Southern Lakes

Cromwell to Wanaka (52k)

This is a pleasant, rolling ride through some great Otago country. Valleys, fields and fringes of snow capped mountain ranges. You have a choice of highways either travelling along the slightly less busy Highway 6 or Highway 8 which follows the west bank of the Clutha River. The route is slightly uphill but not so as you would notice it. Wanaka is a large, newish tourist town with a good deal of new money in a landscape that is almost unbelievable in its postcard purity.

Blue/green lake surrounded by mountains. A photographer's paradise and one that you can happily explore by bicycle. Wanaka has all the essentials; bike shop, supermarket, backpackers, camp grounds and a DOC camp (see Useful Hints for a list of DOC campsites and addresses). The DOC camp is slightly out of town but provides the cheapest accommodation for camping.

Wanaka has a laid back feel to it that consciously or unconsciously has more than a little of the Boulder Colorado feel about it. It is wealthy and picturesque. The local movie theatre is run by an eccentric Scotsman and features armchairs and novelty seating. A bit cute at times but otherwise enjoyable.

What you cannot ignore about Wanaka is the sheer loveliness of the place. Try some of the local bike trails around the lake and take plenty of film. Swim in the tributaries and relax. From here you can travel to Queenstown via the Cardrona Range, or head North up the West Coast Highway 6, reputedly the favourite road for cycle tourists in this country.

Cromwell to Queenstown (60k)

This is an undulating ride that generally climbs through the Kawarau Valley but is nonetheless scenically lovely to travel along. You pass a small power station called 'Roaring Meg' and another of Otago's characteristic suspension bridges that used to provide the main route to Queenstown. Nowadays, the Kawarau suspension bridge is mostly employed by bungy jumpers which are always worth watching even if you do not wish to participate.

Like Wanaka, Queenstown is set upon the shores of a blue and beautiful lake and surrounded by the Southern Alps. It's a lovely spot which has more than a little of a European alpine town feel about it. While I was there I listened to a street classical guitarist, apparently Spanish, memorably murder 'Memories of the Alhambra' for me.

Arrowtown (21 km east on the Cardrona road) is smaller, quieter but no less lovely and has a pleasant characteristic gold town feel about it. It's a good alternative to the more vibrant Queenstown, but has no less attraction particularly for the cyclist. Try cycling the old gold road out to Macetown; a derelict ghost town remnant of the old gold mining days.

This is approximately fifteen kilometres out of Arrowtown and includes 22 fords across the Arrow River. A great trip but check locally for the state of the river before setting out. Macetown itself is a lovely, sad place, very much full of atmosphere.

Wanaka to Queenstown via the Crown Range (77k)

Cadrona Hotel The Crown Range is another steep climb and memorable day. The road climbs steadily to 1100 metres (reputedly New Zealand's highest road) before zig-zagging down into Queenstown. The historic Cardrona pub is on the Wanaka end and not a place to visit before you hit the hill. However, it's a grand spot and another remnant of the gold towns. A cemetery and a few stone outbuildings are sadly all that remain. The views from the top of the Crown saddle are well worth the effort. A small warning. There are no banks between Wanaka and Hokitika.