New Zealand Heritage Road Trip – Stay at Classic Hotels

VentureOut - classic road trip North and South

Time required: We recommend that you have at least 10 nights for this itinerary. To make it more enjoyable you should have 20 nights/3 weeks. Depending on your arrival time, we recommend you staying at least one night to acclimatize and get over your jetlag before driving (and on the road, always stay on the LEFT!)

Distance: The route along the North Island is about 900-1000 km (approximate 600 miles). For the South Island the mimium is 800 km (approximate 500 miles).

Start/End: Your journey can either start from Auckland or from Christchurch. Often it is cheaper to book your rental vehicle in Christchurch and drop it off in Auckland. Please use the following links to compare prices. This will take you to our partner website Rental Cars connect.

Map legend

  • Blue markers: destinations (with links for general accommodation)
  • Purple bed markers: classic accommodation (link takes you directly to the hotel page)
  • Green star markers: additional destinations (with general accommodation links) - visit some places off the beaten track if you have extra time

Itinerary recommendations for main destinations

Auckland: You could check out the Viaduct Harbour, enjoy views from Skytower and visit some exiting museums.

Rotorua: the cultural centre of New Zealand, you can experience a variety of attractions: Volcanic landscapes at Waimangu, Redwoods Treewalk, Canopy Zipline, Maori Villages, Gondola with a luge and a dinner with panoramic views.

Taupo: You can experience a variety of exciting activities: Sky diving, Jet boating, volcanic landscapes at Orakei Korako, trout fishing and hot pools. Visit Huka Falls, it’s easily accessible and the most photographed waterfall in the country.

Wellington: The capital of New Zealand, offers a lot of places with views and museums and galleries to visit, have a look at the Parliament House and check out Te Papa Museum. It is also the gateway to the South Island. Take the ferry to Picton (about 4 hrs).

Nelson: Great art scene and wineries. Located near the Abel Tasman National Park. Here you can walk, cruise and kajak. If you have more time drive over the Takaka Hill to Golden Bay where beautiful, remote beaches with golden sand await you.

Christchurch: One of the most interesting cities, with traditional English heritage. Visit the Botanical Garden, Canterbury Museum and the Arts Centre.

eBike along the Old Coach Road

Last weekend we explored a new cycle way with e-bikes. Here some photos and information for you to follow the trails’ rich pioneer history and diverse landscapes.

Ride the Old Coach Road at the Taonui Viaduct
Ride the Old Coach Road at the Taonui Viaduct

General information on the Old Coach Road

Location: North Island, Central Plateau, Tongariro National Park

Start/End: Ohakune township (or from carpark on Marshall’s Road) to Horopito or vice versa

Length/Time: The distance is about 15km each way. Riding time on s standard mountain bike: 3 – 4 hours return, half the time on an e-bike; as a walk it takes about 4-5 hours per way.

Grade: 2 Easy – half-day experience, suits all levels of cyclists

Highlights: Mount Ruapehu, Haeremaere Stream, Taonui Railway Viaduct, Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct, Hapuawhenua Tunnel, Waimarino Plains.

Experience a Historic Cycle Trail

We would classify this ride as an easy to ride Historic Cycle Trail. Most parts follow a historic cobblestone road. Along the way you will find pioneer stories on information panels, that illustrate the history of the coach road and the railway construction. The original road linked two rail heads of the unfinished North Island main truck line over a distance of 39km. In 1906 coaches ran the four hours journey to connect the trains. In November 1908 the main trunk line was completed and by February 1909 Wellington was finally directly connected with Auckland.

Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail

The Old Coach Road is the first section of the multi-day Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, which opened in July 2010. This easy bike ride rises about 135 meters steadily over a total distance of 9 kilometres between Ohakune and Horopito. It includes moderate hill climbs, ride more uphill when starting from Ohakune and mostly downhill from Horopito. A shuttle operates between Ohanuke and Horopito if you like to ride the trail only one way.

Railway Viaducts and other highlights

The easiest option is to start the trail at Horopito. In this tiny settlement don’t miss the famous car wreckers ‘Smash Palace’, also known from a 1980s cult movie with the same name. Follow the path along pastoral land and enjoy the volcanic landscape scenery. The majestic Mount Ruapehu stands high in the sky and dominates in the background.

In the first section of the trail, you follow along the Haeremaere Stream. Here you find the remains of a former railway bridge, before you come to the railway line. Cross carefully and watch out for trains. The Northern Explorer passes thru around 1.30 pm (southbound train) on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and around 1 pm (northbound train) on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Train passengers making their Scenic Journey between the capital and the biggest city throughout the heartland of New Zealand.

Further down the track follow the sign to the resting area at Taonui Railway Viaduct. A spectacular view across the stunning red-coloured Taonui Viaduct and down into the lush green valley, gives you a glimpse of what to expect when riding on. The trail offers a variety in landscapes. Along the way you find plentiful Ponga ferns and also pass many large rimus in the virgin native forests. Soon you will cross the Taonui Stream over a bridge before you climb a short uphill section.

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The Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct and Tunnel

The highlight of this track is the, 284 meters long and 45 meters high, the curved engineered Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct. It got fully restored in 2009 and offers visitors great views of the surroundings which include its modern replacement. After climbing another moderate hill, you can detour into the Hapuawhenua Tunnel that ends suddenly, to make way for the new railway line. On your way towards the carpark, on Marshall’s Road, you can enjoy expansive views over the pastoral landscape of the Waimarino Plains.

Watch a video of this cycle trail

Interested in an organised ebike tour?

Find out more about a self-drive tour and riding ebikes on dedicated cycle ways in New Zealand…

eBike NZ

Ride the Rimutaka Cycle Trail with an electric bike

At the end of last month we visited the Wairarapa to conquer the Incline on the Rimutaka Cycle Trail. This ride was high on our bucket list of rides. The trail passes through 5 tunnels and a rugged landscape along a historic path. We love these sort of rides that take us back in time. You can learn a lot about the circumstances people lived about 100 years ago.

Before we started our ride on the Rimutaka Cycle Trail

Stuart and Bernard at the start of the trail
Stuart and Bernard at the start of the trail

We met Stuart from Green Jersey Cycle Tours in Featherston at 10 am for a coffee at Everest Café. After a good chat about the trail and his operation, Stuart shuttled us over the Rimutaka Hill and dropped us near Maymourn Station. We were thankful for the transfer and supplies that consist of reliable ebikes, a tracking device (so we can’t disappear without a trace), bottles of water, maps and repair kits (that we hopefully don’t need to use). It’s advised to start riding the cycle trail from west to east, especially if you don’t have the luxury of an ebike. During the ride we found out why: It’s much harder to ride uphill from the other end.

Rimutaka Cycle Trail - Railway Tunnel
Rimutaka Railway Tunnel

Rimutaka Incline section on the Rimutaka Cycle Trail

During the 26 km from Maymourn Station to Cross Creek you will pass through 5 historic railway tunnels. We recommend to bring a headlamp as it gets quite dark in the longer tunnels. Most of the trail would suit a fit novice to intermediate rider. The track is mostly wide enough for 2 riders travelling next to each other. Calculate at least 3-4 hours. Please be aware there is no cell phone coverage. Bring warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change quickly. Picnic tables and toilets can be found at Summit which is a good place for a break before you descend.

First you will pass through the 576m Summit tunnel and ride along the steep part of the trail – the historic Fell Locomotive Incline. Enjoy the views and read some of the informative poles that illustrate the history of the trail. When you arrive at Cross Creek its only a short, but narrow ride along some farmland to the car park. From here you follow the road for an additional 9km to Featherston. Ride carefully, watch for traffic and take extra caution when crossing the road.

Explore more of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail history

The Fell Locomotive Museum gives you insight on the people and their lives during those times. We highly recommend to visit the museum as part of the experience. You will find an array of memorabilia and artefacts to illustrate the remarkable history. The heart of the exhibition is the historic Fell Locomotive H199, that operated on New Zealand’s steepest railway line from 1878 till 1955. She was restored during 8 years that took volunteers 9,000 hours. The Fell Locomotive Museum is located in Featherston on the corner of Highway 2 and Lyon Street. It is open 7 days a week and has shorter opening hours outside the summer season. The entry fee is only $6 per adult and $13 for a family of 2 adults with up to 3 children (prices for October 2017).

Watch the official video of the Rimutaka Cycle Trail

Interested in an organised ebike tour?

Find out more about a self-drive tour while riding ebikes on five dedicated cycle ways in New Zealand…


eBike NZ