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. 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 journeys.
The usual 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 six 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 morning's trails, 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 when 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 museums, galleries and cafe's celebrating the Victorian architecture and steampunk culture of the town. If you haven't had enough riding, the local penguin colony is not much further down the road!