New Zealand

Cycling the South Island

The South Island has a lot to offer cyclists: pristine landscapes with steep mountains, lush green forests, snow-capped peaks, roaring waterfalls and deep blue fjords.
So there was no doubt in my mind: I wanted to explore New Zealand’s scenic beauty on two wheels and capture it on camera. The following photo tour shows the highlights I discovered along the way.

Overview of the cycling tour:

The big circuit began in Christchurch, took me around New Zealand’s Southern Alps and ended in Oamaru. Since the stretch from Oamaru back to Christchurch isn’t particularly appealing for cyclists, I decided to cover it by bus. In total, I cycled more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles), with a cumulative elevation gain of 13,000 meters (42,650 feet).

TRAVEL ROUTE: Christchurch • Springfield • Arthur’s Pass • Hokitika • Hari Hari • Franz Josef Glacier • Lake Moeraki • Makarora • Te Wanaka • Queenstown • Cromwell • Omarama • Mt. Cook Village • Twizel • Omarama • Kurow • Oamaru
DISTANCE: 1.427 km
TOTAL ASCENT: 13.422 m
HIGH POINT: 1.076 m

From coast to coast

I began by crossing the narrow island from west to east. After just one day of getting acclimated, I already had to face steep ascents on the second day.


Start in Springfield: Shortly after leaving behind this small town, situated at the foot of the Southern Alps, I had to conquer Porter’s Pass

Me in Springfield

Views between Springfield and Arthur’s Pass

Zwischen Springfield und Arthur’s Pass

Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall in Arthur’s Pass National Park

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall

Unspoiled landscape between Arthur’s Pass and the West Coast

Time seems to have stood still in Ross, a former gold-mining town

The Historic Empire Hotel, Ross

Just 230 kilometers (143 miles) separate the East from the West Coast. So I had already reached the Tasman Sea by the third day. My destination that day: the small town of Hokitika.


Arrival at Hokitika beach, which features many works of art made of driftwood, like the “driftwood sign,” which has become a symbol of the site

Hokitika, Driftwood Sign

Along the West Coast

Riding along the rough West Coast takes you past glaciers that plunge down almost to sea level.


A simple footpath takes you right up close to Franz Josef Glacier


Few people and untouched nature: between Franz Josef Glacier and Lake Moeraki

Haast Highway offers vistas of the Tasman Sea

Back inland towards Wanaka and Queenstown

The landscape changes on the way inland. Behind Haast Pass lies the arid Makarora River Valley region.


Between Makarora and Lake Wanaka

Steep ascent up Crown Range Road

Crown Range Road

Probably one of the most famous trees in the world: the lone tree of Lake Wanaka

The lone tree of Lake Wanaka

Queenstown and “The Remarkables” mountain range in the evening light


Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a 15-kilometer (9-mile) long fjord surrounded by cliffs up to 1,600 meters (5,249 feet) tall. Called the Eighth Wonder of the World, the sound is one of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions.
You can only reach Milford Sound via the spectacular 120-kilometer (75-mile) long Milford Road. I gave up the idea of trying to conquer the narrow and heavily trafficked winding road with my bike, put off above all by Homer Tunnel, a poorly lit 1,200-meter (3,937-foot) long tunnel also known as the “horror tunnel.” I decided to take a little break from cycling and booked a classic bus tour to the sound instead.


Milford Road stretches through wild mountain landscapes all the way down to the sea

Milford Road

Milford Sound is one of the rainiest areas on earth

Milford Sound

Stirling Falls, at 151 meters (495 feet), is Milford Sound’s second highest waterfall

Stirling Falls

Via Omarama and Twizel to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Arrival in Cromwell, a town whose main source of livelihood is agriculture and fruit production


On the way to Mount Cook, I had to cross Lindis Pass

Lindis Pass

Walking along the Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park

A drenched kea in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Last stop: Oamaru on the East Coast

The last leg of the tour took me to the picturesque city of Oamaru, known for its old Victorian center and penguin colonies. I took the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which is part of the government-subsidized New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) project.


Cutting across the terrain along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Tarnbrae High Point, Alps2Oceans-Trail

Lake Benmore in the Canterbury Region

Arrival at the final destination: morning atmosphere in Oamaru

Morgenlicht in Oamaru
Hafen von Otago, Oamaru

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