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The definitive where-to-ride guide for cycling in New Zealand

Molesworth Station Blenheim to Hanmer Springs

Classic Mountain Bike Ride

Canterbury , South Island

If you like big landscapes including mountains, river valleys and a sense of history then Molesworth Station is the perfect place for you - somewhere that you gives you that feeling of being very small on this vast planet.

Although Molesworth Station is a massive 181,000 hectares (New Zealand's largest farm) the path across it is a mere 59 kilometers itself and can be (must be) ridden in a day.  Acheron Road is only open from the 28th December to 5th April every year from 7am to 7pm - so you need to time your riding.  There is a DOC camping ground at either end but no camping is allowed elsewhere en-route.  At the northern end is the original Molesworth Cob Cottage (cob being a mixture of clay, animal dung and tussock) built in 1866 by John Murphy and a DOC Camping ground, while at the south end is Acheron Accommodation House (also made of cob) and the other DOC campsite.  Camping at both the Cob Cottage and Acheron Accommodation House is $6.00 per night per adult and $1.50 per child.  There is toilets and water at the campsites.

The gravel road across Molesworth Station is not technical but it is a long day in the saddle.  The road is infamously corrugated and the loose metal can be tyre swallowing deep in some parts.  But there is no doubt that the ride is worth it!  The scenery is spectacular and one gets this incredible feeling of smallness in such a vast open space.

After 9 kilometers there is a big climb over Wards Pass (1,145 meters above sea level) from which on descent you are immediately engulfed by the huge Isolated Flat awash with white gentian flows, tussock and blue borage (a flower that attracts bees which are cultivated for their delicate honey).

Acheron Accommodation House is finally reached at the confluence of the Acheron and Clarence Rivers.  Constructed in 1862 by Ned James it is the oldest building on the property and features a tussock thatched roof with beech rafters which are visible from the inside.

Many riders will make a complete cycle tour from Blenheim to Hanmer Spring (or vice versa - but probably best to finish in Hanmer Springs and soak away the dirt in the Hot Springs).  The total journey is 207 Kilometers via the Acheron Road and through Molesworth Station.  It is probably best to take this trip over four days camping somewhere along route near the Lee River, then at the DOC Molesworth Cob Cottage and the Acheron Accommodation House campsite, before the final short 20km day into Hanmer Springs.  It is possible to make it from Blenheim to Molesworth in one day but it would be a tough day as you carry three to four days food and enough water to reach the Cob Cottage.  That first day starts with a big climb over Taylors Pass and another large 220 meter ascent over Upcot Saddle later in the day but this is more than compensated for the splendid ride through the Awatere Valley which is vineyards for as far as the eye can see - stop for a wine tasting at your own peril.  The plus side is the cruise into Hanmer Springs either down Jollies Pass Road or Jacks Pass Road (the later being easier the former being more fun).

Follow State Highway 1 (SH1) south out of Blenheim, turning right into the Awatere Valley just north of Seddon and the Awatere Vallery Bridge.  A sign here will indicate whether the Acheron Road is open (apart from being closed between May and December it may also from time to time be closed due to weather, fire risk or farming requirements).

For those that get to Hamner and have not ahd enough then instead of turning left at Jacks or Jollies Pass into Hanmer Springs, turn right for the 112 kilometer Hanmer - Rainbow Road to St Arnaud.

 

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