Just you, your bike and a land of mountains, plains and forest lie ahead. If you have heard of the New Zealand Cycle Trail (Nga Haerenga) that starts all the way from Cape Reinga in the north of New Zealand, well that mammoth journey ends right here in Southland. It’s certainly a way to go out with a bang in one of New Zealand’s favourite mountain biking regions. So much so, that the region plays host to major cycling events like SBS Bank Tour of Southland and the MLT Moonshine Trail. Plus, Invercargill, the region’s main city, has its very own velodrome.
For us backpackers, there’s loads of opportunities to do some off-road cycle trails from the downhill mountain bike parks to the multi-day rides through the mountains.
You’ll find bike hire shops in most major towns in Southland (and south Otago), especially Invercargill, Te Anau and Queenstown, so you are able to take on the best biking trails in Southland.
AROUND THE MOUNTAINS CYCLE TRAIL (GRADE 2-3)
Discover the mountainous northern Southland by starting and ending on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The 180km bike trail takes 2-3 days to complete at a relaxed pace. Get well and truly off the beaten track, partly because it is wedged between mountains most people only gaze upon from afar from across the lake in Queenstown, and partly because the cycle trail isn’t complete yet. (It is being completed in 2016).
Nevertheless, there are shuttle services operating at the moment to get you through the gaps in the cycle trail. At the end of the trail, the only way to get back to Queenstown is by taking the historic TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 steamship, on a scenic cruise across Lake Wakatipu and back to Queenstown.
Start the bike trail from Kingston at the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu. You can either bike or get a shuttle here from Queenstown. If you are biking, be aware of traffic on this windy road. This trip along the edge of Lake Wakatipu provides instant views across the lake and to the mountains you will be navigating – just a taste of what’s to come.
Cycle through the towns of Garston, Athol and Lumsden along the way, giving a great excuse for food and coffee stops. You then begin to head west towards Mossburn. The 50km stretch between Mossburn and Mavora Lakes is section that is temporarily closed so a shuttle service needs to be booked to take you across before you set off on the Around the Mountains Trail.
The North and South Mavora Lakes sits with an impressive backdrop of mountains, forest and tussock grassland. Look out for deer, chamois and Himalayan Tahr on the slopes of Mt Nicholas. As you approach the shores of Lake Wakatipu, you’ll come across the high country sheep stations. The final leg of the journey is a peaceful cruise across the lake and back to Queenstown and civilisation.
Cycling Southland 10th Feb 2014
With wide open roads, a plethora of mountain bike tracks, the country’s only indoor velodrome and the soon to be completed Around the Mountains cycle trail, there are plenty of opportunities “to get on ya bike” in Southland.
The region already has a high cycling profile as home to the Tour of Southland, a challenging, week long race for elite cyclists, competing on some of the country’s most scenic roads. The construction of the $8m 175-kilometre Around the Mountains cycle track, part of Nga Haerenga, New Zealand’s cycle network, is the latest undertaking which is expected to put the region even further on the cycling map.
The track is a multi-day journey circumnavigating Southland’s Eyre Mountain, beginning in Kingston and finishing at Walter Peak Station on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. Venture Southland’s Bobbi Brown has been integrally involved in the development. “Stage one of the track, from Kingston to Mossburn, will be completed by the end of the year. Although stage two, from Mossburn to Walter Peak via Mavora and the Von Valley, is yet to be completed, cyclists can continue on to Walter Peak Station and catch the TSS Earnslaw back to Queenstown.”
Following historical railway lines, the trail traverses through farm land, rugged ranges and natural vegetation the area is renowned for.
“Around the Mountains gives people access into Southland and Fiordland’s back country, providing an opportunity to view the scenery that makes this area so unique, while cycling around the Eyre Mountain,” says Bobbi. “The trail appeals to many people because of its ease to cycle; there is only one major hill over the whole distance. For those completing the journey over a number of days accommodation and meals can be sourced along the way. Or you can undertake a portion of the trail if you have a shorter timeframe.”
The new route is complementary to the well established Central Otago Trail and the relatively new Queenstown Trail network. According to Venture Southland’s Tareen Ellis “the cycle networks are similar to the Great Walks. Once you have completed one, you continue onto the next one”.
There are many shorter cycling adventures around the region and recreational cyclists are able to take advantage of Invercargill’s infrastructure. “Our nice, wide open streets and trails along the rivers are safe for road cycling,” says Tareen. “Mountain bikers are also well catered for with a variety of tracks. Southlanders are known for getting out there, exploring the wilderness and getting fit.” Southland’s indoor Velodrome, a New Zealand first, hosts popular corporate cycling competitions. “Workmates are getting together and putting in local business teams,” says Tareen. “It gives people the opportunity to get into track cycling in a fun, competitive environment.”
With the increasing development of cycling opportunities in and around Southland it is small wonder that the region is home to the second largest number of recreational cyclists per capita in New Zealand.
Residents give cycle trail thumbs-up 29th Aug 2013
August 29, 2013
Residents give cycle trail thumbs-up
The construction of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail is creating a real buzz in Northern Southland – with a group of Garston residents giving it a big thumbs-up after a weekend ride.
The 185km trail is a partnership between the Southland District Council and the New Zealand Cycle project. Most of the trail will be in Southland district and $4 million of a $47 million national pool was granted to the Southland District Council for the first stage of the trail, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The development of the trail is intended to boost Southland's economy and unlock the tourism potential of the townships, surrounding areas and the Southland region as a whole.
Northern Southland residents are already seeing the recreational benefits of the trail.
Garston School secretary Bernie McNabb said the trail was perfect for twilight rides.
“They’re (the contractors) doing a perfect job. It’s so easy and smooth and safe.
“People are getting a bit of a buzz about it. People with B and Bs are looking forward to a bit more custom,” he said.
Sharon Ford, from Castle Hill Lodge Bed and Breakfast at Garston, said it was great to get on the trail for a ride.
“It feels like it’s been built to a really high standard,” she said.
The Garston stretch was a very nice ride as it meandered through trees, she said.
“There are lots of locals around here and we’re all arranging how we’re going to meet up. It’s going to link us all together.”
Local residents were used to running and cycling on State Highway 6 and it would be great to have the safer option of the trail – especially for children, she said.
Garston farmer Paula Hume said most local residents were “100 per cent” behind the trail and some had been buying bikes so they could have a go on the trail.
“It’ll be just amazing,” she said.
She said she would probably ride the whole trail when it was complete, but it was nice to have the ability to go for a ride anytime.
Southland District Council services and assets group manager Ian Marshall said progress had been very good to date with one of the warmest winters on record helping matters.
“We’ve achieved about a kilometre (of new trail) a day which is pretty sensational.”
Four different contractors had been working on four sections during the past month with the trail route being opened up and then built. Significant portions of the trail from Kingston to Mossburn were nearing completion, he said.
The sections between Five Rivers and Athol, and Garston and Kingston, were still to be completed, but most of the work on the trail build was planned to be completed by late September, Mr Marshall said.
There were still bridges to be built and some minor route access issues to resolve. The imminent lambing season could also create some delays, he said.
The contractors had done a great job to date – and had appreciated the extra work during what was traditionally a slower time of the year, Mr Marshall said.
CAPTION: Garston residents (from left) Kathryn O’Loughlin, Sharon Ford, Paula Hume, and Bernie McNabb check out a section of the newly constructed Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.
CAPTION: Garston residents Bernie McNabb and Kathryn O’Loughlin check out a section of the newly constructed Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.
For more information contact:
Southland District Council services and assets group manager Ian Marshall 027 291 5937
Harmony of bikes and lakes 23rd Feb 2012
JEFF KAVANAGH - stuff.co.nz
"I there's one word I'd use to describe this place, it's 'remote'," muses Maiva Gibson, in between bites of her chicken sandwich.
We're sitting together with our English guide, Dave Stamper, at a picnic table outside a pair of musterers' huts in the Von Valley on a superbly sunny, early summer's day, while her husband, Russell Ramsden, explores the corrugated-iron buildings and their survival essentials of large woodburner stoves, cans of baked beans and tomato soup, and dog-eared copies of Rod and Rifle.
Surrounded by sun-kissed foothills and jagged, snowcapped mountains, the cheery, 60-something secretary from Christchurch could have chosen any number of words to describe where we are - serene, stunning, magical - but remote is also apt.
And despite being only a 45-minute boat trip and a short cycle from Queenstown, it's not hard to imagine that we're the only people left on Earth.
A few hours earlier, our day's adventure had begun amid a throng of people. Having picked up our touring bikes from Outdoor Sports in Queenstown for a guided ride from Walter Peak Station to Mavora Lakes and back again, we wander the short distance from the firm's base in Shotover St to the Steamer Wharf and the waiting Earnslaw.
The previous day's dark clouds have lifted with the rising sun, covering the front deck of the grand old steamer in sunshine, with smiling tourists snapping shots of themselves, Lake Wakatipu and even the boat's chimney stack as it exhales duck- grey puffs of smoke into the air.
As the Earnslaw cuts across the lake, we lean against the wooden railing of the soon-to-be 100-year-old boat, Maiva and Russell clutching cups of coffee from the onboard canteen, their eyes closed and faces turned to the sun. Seeing their contentment, Dave, a friendly 26-year-old from Coventry, smiles, gestures his head towards them and says, "Not a bad way to start the day, is it?"
Soon we arrive at Walter Peak Station and, once disembarked with our bikes, separate from the mainly middle-aged German and English tourists who've come over for the station's show of dog mustering and sheep shearing.
Our riding for the day, as Dave explains, involves cycling the gentle, scenic sections of a 48-kilometre stretch of unsealed public road between the station and lakes and being picked up in a van for the tougher, hilly parts.
Our ride, offered by Outdoor Sports as part of a joint venture with Real Journeys (a local tour company), makes up the first or last leg - depending on which end you're coming from - of a new four to six-day cycle trail. Called Around the Mountains, it will pass through Mossburn, Lumsden, Five Rivers, Athol and Garston, linking Walter Peak Station to Kingston. Destined to rival Central Otago's rail trail, its tours with accommodation aren't scheduled to start until the end of this year.Although riders can pedal all the way to the lakes from the station independently, presumably, unless planning to stay overnight in a DOC hut or its rudimentary camping ground, they'll also have to ride the occasionally steep, and frequently windy, route back the same day.
With nothing so arduous to contemplate, the two Cantabrians and I happily mount our bikes and head off. Within minutes we're alone, riding through a heartbreakingly beautiful landscape of vast glacial valleys and looming peaks. As our wheels crunch pleasingly along the gravel road, Lake Wakatipu glitters beside us in the sunlight, the mighty Alps framing its shores.
Finding it difficult to resist the desire to stop and get my camera out every hundred metres, I spend as much time on my feet taking photos as I do in the saddle cycling the first section of the ride.
Worried that I might be slowing down the group, I up the pace a couple of times, but quickly find that Maiva and Russell are never too far ahead, cruising along at the former's relaxed tempo even though I sense the latter, a fit and wiry 66-year-old mechanic, is champing at the bit to burn ahead.
Forty minutes after we set off, we meet up with Dave, who is waiting for us at the start of a short climb. Sticking the bikes on the van's trailer, we drive over the hill for another easy trundle and lunch at the musterers' huts.
Sitting in the sun with Maiva and Dave, and having ridden for less than an hour in total, the packed lunch seems unearned. But it's after noon, and we are happy nonetheless to munch on sandwiches, apples and muffins, and drink juices and cups of steaming tea.
Fed and watered, we jump back in the van for another lift towards the lakes and our next dropoff point. This time I ride a bit longer, with fewer photo stops, and after about half an hour of steady pedalling we're joined by Dave, who's ridden back to meet and accompany us through the native beech forest that borders the two lakes.
The landscape is again lonely and astonishingly picturesque, and it's no surprise to learn that the creaking, whispering forest featured, like many other local spots, in The Lord of the Rings.
At the Mavora Lakes we run into three Aussie fly fishermen in waders trying to lure a couple of fat brown trout, visible just below the surface of a shallow tributary, on to the end of their rods.
We stop on a low-suspension bridge to admire the mountains reflected on the water's surface and to chat about the ones that are still getting away. But we are quickly engulfed by sandflies, so beat a retreat to the van.
Dave tells us there are a couple of sections we can ride on the way back, but if we're too puffed we can just hang out in the van.
Maiva's happy enough with the second option, but Russell and I are both keen to do a bit more riding.
Dropped off at the top of a high, winding hill 10 minutes' drive from the lakes, there's little legwork required as Russell and I fly down and out along the valley floor.
A vigorous tail-wind increases our momentum.
It's incredibly exhilarating after the easy cruising before lunch, and there are a couple of hairy moments when stray stock bound out and across the road.
The weather turns for the worse, the tail-wind bringing with it dark clouds that stain the blue sky grey, and Russell and I get back in the van to drive the last 10 or so kilometres back to Walter Peak Station's homestead.
Sitting there in the comfort of a wide bay window overlooking the lake, Maiva pronounces our day "a nine out of 10", as we treat ourselves to pikelets with jam and cream, and wait for the Earnslaw to ferry us gently back to civilisation.
Original Article - © Fairfax NZ News