Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

Queenstown cycle trails

There is lots to do in Queenstown and lots to spend your money on, especially when you factor kids in as well. Thankfully once you have invested in your bike gear mountain biking is a relatively low cost activity.

So with four days to spend ( as little money as possible ) in Queenstown we decided to mountain bike. There are lots of different options depending on your need for speed and again how much money you want to spend. There is the Skyline Gondala tracks, a mountain bike park at 7 Mile Bay and a range of trail rides between Queenstown, Arrowtown & Gibston Valley Winery.

The team at Round the Basin Bike Tours were super helpful and as we were riding with the kids and wanted it to be a fun experience for them (and us) we decided to ride out to the Kawerau Bungy Jumping bridge, about 25km from Queenstown. We booked the pickup and hoped for fine weather the next day.

The day dawned bright and sunny , we probably would have ridden in the rain but is always nice to enjoy the views in the sunshine. We drove out to Frankton and parked there to cut a few kilometers off the trail for the kids and avoid having to cross roads etc getting out of town. Where we joined the trail gave us stunning views of the Remarkables for the adults and adorable Shetland Ponies for the kids. In fact the kids had so much fun patting the Shetland ponies and I was enjoying the views so much it was hard to get started.

As luck would have it the views continued to deliver along the trails but the only other wildlife we saw were rabbits. Wow, I knew they were a problem in the South Island but it felt like they were taking over as they sat in fields not concerned at all by our passing.

Anyhow back to the trail; the track is very well made and mostly downhill with three relatively small hills to climb. There was a bit of bike pushing for the kids, well make that bike pushing for the adults but nothing too major.

Some highlights from the part of the trail that we rode include; riding over the old restored Shotover river bridge, riding through farmland alongside Kawerau River and watching the jetboats go past and the Arrow River suspension bridge (it’s a long way down to the river ).

The views along this trail are simply stunning from mountains to rivers and amazing bridges. And if there wasn’t enough adrenalin on the trail you could always book in a bungee jump from the Kawerau Bridge. We just chose to watch but still a great end to an awesome ride.

Top tips

When we did the ride the distance wasn’t marked and after about what we hoped was half way we did feel like we were rushing to meet our pickup. As my very wise Aunt later told us – its always less stressful to be dropped off and ride ( or walk ) back to your car if possible.

If wineries are your thing you could carry on riding down river to the winery for a late lunch.

Urban adventures – the eastern pathway

Who would have thought 2km of concrete would change the way my family and I exercise? Well, the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Cycle Path (Te Ara ki Uta ki Tai) has done just that, with the arrival of the first 1.7km-long stage of what will soon be a great pathway from the eastern suburbs to the city.

I have always enjoyed exercising, and BC (Before Children) my husband and I enjoyed running and mountain biking together. Once we had children I wasn’t sure how exercise was going to fit into my life…  but found I could spend many a happy hour pushing my children around the neighbourhood in the pushchair.

Fast forward a few years and the whole family was training to walk the 20km Tongariro Crossing. I found I enjoyed training with the family as much as I enjoyed walking the Crossing itself. Around the same time, we started mountain biking with the kids, and have spent many happy hours in the Rotorua Redwoods forest. Rain or shine, it’s a great place to ride.

To be honest, I’m a mountain biker through and through, and I wasn’t that interested in the cycle paths around Auckland, apart from a couple of rides along the Northwestern Cycleway while training for the Timber Trail. All of that changed when we got our own local cycle path. Well, obviously not just for us – I mean, when the eastern cycle pathway opened in our neighbourhood.

I was keen to check out the new bit of pathway as soon as it opened, so I walked it with my mother and four children on scooters, and our love of that piece of concrete began.

Before long, the kids and I were checking out the cycle path on a regular basis. They ride their bikes, and I run. I love that it’s right on our doorstep, I don’t have to worry about the kids being on the road for a large part of our run and ride together, and I love that we are all getting out in the fresh air and moving our bodies together.

The kids always find something interesting to look at along the way, and the views from the St Johns end of the track are stunning. My son and I also discovered a great new loop using the cycle path to connect to Merton Rd and ending up in the Stonefields wetlands area.

For some reason, the path has undulations in the concrete surface. They would be most annoying if you are a commuter cyclist using the path every day, and my son trying to clock 50km/hr on the downhill (good luck, kiddo!) doesn’t like them one bit. Also, when running it’s a bit unnerving when you scuff the bottom of your shoe on the ridges and nearly stumble. Glad to hear AT has advised they are re-assessing the usefulness of the undulations and hopefully they’ll get fixed.

We now eagerly await the next section of the eastern cycle pathway to connect us to the Orakei Basin boardwalk. We will be able to explore so much more territory… and who knows what new urban adventures await?

Here are our tips for enjoying a shared path in your neighbourhood:

  • An off-road path is a safe way to get your kids into cycling – although if they’re total beginners, you can start with a big grassy field. Check out these other great places to ride with kids.
  • A bell on your bike is a definite must, especially when kids on bikes are sharing a shared path with people walking and jogging and other kinds of active travel.
  • Say hello to everyone you see along the way – wouldn’t it be nice if that strip of concrete brought our community closer together?

 

Hooker Valley Track

When you are road tripping there are some parts of the journey that are just an overnight stop on the way to your destination and I think that is what I thought our overnighter at Glen Tanner was. I couldn’t have been more wrong and the walk we did was one of the highlights of our 3 weeks in the South Island.

There aren’t many places to stay at Mount Cook; a Department of Conservation campground with stunning views of Mount Cook but we were there at peak time and it was packed.

View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner
View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner

We had already booked in at the only other campground, Glen Tanner and arrived at about 4 in the afternoon and found a spot with an impressive view of Mt Cook.

Already I was impressed as I love a campsite with a view.

After a quick set up and a lot of time admiring the view we set off on the Hooker Valley Track about 5pm. One of the things I loved about the South Island was how light it is in the evenings so we could make the most of every minute of the day.

And what an amazing walk up the valley with stunning views of Mt Cook and the surrounding mountain ranges. Awesome suspension bridges spanning an impressive river. It’s a very walkable track and I expect it could be quite busy during the day but walking it at 5pm meant we didn’t end up with too many other people in our photos.

It took about one hour to get to Lake Hooker. It’s not the most picturesque lake as the dirt washing off the glacier at the other end of the Lake makes it very sludgy looking. The glacier at the other end of the Lake doesn’t look that glacial either as it’s covered in grey sludge but the views of Mount Cook are stunning and the little icebergs floating in the lake add to the atmosphere.

We popped our beers and cider into the lake to cool down and then sat for about half an hour soaking in the views.

As we returned to the carpark there were still people starting the track, making the most of doing a very popular South Island walk when it wasn’t too crowded.

More on our South Island adventures.

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park where have you been all my life! My husband’s parents retired to Paihia about 15 years ago so it’s fair to say we have spent a few holidays in Pahia but sadly not had any where to ride. Apart from that time we bought our bikes and rode the forestry tracks which just isn’t that exciting. So it was with great excitement that we heard that Waitangi was getting its very own mountain bike park.

We were heading further North for part of our Northland adventure and sadly didn’t get a chance to ride our bikes anywhere in the Far North, so when we arrived in Waitangi I would have gone straight to the bike park. Lucky my husband is the voice of reason and pointed out it was a little hot so we decided to go first thing next morning…the day after New Year’s and we stayed in a campground. Lucky we love mountain biking tired or not ( notice I don’t mention hungover – we are too old for that )

So after a stop for coffee on the way and another read of the trail maps we were in to it. The trails we rode in on started off a little bumpy and stony, and unfortunately my daughter took a tumble. Lucky she is tough like her mother and got back on her bike or it could have been a very short ride indeed. We headed up Taane’s climb which was a relatively easy climb. Was a great view from the top and then a lovely flowing ride down Kiwi Flow.

As the park is quite new there are limited rides at this stage so it was up Taane’s climb again, only this time we didn’t go all the way to the top and rode down Kaokao Chaos.
All in all a great addition to the Bay of Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed our ride and can’t wait for future development of the park.

Top tips

It’s very dusty when the clay is dry so glasses would be handy.

It’s further out of town than we realised so we are pleased we didn’t ride out like we had thought we might.

At the moment the only way to pay is for a yearly pass which at $25 we figure is a good investment into further trail development and a reason to visit the in-laws.

And a shout out to the sponsors:

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand

Twin Coast Trail, Opua to Kawakawa

We had ridden the Opua to ‘the bridge’ section of the Twin Coast Trails once before but we had heard the bridge was open for the summer so we were excited to be able ride over the bridge and make it to Kawakawa for a coffee.

It was predicted to be a 29 degree day so we set out early, OK early-ish we are on holiday after all. Opua harbour was looking stunning as we drove to the start of the ride. The carpark for the bike ride already had a few cars in which was good to see.

The tide was in and we were pretty much instantly treated to lovely views of the Kawakawa River. The ride is on gravel that has been put down over old train tracks and is relatively flat and an easy ride. When we are riding other trails with the children we stop to give them a rest every so often but the only reason we were stopping was to enjoy the stunning views.

Usually from the Opua end you can only get to the bridge before Kawakawa ( just short of a coffee stop ) but over the Summer period ( of 2017 ) the council has got the bridge to a safe standard for people and their bikes. Thanks Far North District Council!

Not only does this ride have a bridge, its got a tunnel as well. Just short enough that you can easily see all the way through.

Usually I don’t enjoy riding over bridges ( think Timber Trail suspension bridges and the Old Coach Rd viaduct ) but I really enjoyed riding over this one. Maybe it was the thrill of knowing that its only open for a short period of time.

From there it was a short ride to Kawakawa for a coffee and a refuel for the kids and as an added bonus we go to see the steam train going through town and coming back again. If you haven’t checked out the Hundertwasser Toilets they are well worth a visit as well.

The return ride was just as enjoyable and an easy 11km return ( we rode 22km in total ) without so many stops for photos.

Top tips

This is a great ride to do with kids or are enjoying holiday mode a little too much.

As we were leaving there were people about to do the rides with e-bikes.

Check if the bridge is open. We found out the bridge was open on the Bay of Island VIntage Railway website and at that stage it was open until the 8th of February 2017.