If you’re going to take advice from anyone when it comes to the best bikepacking rides and regions in New Zealand, it’s Mark Watson & Hana Black.
The duo have spent more time on wheels than they have on their own two feet. You name a bike trial in NZ - they’ve smashed it (probably thrice times over). Not only are they experts of their home terrain in Aotearoa, but they’ve completed their fair share of international trails too. Mark & Hana have spent close to four years bikepacking nearly the lengths of the Americas, from Alaska to central Patagonia, via the road less traveled.
Here are their favorite New Zealand bikepacking regions and rides:
The Maniototo region of Central Otago is renowned for its dramatic scenery, diverse climate, and of course, one-of-a-kind bike trails.
“The expansive plains and broad, rolling, craggy ranges of the Central Otago high country have a distinct charm of their own, but add a mountain bike into the mix and you can access some stunning areas that are visited by few. Rough Ridge and the historic and isolated Serpentine Church is one such spot, high on the tussocky ridges, while a few options are also possible on the lofty Hawkdun Range where you can feel as if you’re on the roof of the South Island.”
#2 Banks Peninsula
Banks Peninsula is commonly known to Maori as Horomaka. It's also known as Te Pataka o Rakaihautū, meaning the storehouse of Rakaihautū, who was a legendary explorer. Only a short drive from Christchruch, Banks Peninsula is one of Aotearoa’s most unique landforms.
“Close to the city of Christchurch, yet sparsely populated, the ancient volcanic massif of Banks Peninsula features a ton of riding potential, for both mountain bikers and gravel bashers alike. But whatever type of ride you seek here, bring your climbing legs! The peninsula is all about hills and sometimes they’re steep. The peninsula suits rides of 2-4 days length, and your climbing efforts will always be rewarded with big ocean views and sinuous descents that carve down into secluded bays, such as the charming Little Akaloa.”
Located at the top of the South Island, the Kahurangi National Park is New Zealand’s second-largest park, expanding over 4529 square kilometres.
“While the Heaphy Track and Old Ghost Road are on most riders’ radars these days, opportunities abound to create link ups from 3-days to a week. The Kahurangi 500 (OGR, Heaphy, Rameka, Tadmor, Braeburn, Porika) is the king linkup, but a high quality, shorter loop can combine Old Ghost Road with the Denniston Shortcut for a ride with a lot of variety and epic scenery. Come prepared for sandflies and rain, but both Heaphy and Old Ghost Road have several bookable huts.”