Visitors to Wellington, New Zealand, looking for immersive activities will soon be able to ride along its three-mile (4.5km) waterfront.

Work will shortly begin on a new safe-cycle route between the capital and the neighboring city of Lower Hutt. Built to encourage commuters to get around on two wheels, this new cycleway will also connect to a swathe of excellent routes in the region. including the picturesque Remutaka Cycle Trail (which then loops back to Wellington).

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Also along the harborside route, “Tāwharau pod” buildings will house studio workspaces and information centers. And you always have a chance of spotting a penguin.

Visitors will be able to add the new Te Ara Tupua cycling route to their North Island itineraries starting in 2026.

A man with a mountain bike stands at the top of a hill overlooking Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
A planned bike path will stretch along Wellington’s waterfront starting in 2026 © iStockphoto / Getty Images

Is New Zealand one of the world's best destinations for a cycling holiday?

When you cycle in a new place, you not only reduce your carbon footprint by traveling on your own steam, you also get that little bit fitter – which can only be a good thing for the planet. Not to mention, you’ll see more than you can by foot, while getting much closer to nature than you can in a car, train or bus. 

New Zealand is already a popular cycling destination – particularly for mountain biking and bike-packing travelers – but even before the new Wellington route opens, there’s plenty here for the leisure cyclist, too.

For epic multi-day adventures, check out New Zealand’s 23 Great Rides, signposted journeys that are mostly all off-road and which take you through stunning landscapes across both islands. Some of these trails share the route with hikers through lush forest and over rivers. Others follow disused rail lines or gently meander between vineyards

For all of them, including the epic Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, you can tackle shorter sections in a day, either on your own or on a guided tour. 

An online interactive map has a full list of NZ cycling trails including “Connector” and “Heartland” routes that guide cyclists along backroads between towns and regions, and link up with other off-road bike rides.

Three people cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail toward Middlemarch, South Island, New Zealand
The Otago Central Rail Trail is one of the South Island’s most popular choices for cyclists © Janice Chen / Shutterstock

New Zealand’s popular new South Island cycleway 

A relatively new addition to the NZ cycling scene is a 34-mile (55km) route in Central Otago, the Lake Dunstan Trail. After opening in 2021, the trail saw 80,000 visitors in its first year – even as COVID kept international visitors at bay. 

This new South Island route takes cyclists from Cromwell to Clyde via platforms attached to granite rocks overlooking the lake, past Bannockburn wineries and across a suspension bridge that’s 280ft (85.5m) long and 94ft (28.6m) high. 

Some sections of the Lake Dunstan Trail are an easy grade 1, though more remote parts are best tackled by experienced (and well-prepared) cyclists. Be sure to bring your own puncture kit. 

Lake Dunstan Trail is one of a host of excellent cycling routes in the Queenstown and Otago region, including the Otago Central Rail Trail, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail.

Plans are also underway to build a 22-mile (35km) Kawarau Gorge Trail to link the Queenstown Trail with the Lake Dunstan Trail at Cromwell, bringing together 310 miles (500km) of cycling and walking trails across Central Otago. This will solidify the South Island as a destination you’ll want to get out and explore on two wheels.

A man on a mountain bike rides on a suspension bridge through Pureora Forest, North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand’s network of cycling trails will take you through forests, across bridges and more © Andrew Peacock / Getty Images

Cycle from coast to coast on the North Island

New Zealand’s North Island has its share of epic rides as well. One of the most popular for international visitors is the Te Pou Herenga Tai – Twin Coast Cycle Trail. This 54-mile (87km) ride follows a former rail track, meaning manageable gradients. 

Leading from the stunning Bay of Islands region on the east coast of the North Island across to Hokianga Harbour on the west coast, the route can be done in one day or two (with an overnighter). 

On the way, you’ll pass the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and the town of Kawakawa, famous for its playful Hundertwasser-inspired toilets and Memorial Park. You’ll find plenty of local outfits who rent bikes and offer support, as well as a lift back at the end of the day.

Looking for more cycling inspiration? Check out Lonely Planet’s new Bikepackers’ Guide to the World, which includes some unique New Zealand routes to plan a trip around.

Then get riding. 

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