A2O Cycle Trail
From Aoraki, Mt Cook to Oamaru by the Pacific Ocean - Alpine to Coast in just 315km - you will be following changing environments, with diverse scenery and history that follows the water falling in the Southern Alps down to the mighty Waitaki river and beyond. You will journey past snow-capped peaks, glaciers, azure glacial lakes, stunning braided rivers, varied and dramatic vistas, boutique vineyards and luxurious hot tubs. This incredible trail will provide something of interest for everyone, jump on to one of our tours for the easiest way to experience this journey of a lifetime. This page is dedicated to providing you with some detailed information of the trail and our wonderful region.
The Cycle Trail
The logistics of riding the trail will depend on the daily distances you are comfortable riding each day and the services offered between sections. The whole 320km has been broken down into 9 sections. These sections travel between towns/settlements where you can find accommodation and food.
Each section of the trail has different highlights and therefore can be cycled in its own right. The first 4 sections are in the ‘Alpine’ region of the Mackenzie basin and the rest meander down the Waitaki Valley, finishing in Oamaru. The first 4 sections have more open mountain views compared with generally the ‘closer to nature’ feel of the Waitaki sections.
Below we have broken down each section and provided some information for you to consider before embarking on this journey.
Extra information on the cycle trail
The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail starts at the White Horse Hill Campground, just north of Mt Cook Village. At the campsite next to the toilets and shelter the off-road trail departs from the start sign towards the airport (8km). A short helicopter flight across the Tasman River takes you to Tasman Point to continue along the trail. The trail here feels remote and can be soft in small areas as its built on the glacial breaded river scree. There are several river crossings along this section; be careful crossing swollen streams in times of heavy rain. From Tasman Point it’s 10.6km to the Jollie Car Park at the top of Hayman Rd. Remember to stop and look back at Aoraki/ Mt Cook at 3,754 metres high. On reaching the car park its 16.8 km to reach the end of the section at Braemar road junction. There are no services at this section junction but accommodation is available before at Braemar Station.
From Braemar road junction you will continue along the gravel road for 18km to reach Tekapo B power station and the start of the sealed road. There are toilets and plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views across Lake Pukaki. Travel for 5km along the road to reach the dedicated trail on the right near the highway. The trail skips along the side of the lake winding up and down through the trees and rose hips. At 29km you will head over Pukaki dam and towards the Pukaki visitors centre (31km). From here you head across the highway and over the Pukaki Flats, a dry grassland that sometimes is referred to as the dessert! Follow the signs to cross the highway again into Twizel.
From Twizel follow Mackenzie Drive and then turn right onto Nuns Veil Road. This immediately turns into a t-junction, go left onto Glen Lyon Road. After 6km you will ride past Loch Cameron and then over a canal bridge. Follow this until it crosses the canal bridge just past Loch Cameron. Continue along the sealed quite road to the edge of Lake Ohau (at 18 km). Follow the sign along the off-road trail over the Ohau weir (2km) and then continue along the Lake Ohau foreshore until you meet the Ohau road 29km from Twizel. Beware of the Matagouri bushes that line the trail and avoid riding off the trail as this could lead to multiple punctures!
Follow the sealed road for the final 10km to Lake Ohau Lodge passing Lake Ohau Village after 3 km.
Departing along the driveway of the Lodge you cycle up the slopes of Ruataniwha towards the Tanbrae high point some 400m above. The first 6 km takes you to Freehold creek on an easy gentle slope. After here the track becomes a little narrower and more bumpy to the top at 11km. Beware there are a couple of false summits that might play with your motivation! It’s not as bad as legend has it; worst case, you can push your bike to the top.
You know the saying….’What goes up must come down’. The next 7 km head down to Quailburn road, its fast so please take care! There are a couple of creeks to cross that might help you cool off if the weather is hot. This grassy hillside has a feel of being on safari and it would not be unfitting to imagine a giraffe in the scene!
At the Quailburn Road junction, you can head up 2km to the historic woolshed for a look around. Its a lovely place for lunch next to the creek. You will also find a toilet there too. Heading down Quailburn road you will pass Henburn Road, a potential side trip to the Clay Cliffs. It is a 14km return trip and the gravel road can get busy with tourist vehicles so please be aware.
Continuing along Quailburn Road you will meet the highway. Here take the off-road trail which leads through the Ahuriri Camp Ground and on to Omarama. Please take care using the highway bridge over the Ahuriri river due to fast-moving traffic. Omarama marks the halfway point of the trail.
Departing from Omarama you head down the Waitaki Valley on the off-road trail to the top of the Chain Hills, 5 km away. From here you get a magnificent view of Lake Benmore and your descent beside State Highway 83. The trail takes you passed Pumpkin Point (10 km) and on to Sailors cutting, the popular boat access to Benmore. There are toilets and a campsite situated here.
From here you take the highway up to the Otematata saddle with views of Lake Aviemore and the valley beyond, then downhill all the way to Otematata. This is due to change and scheduled to change for the 2017/18 season. We will change the description here once the information is available and the new trail open.
From Otematata, there is a sealed pathway and gravel tracks that take you along beside the lake that follows Loch Laird Road. You join the sealed road and head steeply (but short) up to the Benmore Hydro Dam (6km). You may find that you have to push the final few hundred meters to the top!
From the other side of the dam you whizz back down the road and along Te Akatarawa Road. There are plenty of places to stop for a swim or picnic if you fancy it along the side of Lake Aviemore. You will cycle to the Aviemore Dam after 28km of riding. Once across the dam you follow the trail along State Highway 83. Please be aware of the traffic and stay single file along this road. At 36km you will pass Waitaki Dam and the works village still there on the other side of the road. Its another 7km to Kurow.
Before you depart from Kurow you will see the trail signs take you off left and to the edge of the Waitaki River. Follow the trail for a bout 3 km until you pop back out by the highway and follow it by to the winery at 5km. This could be your first stop for the day having a coffee or even a glass of wine!
Head through the winery and back to the edge of the river along Haul Road (an old paper road). The section of the road can be shared by recreational 4 x 4 so please be aware of this. You will go across the Otiahe river at 11km and the Otekaieke river at 15km.
The trail pops back to follow the highway to the Takiroa Maori rock art site at 23km. You cross the road from the trail to gain access. Continuing along the trail the you head back towards the river and to Harris street that takes you through the Duntroon Wetlands before in the centre of Duntroon.
Section 8 – Duntroon to Oamaru. 55km. View map >
From Duntroon you head on the rural road to Elephant Rocks at 6km. From here an off-road trail takes you through the Hore property and through the set of Aslans camp in the movie Narnia. After this the short Zig-Zag challenge takes you out of the gully and on wards to rejoin the road at Prydes Gulley. You then drop down into the limestone valley escarpments of Island Cliff. Follow the valley towards Ngapara until you head left up a side valley on to a trail next to Karara Creek.
After the bigger Zig-Zag Challenge you pop out onto Cants road. Turn left and head up to Peaks Road where you get the first view of the sea and North Otago. Follow along this road and turn right onto Tunnel Road and right again at the bottom of the hill (toilet, water and picnic spot) to find the old railway line (at 27km). IN 6km the next point of reference is the settlement of Windsor. Follow the road shortly to pick up the cycle trail that takes you to Enfield (42km) and on to Weston (48km) over the new bridge.
Once you arrive at Saleyards Road head down the hill into Oamaru. The trail goes right through the Gardens across the State highway 1 then through town. Once you get on to the main ‘shopping’ street you turn right down to the end of this, turn left by the Information Centre, right at the next junction by the Steam Punk HQ and then left at the Criterion Hotel down Harbour Street. At the end of this street (Our shop is the building on your right) turn left and find the end of the trail 200m by the harbour at Friendly Bay and the Pacific Ocean!
The alternative route begins in the Tekapo township near the pollice station. There is an off-road track just up the road. Follow this track until you reach Aorangi Crescent [0.2km]. Following the red arrows, turn left and continue along Aorangi Crescent until it turns into Andrew Don Drive [0.5km]. Eventually Andrew Don Drive becomes a gravel road [0.8km]. Follow this until you reach the first cycle barrier [2.4km]. Continue along the Tekapo Canal Road.
When you reach SH8 you’re half way to Lake Pukaki [15.4km]. Take care crossing the highway, then continue beside the canal, passing the toilet and salmon farm [26km]. From here it’s 5km to Lake Pukaki, dropping downhill beside Tekapo B Power Station.
There is a huge variety of accommodation on the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail. High-end establishments with en-suite to cheaper bunk room style lodgings. For the more adventurous it is possible to camp the entire trail, but toilet services are only located in certain places so make camping locations limited.
One of the main issues with accommodation at the moment is that it is limited especially in the high season. Early booking is highly recommended especially if you are a group of 4 or more. Our tours advertised on our tour pages (click here) have pre-booked accommodation to guarantee availability.
Tips and equipment for you to consider.
Our region can provide a diversity of weather conditions; we have put together this information to help you decide what you should bring. The list is not definitive and your experience, needs, and preferences vary so please consider these before packing.
A few points to consider on the trail:
You will be riding in a mountain environment for most of the trail. The conditions can change quickly and be more severe than lowland or coastal areas. You will have heard of the expression ‘4 seasons in one day?’. This applies to our region, though rarely in the summer. We recommend you check the weather before you leave for the day and take precautions like spare clothes and waterproof clothing if necessary.
It is best to wear your clothes in a layering style system. This allows you to add or take off thinner layers depending on the temperature/conditions. The base layer is important and should never be cotton. We recommend a base layer that wicks moisture and perspiration away from your skin to keep you warm and dry. Mid layers will insulate you and keep you warm. The outer layer could be for blocking of wind and repelling water. Please make sure your waterproof is actually waterproof!
The environment is low in humidity so we would recommend that you have a water bottle/bladder and you carry some form of lip balm. Familiarise yourself with locations you can fill up with water on the trail.
The sun in New Zealand, and even more in the mountains, is harsh and you need to make sure you protect yourself from it. Sun screen is a must but also consider wearing long sleeves and leggings to protect you as well.
The area is also home to sand flies and although they are not too bad when riding, they do leave an itchy irritating bite, so it’s advisable to be prepared with a repellent and also an anti-itch cream should you suffer from bites.
This is a cycling equipment list that we advise our tour clients to bring with them. If you are going solo and carrying everything on your bike then you will have the experience to figure out what you need.
- Shoes suitable for bike riding. They may get wet and muddy.
- 2 pairs of padded cycling shorts. If you are riding often you will know what suits you. Please use the shorts before you come to make sure they are comfortable.
- Gloves for riding. These should be a cycling style that has some padding on. Short and/or long fingered will cover for comfort and warmth.
- A high visibility vest/jacket.
- Waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers
- A thin hat that could be worn under a helmet
- Cycle helmet.
- Sunglasses for protection from the sun, dust and wind.
- Personal medication.
- A day bag if you are used to riding with one.
If you have any questions drop us an email and we can advise you.