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Authored by Jamie Shannon

For anyone who has been to New Zealand, you’ll know it as a country of unparalleled beauty, famous for its rugby team, world renowned trekking, and of course, for The Lord Of The Rings movies.

Unless you hire a campervan or a car, there aren’t actually a great many ways to see the country due to the distinct lack of a rail system. Of course there are buses that go almost anywhere but that’s a topic for another day.

There is another option though: cycling. 

New Zealand and travelling by bicycle go hand in hand. So why not consider using a bicycle the next time you are fortunate enough to find yourself here.

5 Reasons to Choose a Bicycle Over a Campervan in NZ

Avoid the ‘Beaten Track’ of Buses, Vans & Cars

Bicycle New Zealand

Whilst It’s perfectly feasible to travel the country on the highway, there are an abundance of smaller roads throughout New Zealand which can only be travelled by more rugged forms of transport like a 4X4 or a bicycle.

When it was time to leave lake Rotoroa at the top of the North Island, I didn’t want to travel the exact same ten kilometres back to the highway. Instead I took a small track to a town further on called Murchison.

It felt like I was in the middle of nowhere and truly seeing a little of the place not many people get to see. I was surrounded by this amazing landscape filled with verdant forest with only the sounds of the birds to accompany me.

A Better Opportunity to Meet Locals

Along my route to Murchison, my back rack snapped and I was left a little lost (mainly due to my not buying the proper equipment). 

Luckily, I was rescued in my hour of need by two gold diggers in a 4X4. They were kind enough to bring me to Murchison and this had the knock on affect where I was informed about the local landscape, community and of course the life of real gold diggers!

They  invited me to the local pub that evening, and I had the opportunity to meet some great people and had a fantastic time.

Cycling is a great way to immerse yourself within communities, and meet the local people. 

Travel At Your Own Pace

Wild camping with bicycle

Traveling at your own pace is one of the great reasons to rent a car. But it’s even more so with a bicycle; as long as you carry a tent (and practice ‘leave no trace camping), you can always find somewhere to sleep. 

There is an amazing network of DOC campsites dotted around the country that you can use for as little as a few NZ$.

Add to this the relatively small population and friendly locals whom value outdoor activity and you’re never short of a place to pitch your tent for the night.

It’s not an outlandishly hilly county but if you only want to cycle 20km’s tomorrow, then that’s fine; you’ll never have to worry about finding a hotel/motel or somewhere to sleep in general. 

It’s a Very Cheap Way to Travel!

Gear

Cycling has very minimal expenses. You’re not even paying for gas / petrol as you would need to if you rented a car.

Due to it not being very expensive, you’ll be able to spend more time on the road, and can let your hair down once you arrive in a town or city where you want to stay a little longer.

Apart from the small initial outlay for the bicycle and gear, the costs can well and truly be kept to a minimum. The two biggest costs (and hurdles) of any trip are taken away straightaway due to the fact that you’re camping most of the time and cycling instead of paying for transportation.

Add to this the fact that you are most probably cooking your own food and the trip becomes a steal!

The Sheer Sense of Accomplishment

I cannot overstate this last one enough. Say you start in a small town, perhaps 140km’s from your destination.

The first day is spent along the highway passing open farmland to your right whilst Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau drift idly past on your left. Across the lakes rise the forested peaks of Fiordland National Park

As you progress through the next day, the dense jungle begins to hang over the road as the highway winds its way gently up towards New Zealand’s most famous fiord. The river rushes by to your right and things are beginning to get a little tougher.

On day three, the road begins its ascent towards the pass which becomes the final barrier between yourself and your goal. It’s hard, no doubt about it but you know it’s worth the effort.

You plough on and on with all the grit and determination you can muster and eventually reach the top where you are presented with a stunning view all the way down towards the coast: the valley stretching out into the distance.

Milford Sound is finally revealed and what a sight she is!

I hope this gives you something to think about if you ever decide to visit this beautiful country.

It’s an amazing feeling to cycle through these vast landscapes at a pace where you can really just take it all in and remember, if it gets too much, you can always jump aboard a bus! (it’s really quite easy, even with a bicycle, and I won’t tell anybody!!).

Jamie Shannon first realised a bicycle was a great way to travel whilst in New Zealand. With no driving licence, he thought he would try his hand at using a bicycle to get around instead and he has never looked back. Since then, he’s cycled extensively around Europe and also from the UK to Vietnam in 2016/17.

Read more about Cycle Touring on his blog, afishoutofwater.nl, or connect with him on Facebook or Instagram @afishoutofwater.nl

    2 Comments

  1. We literally do all the legwork Jamie but I see the benefits of cycling through New Zealand versus doing the common campervan bit. I used small aka tiny cars to get around the North Island and South Island but also cycled quite a bit too. The South Island roads are particularly cyclist friendly because so few people drive when you exit the few cities and you have staggering views to keep your inspired.

    Ryan

    • So glad to hear you had a fabulous time in NZ too Ryan, I enjoyed your updates while you were there, and have much inspiration for our next trip across what we in Australia call the ditch :D

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