. Cycle TravellerRimutaka Cycle Trail

Get yourself across the city's harbour to the historic town of Petone, site of the first European settlement in the region. It's where you can start one of New Zealand’s official Great Rides, the Rimutaka Cycle Trail.

The 115km RCT is a 2-3 day ride that starts with a riverside roll through Hutt City parkland, before heading up into the forested Rimutaka Ranges. Following an old rail trail, this section features seven tunnels before a downhill takes you to the farming country of Wairarapa.

From there you can follow the trail south to the rugged southern coast or head just north into wine country. Cycling the flat country lanes of Martinborough, you can visit numerous vineyards and olive groves.

Francesca Baker wrote about cycling this popular trail for Cycle Traveller earlier this year. You can read her account in Rail trails and wine in New Zealand's Rimutaka Range.

To get to Petone from Wellington you can take either a train (15 minutes) or ferry (one hour), although note that the ferry only operates on weekends and public holidays.

Wellington trails

Mountain biking Wellington New Zealand. Cycle Traveller

Perched just above Wellington, Mt Victoria's cycling routes provide views of the harbour, city and waterfront precinct. This includes a mix of easy shared cycle paths through to single track trails.

For something a bit more challenging, you can head to the hill suburb trails like Te Aro’s Transient.                      

But for what the city says is some of the best single-track riding in the world, head to Makara Peak Mountain Biking Park, a dedicated area for riders that has you careening through the lush New Zealand bush. From the top you can look back towards the city, and on a clear day even spot the mountains of the South Island across Cook Strait.

Queen Charlotte Track

This is one for off-road adventurists. Taking the three hour Interislander ferry from Wellington to Marlborough (Picton) on the South Island is not only a lovely trip in its own right, but it also drops you off near the Queen Charlotte Track – the longest single track in New Zealand. This route has you snaking around the spectacular Marlborough Sounds, with the 70km dual hiking/riding trail through bush and along coastal ridgelines.

According to www.qctrack.co.nz, the track is a two-day technical ride for experienced cyclists. Panniers aren't an option on this one (you'll need an ultralight setup like this) although it's possible to have supplies literally shipped in each day. You can get to the track from Picton by boat or road.

Bicycles are welcome on the Interislander ferry, although a NZ$15 fee is applicable to them on board.

Cycling Olive Grove near Wellington. Cycle TravellerWine trails

Famous for its world-class sauvignon blanc, Marlborough is another great spot for vineyard rides, with some 48 cellar doors available. In March they host the South Island’s largest cycling event, the Forrest GrapeRide, a road ride through picture postcard surroundings.

Your options are the ‘Magnum’ course (202km), the standard 101km course, or the easier ‘Taster’ (42km) circuit. All riders finish up at the festival event for food, music and grape crushing.

The ride starts and finishes at Forrest Wines, Renwick, and the next event is scheduled for March 28, 2015. More information can be obtained at www.graperide.co.nz.

A few other websites that may help you plan your New Zealand bike rides include www.tracks.org.nz, which outlines specific rides throughout Wellington and the country, and www.nzcycletrail.com, which details the country's numerous Great Rides.
 

Images from top: 1. The view from near Mount Makara. 2. Along the Rimutaka Cycle Trail. 3. The Peak Mountain Biking Park. 4. Riding through the Olive Grove.

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