Mountain Biking in New Zealand
If you are ‘wheelie’ serious about mountain biking in New Zealand, then a great place to start are the regions below. With the mountains and volcanoes dominate across the country, there is no lack of exciting terrain. In true Kiwi style, the terrain has been used to create adventurous mountain biking tracks. Take your pick from purpose-built mountain biking parks, backcountry bike trails, or steady rides through breathtaking scenery.
Although mountain biking isn’t restricted to the regions below (really, you can find somewhere to take your bike anywhere in New Zealand), these regions have some of the more popular mountain biking spots in the country. They are listed from north to south for your easy-scrolling pleasure.
Things You Need to Know About Mountain Biking in New Zealand
- It is illegal to not wear a helmet when cycling in New Zealand
- It is mandatory to have a red or yellow reflector on the back of a bike and yellow pedal reflectors
- The difficulty of a trail is marked in grades, grade 1 being the easiest and grade 6 being the most difficult
- Local trail maps can be picked up at local bike shops
- Find out road cycling laws in City Cycling Rules in New Zealand.
This might be surprising to some, but Auckland has quite a few exceptional options for mountain biking. Take the Hauraki Gulf island of Waiheke Island, for instance. One of the most popular ways to get around this hilly beach-covered island is by bike. Just take the ferry from the downtown ferry terminal right the heart of Auckland City to Waiheke Island. At the Waiheke ferry terminal, you’ll find bike hire nearby so begin your biking adventure straight away. Additionally, Waiheke has some dedicated mountain biking tracks at Rangihoua Hill.
Back on the mainland, one of the most popular mountain bike parks in Auckland is Woodhill Forest. This is 50km (31 miles) of forest trails complete with jumps and other structures. There’s something for beginners to seriously adventurous advanced mountain bikers.
Auckland has lots more to offer for cyclists and mountain bikers, so be sure to check out Mountain Biking in Auckland.
Find out more in our Mountain Biking in Auckland.
Bay of Plenty
There’s ‘plenty’ of interesting terrain from coast to mountains.
The coastal city of Whakatane is surrounded by forested mountain bike parks! Seriously, a true mountain bike enthusiast will have a blast in Whakatane, so be sure to book a few nights there. Onepu Recreational Park offers relaxing trails while Whirinaki MTB Track takes about 2-4 hours to navigate. For a real challenge, take on the Moerangi Track, which can be done within 7 hours, but you can break it up by staying in a backcountry hut.
Read more about the Whakatane adventure in Mountain Biking in Whakatane.
Travel inland to the geothermal city of Rotorua to find an extensive mountain bike network in the Redwood Forest. You can either hire a bike from Rotorua city centre and bike to the forest or hire bikes at the forest entrance. The purpose-built tracks will give you hours of fun, while you can stop off at bubbling mud pools and get some epic hilltop views.
Find out more in the 10 Must-Do Bike Trails in Rotorua.
The Motu Trails on the border of the Bay of Plenty and Eastland are mountain biking journeys rather than downhill mountain biking. If you want to see some stunning landscapes for forest, sand dunes and farmland, then the Motu Trails are for you.
Opotiki is the town which most people base themselves for doing the trails. You can combine all three trails to have a real adventure. The Dunes Trail is an easy ride over tussock-covered dunes with coastal views. The Motu Road Trail is a disused highway with some fun downhill descents on this intermediate trail. Finally, the Pakihi Track is the most advanced of the selection, mainly because of the drops to the side of some of the track. There are a few bridges to cross along the way, as well as huts to stay in if needed.
Want more from the Motu Trails, take a look at The 3 Eastland Motu Trails.
Our final North Island region worth mentioning is Waikato, or more specifically, Taupo in the very south of Waikato and bordering the Bay of Plenty and Manawatu-Whanganui regions.
From the Taupo city centre, you can hire a bike and ride to Spa Park, have a dip in the natural hot spring, then be on your way to Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Dam Track. Ride on the side of the mighty Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, and through sections of forest in time for the opening of Aratiatia Dam. Watch the rapids below as the dam is opened, then return to Taupo. Alternatively, the Great Lake Trail is another popular option which can be organised with Taupo Kayaking Adventure – more details on Viator and Tripadvisor.
For mountain bike park action, get yourself to Craters of the Moon. This MTB park has something for everyone of all grades and distances.
Read more about the Taupo biking opportunities by checking out 10 Awesome Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo.
Moving onto the South Island now, the Nelson/Tasman region encompasses mountains and two national parks packed with fun terrain.
There are three MTB park-styled areas easily cycled to from Nelson city centre: Sharlands Trails, Richmond Hills and Codgers MTB Park. For a mountain biking trip, there’s the Dun Mountain Trail with long downhill sections, as well as tough climbs. From May to September, you can bike the New Zealand Great Walk, the Heaphy Track.
In the Abel Tasman National Park, there’s the Rameka Track for forest and downhill trails. For something more on the easy side, there is the purpose-built Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, which is a 175km (108 miles) trail on the coast and some inland fruit orchards. Transport and rentals for the Great Taste Trail can be organised with Trail Journeys in Nelson.
Get more information in our guide to Mountain Biking in Nelson Tasman.
The mountain biking opportunities in Otago is huge HUGE!
In Queenstown, take the gondola and enjoy hours of downhill mountain biking without having to hike your way back up. Or bike out to the cycle trail along the Shotover River, passing vineyards and wineries along the way. Organise your transport and bike rental with Vertigo Bikes on Viator or Tripadvisor.
On the other hand, in the coastal city of Dunedin has the famous Signal Hill for mountain biking tracks. From the city, you can also bike high into the surrounding mountains amongst native forest on the Swampy Summit Track. Go further afield by biking on the Otago Peninsula. This is a wildlife hotspot, which also happens to have a good selection of sharable hiking and biking tracks.
Otago is also known for two long gold trail bike rides: to Otago Central Rail Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail. Bike in stunning mountainous and deep river gorge scenery while in the footsteps of past goldmine workers. This trails really encapsulate the Otago scenery, while taking you far.
Find out more in 12 Super Scenic Cycle Trails in Otago.
Get well and truly off the beaten track by biking in the Deep South and Fiordland National Park.
Where Otago meets Southland, take the Around the Mountain cycle trail at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. You’ll see high country sheep stations and get a taste for the quaint Southland towns.
MTB park tracks can be found in Invercargill and Bluff, at the very southern part of the South Island. Ride down Bluff hill with views over the ocean to Stewart Island or weave between the trees at Sandy Point in Invercargill.
For a wilderness adventure, venture into the Fiordland National Park on the Borland Road. You’ll be climbing mountain passes and emerging at stunning lakes in the middle of nowhere in this intermediate to advanced ride.
Want more information? Be sure to check out Mountain Biking in Southland.
Best of the Rest
So we couldn’t fit every single mountain biking region in this guide or else we would be here forever. Nevertheless, more awesome places to mountain bike in New Zealand are right here:
Finally, if your whole trip is surrounding the sport, be sure to check out Sports Break Advice: How to Prepare to Travel for Sport.