Ranking The Best NZ Regions for Bike Touring Trails

Author Image Article By Marc Sibbons
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Ranking The Best NZ Regions for Bike Touring Trails

It’s no secret that New Zealand is a part of the world blessed with natural beauty, from its 13 national parks to endless forests and blissful lakes. The scenery is simply unmissable if you ever have a chance to visit. 

Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals alike explore vast remote areas of the island by land and sea, with cycling a particularly popular mode of transport. 

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Thrillseekers with a passion for wheels often choose to go down the bike touring route - a blend of bike riding and backpacking - and like to make the most of the many trails the country has to offer. 

In fact, according to the popular online adventure directory, All Trails, there are a total of 91 bike touring trails scattered across New Zealand – with some measuring a mammoth 745 miles long! 

As bike touring typically involves traveling for days, weeks or months at a time, it is fair to say you need to do your research in terms of routes and destinations – ensuring you make the journey an enjoyable one with whatever company you prefer, whether that be with family, friends or even pets.

All that considered, the research team at Gambling.com decided to work out the Top 10 best NZ regions for bike trails. 

We analysed six different data points to measure this: The total number of routes, their length, average elevation, user reviews, nearby attractions, and the suitability each bike touring trail has per region

A percentrank scoring system was then applied to all data points to create a universal scoring system, which produced an overall score out of 100 for each region.

Which NZ Regions are Best for Bike Touring Trails?

NZ Bike Trails

Our findings discovered Otago, New Zealand’s third largest region for land area (km), to be the best region for bike touring trails with a final score of 76.2, beating second place the West Coast (73.8)

Even though the West Coast and Waikato scored higher for the number of bike touring trails, Otago performed consistently better across the other categories in the study such as the length, elevation and reviews of each bike touring trail in the region. 

Canterbury and Manawatū-Whanganui completed the Top 5, respectively, with final scores of 69.1 and 65.5 respectively. 

NZ Bike Trails

Waiktato came top for the number of bike touring trails per region with 19 in total. The West Coast wasn’t far behind in second place with 15, while Manawatū-Whanganui came in a respectable third place in this category (12). 

Gisbourne and Wellington didn’t register a single bike touring trail of note and came rock bottom of the list. Perhaps it's better to try an alternative outdoor activity these regions have to offer!

NZ Bike Trails

Bike touring is mostly trips for pleasure, adventure or autonomy rather than sport, commuting or exercise. However, every bike enthusiast has varying preferences when it comes to trails. 

While some might enjoy a shorter scenic route with a low level of difficulty, more experienced riders may opt for a longer route, with higher elevation to challenge themselves along the way.

Our research found Picton - Queenstown Cycle Route to be the longest bike touring trail - measuring a grueling 745.0 miles. 

The same route also recorded the highest elevation gain out of all 91 bike touring trails – 75,951 ft (roughly twice the maximum altitude of a commercial airline). 

It’s fair to say that this route isn’t for the faint hearted, and completing the full distance would take a significant amount of time. 

The Old Ghost Road: Lyell Campsite to Lyell Saddle Hut, a 15.8-km trail near Murchison, Nelson-Tasman, was found to be the most popular bike touring trail with a 4.9-star rating. 

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Six different data points per NZ region were measured in an index. They were:

  • Number of Trails Score - total number of bike touring trails
  • Length Score - combined average length of bike touring trails
  • Elevation Score - combined average elevation of bike touring trails
  • Review Score - combined average reviews of bike touring trails
  • Suitability Score - number of trails noted for being kid friendly, dog friendly, paved/partially paved, wheelchair access and stroller friendly
  • Attractions Score - number of trails noted for having beach, wildlife and historical sites nearby

All six index points were then added for each region to give a final score out of 100 by using the PERCENTRANK formula. All NZ regions were then ranked from highest to lowest. All data was collected on June 13, 2023.

Data source: All Trails

Author Image Article By Marc Sibbons
Last Updated: 
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