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October 04, 2022

We're blessed in New Zealand with some fine terrain for bike adventuring. 

Bikepacking here often features gnarly angles, wild places and our famed 'variable' weather, but we're also never too far from a dairy or resupply and there's usually a bail-out route somewhere within reach.

Being based in Wanaka, Good Rotations is spoilt for bikepacking options – here are three of our favourite routes to bikepack this summer in Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island).

Hopkins Valley

Hopkins Valley Bikepacking

Cruisy weekender

This is where we go when we are in need of some real mountain scenery but we're a bit squeezed for time.

It's a short ride - only about 30km to the last hut if riding from the road end - but it's an absolute gem. It features big braided river crossings, a smattering of characterful DOC huts and some excellent side trips off the bike if you have some extra time (The Dalser Pinnacles are an outstanding view point if you've got the head for heights). 

There's also great camping in the forest at the foot of the surrounding mountains (our preference is sleeping under the stars! - the huts, especially the lower ones, can get busy with hunters in the season).

Bring a packable backpack and you can ditch your bike and tramp up the last few kms to Erceg Hut - well worth it for the access to the upper valley. Time it right and ride the tailwind back out to the roadend - it's a riot!

Read more about this route in the Journal

Old Ghost Road Roundabout

Mackley River Crossong - Old Ghost Road Roundabout

2-4 days

The northwest corner of the South Island is replete with some of the best bike adventuring in the country, and is home to the Kahurangi National Park - New Zealand’s second-largest.

There are some great long loops that take in big chunks of this region, such as the K500 brevet, but a more condensed and almost completely off road loop can be had by stitching together The Old Ghost Road (TOGR) and the Denniston Shortcut. While most people ride TOGR as a hut trip with a car shuttle, you can bikepack it, starting and finishing in Westport or (Lyell )completely by pedal power.

If starting at Westport, you'll begin by climbing onto the Denniston Plateau - a surreal landscape - and continue via some punishing ups and downs to a make-or-break river crossing of the Mackley. This first section will spit you out at sandfly ground zero AKA Lyell camping, which is also the start of TOGR. 

The Old Ghost Road doesn't need much introduction, it's status is well earned - it really doesn't have any boring bits! 

If you're feeling flash you could finish the trip in luxury by staying at the Rough & Tumble Lodge, owned by one of the creators of the trail.

It used to be possible to complete the loop using the Charming Creek Walkway, but this is currently impassable due to a large slip. Hopefully this will change, but until then it's back on the road to Westport, but it's hella scenic and not very busy.

Read more about this route in the Journal

Thomson Gorge, Manuherikia, Melina Loop

En route to Melina Ridge Track

2-4 days

If you're bikepacking out of Wanaka and want to get in some solid distance, then it's quite likely that you will be exiting via the Thomson Gorge Road. This is the gateway (from Wanaka) to the thrills and delights of Central Otago, where a multitude of adventures by bike await.

The mellow Central Otago Rail Trail provides a rapid link between more adventurous areas (such as the Maniototo) - spend a bit of time poring over NZ Topo Map and see what you can cook up!

This particular loop takes in some classic Central scenery, including some great huts and the Omarama Saddle. You'll hit Omarama half way for some feasting, before tackling an insanely steep bulldozer track (hike-a-bike here we come) with a rewarding if mind-focussing descent before a bit of obligatory road off the Lindis and back towards Wanaka. It's a DIY brevet really!

Read more about this loop on the Journal

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