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Queenstown’s cycle tourism cranks up for summer
New and improved trails around Queenstown offer a host of world-class terrain across hills, mountains, tracks and bike parks, from easy scenic rides to adrenaline-pumping downhill, cross-country, freestyling, and heli-biking.
Now extended to an eight-month season, New Zealand’s first gondola-assisted ‘bike lift’ has opened up a whole new dimension for mountain bikers in the heart of Queenstown. Riders can load their bikes onto the iconic Skyline Gondola and enjoy panoramic lake and mountain views as they’re lifted high above Queenstown to the new bike park. Here there are more than 30km of trails ranging from fast groomed tracks to rock gardens and natural single tracks, with runs graded green, blue and black for beginners, intermediates and advanced riders.
Back road cycling over at Walter Peak has also been extended, running from October to April. The trip, which can be done independently or in small guided groups, begins with an unforgettable 45-minute cruise across the lake aboard the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship. Riders can then cycle part or all of the spectacular 55km trail from Walter Peak high country farm to Mavora Lakes.
Another increasingly popular pastime is exploring some of Central Otago’s vineyards by bike. Take a leisurely pedal down scenic back roads and on the new 8.5km River Trail through the spectacular Gibbston valley, stopping off at award-winning wineries along the way. Or take a ‘cycle de vine’ guided tour on a comfortable cruiser to see the vines that grow some of the world’s best pinot noir. Taste the end result at cellar doors and meet some of the wine makers.
The new Manse Road trail, 20 minutes’ drive from Queenstown, is an easy way to explore picturesque Arrowtown and its historic Chinese Village. Another option specially developed for families is Jardine Park which connects to stunning lakeside trails around Kelvin Heights Peninsula and out to Jacks Point.
With more than 400km of trails across five mountain ranges, Queenstown offers the most heli-bike options in the world. Heli-biking is a great opportunity for riders to experience amazing descents and epic scenery on a trip tailored to suit their ability.
To make biking around Queenstown easy, experienced bike operators and rental providers offer a range of hire packages and guided tour options, whether it’s for an hour or a multi-day trip.
The surge in biking popularity has also promoted some new events and the return of firm favourites.
Biking season gears up before Christmas with a Family Bike Jam, the Wakatipu Trail Blazer and a Dirt Jump Opening Jam. At Easter, the Queenstown Mountain Bike Festival returns for its second year with a number of serious and fun events for all capabilities, while the brand new Orion Health GODZone Adventure race, 7-14 April, will be a multi-day, non-stop, expedition-style adventure race for serious athletes.
Destination Queenstown CEO Tony Everitt said biking was fast becoming recognised by national and international visitors as a great way of getting out and enjoying what Queenstown has to offer.
“Whatever your ability and wherever you go there’s amazing scenery and experiences. You can cycle between towns, vineyards or golf courses, go heli-biking, take to the parks for downhill action and technical riding or just have some fun with the kids. Add to that our huge range of activities, award-winning food and wine, vibrant social scene, day spa options, and accommodation to suit all budgets, and people can build their perfect holiday,” he said.
Influential travel authority Lonely Planet has chosen New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region of Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Fiordland as one of the world’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2012 for its year-round activities and spectacular scenery.