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The Great Rides and Cycle Trails of New Zealand

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

New Zealand Cycle Trail

Mackenzie Country, South Island

Planning on riding the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail? Contact us for help in planning your itinerary and booking your trip. 

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the longest and arguably the greatest of the Great Rides. It stretches 312 km through the Mackenzie Basin and down the Waitaki Valley to Oamaru and the Pacific Ocean. Beginning at the base of New Zealand's highest peak and passing a number of glacial lakes while descending 780 metres to the mighty Pacific Ocean, this is one of New Zealand's most epic cycle trails.

The starting point is from Mt Cook Village, although as this requires a helicopter ride, Tekapo provides an alternative (and cheaper) starting point. While there will be a number of entry points along the trail, the logical path is heading downhill and with the prevailing north-westerly wind to aid you along the way. A number of towns along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail offer accommodation options, delectable cuisine and other activities along the way - catering to both single and multi-day cyclists. 

The trail is typically done over four to seven days. We provide a suggested five day itinerary below.

Aoraki/Mt Cook to Twizel (77 km)

The trail begins with an easy 8 km trail down to the Mount Cook Airport. To access the remaining trail on the other side of the Tasman River, a short helicopter ride is required (~$125pp). Several operators are available for this trip. The easy off-road trail continues down until it reaches the upper shores of Lake Pukaki. Continue along the eastern shore on Braemer and Hayman Rd before joining the off-road trail across Pukaki Flats into Twizel. This tail skirts the southern shores of the lake, looking back up towards the Alps and Aoraki/Mt Cook in the background.

Twizel to Lake Ohau (38 km)

A short and easier day first takes riders up to the Ohau Weir, following back country roads. There is an alternative route along a 4wd track, which is rougher and mainly intended as a detour for when the Weir is open and in flood. From the weir, an off-road track follows the southern edge of the lake to Lake Ohau Village (31 km). It is a further 7 km up a quiet road to the comfortable Lake Ohau Lodge.

Ohau to Otematata (69 km)

The first 11 km ascend to the highest point of the trail, 900m above sea level. There are great views on this section back over the basin from where you've come. The trail continues back down the ridge to a historic woolshed and rest area at the top of Quailburn Road. It is an easier ride down from here towards Omarama. If you have the energy,there is a 14 km side trip (return) up Henburn Rd to access the iconic Clay Cliffs.

After a bite to eat in Omarama, there are 24 km still to cover, but the riding and pace gets much easier than the mornings, with a combination of sealed road and smooth shingle and only one small climb over Otematata Saddle.

Otematata to Duntroon (68 km)

This section shows off the scale of the hydro generation on the upper Waitaki, as you pass three large hydro dams. After a short, steep climb up to Benmore Dam, follow the shores of Lake Aviemore to the Dam at the far end. After crossing the dam here, the trail follows SH 83 past the Waitaki Dam down to Kurow (40 km).

The afternoon more or less follows the braided river valley down to Duntroon, on smooth off-road track. There are a couple of climbs out of the valley, and in flood, some short detours maybe required to cross side rivers.

Duntroon to Oamaru (54 km)

You finally leave the alpine feel behind as you wind down the final section, through greener pastures, at times following an old rail corridor. It gets noticeably flatter for the final 30 km as you approach the historic town of Oamaru. The town has seen somewhat of a revival of late, with its museams, galleries and cafe's celebrating the Victorian architecture of the town. If you haven't had enough riding, the local penguin colony is not much further!

Route Distance Trail Grade Approximate Time Notes
Mount Cook - Braemar Station 37km 2 3-4 hours The Alps to Ocean Cycle trail begins in the picture-perfect Mount Cook Village - surrounded by the Southern Alps and... ...more
Braemar Station - Twizel 45km 2 3 - 4 hours The second section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail begins with 1-2 hours of riding along a quiet gravel road. ...more
Twizel to Ohau 39km 2 3-4 hours The Twizel to Ohau section of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail is the only section that has an elevation gain. ...more
Ohau to Omarama 42km 2 3-4 hours This Alpine section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail goes from the Lake Ohau lodge to Omarama on dedicated... ...more
Omarama to Otematata 24km 2 2-3 hours This is arguably your biggest day on the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. ...more
Otematata to Kurow 43km 2 3 - 4 hours On this section of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, you'll take in the largest dam within the Waitaki Hydro... ...more
Kurow to Duntroon 27km 2 3 - 4 hours On this second to final day of the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, you'll leave the mountains behind and come... ...more
Duntroon to Oamaru 53km 2 4 - 5 hours On this final section of the A2O trail, you'll pass through limestone formations where you'll find Maori rock drawings and... ...more

Photos

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  • Alps to ocean
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  • Alps 2 Ocean 2
  • Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail