Here’s some info to note so your cycle experience is the best it can be.
- Fitness and Skills: The Around the Mountains is primarily graded 2-3 easy-intermediate, with much of the trail following custom-made cycle paths with gentle gradients. There are, however, a number of sections on public roads where riders should be prepared to encounter traffic. Please stay on the left.
The section between Walter Peak Station and Mavora Lakes follows a reasonably smooth gravel road, but its remoteness bumps the grade up to Grade 3.
There are two fords between Mt Nicholas Station and Mavora Lakes; these may be impassable after heavy rain so please check the weather forecast. Your best bet for trail updates is to ask the locals; bike tour operators are likely to have the most up-to-date information.
To reach Mavora Lakes, riders will turn off Mt Nicholas Road and travel a further 2km.
The gravel road from Mavora Lakes to Centre Hill can be busy and dusty, especially in summer. It’s possible to arrange shuttle transport along this section should riders wish to avoid it. Those attempting the full trail – including the Mavora Lakes section – should be reasonably fit, experienced and self-sufficient.
- Riding Season: It’s possible to ride the trail all year round but the most popular time is from October to May. It can get very hot in peak summer, making a helmet visor and sunscreen essential. And while snows may make some sections impassable, the trail offers up some spectacular winter riding complete with beautifully snow-dusted mountain ranges.
These mountainous surroundings are subject to a wide variety and often quickly changing weather conditions, so be sure to check the forecast in advance and pack clothing for all possibilities.
- Clothing: Pack for four seasons in a day – this is Southland and the weather can be unpredictable.
- Accommodation: There’s limited options along the trail so make sure you book in advance.
- Food and Water: Supplies can be found in cafes and grocery stores in Queenstown, Mossburn, Lumsden, Garston and Athol. There are no services whatsoever between Walter Peak Station and Mossburn, so be sure to carry plenty of food and drink for this section, in particular. Water bottles can be filled at various settlements; be sure to carry plenty on hot summer days. There’s a water supply at Mavora Lakes DOC campsite; boiling or treating it is recommended.
- Toilets: There’s facilities between Walter Peak and Mavora Lakes and in each of the towns along the trail.
- Mobile phones: Cellphone coverage can be limited on the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, particularly in the Mavora Lakes area. There is no coverage for 36km from Mt Nicholas Station to Mavora.
- Sandflies: These tiny creatures can be a big annoyance! Make sure you pack insect repellant – you will need it at Mavora to combat the resident sandfly population.
- First aid: Always carry a basic first aid kit with you, especially when you’re heading into remote wilderness areas.
- EFTPOS: While shops have EFTPOS available, not all accommodation providers are equipped with it so check first.
- Mavora Lakes Camping: There’s a DOC campsite at Mavora Lakes, known as ‘Mavora Lakes South’. The campsite is basic, providing only water (which must be boiled or treated) and toilets. This campsite is self-registration; rangers are present during the summer months. Payments for campsites is required in cash. All rubbish must be taken out with you. More information is available on the DOC website https://www.doc.govt.nz/
- The Earnslaw: The TSS Earnslaw is serviced annually and therefore won’t be operating for a period from May to July. However, alternative vessels will complete her duties to Walter Peak during this time.