Cycle trails in Nelson
Nelson is a cycling city. Cycling is big in Nelson. In fact, Nelson has been voted one of the top mountain biking destinations by visiting international experts. There are mountain bike parks here with shuttle services and trails from easy to extreme. However, there are also many relaxing cycling options for those who like to explore the region without endless hills and tight turns. If you are not into hard-core cycling, there are plenty of easy riding options.
Tasman’s Great Taste Trail
The Great Taste Trail is one of the 23 Great Rides in New Zealand. It’s a 200km circuit, suitable for standard touring bikes and E-bikes and not a mountain biking trail. Mainly off-road, on well-formed trail, you’ll enjoy the easy riding. Please note that some sections are on quiet country roads, however there is usually very little traffic.
The Great Taste Trail starts at the Nelson iSITE Information Centre in Nelson city and is marked with distinctive blue trail markers. A mostly off-road trail, the surface is either firm gravel or sealed (concrete or asphalt). It is wide enough for two people to cycle side by side for most of the way. Flat sections of trail are suitable for beginners. The whole trail is suitable for cyclists and families with cycling experience. A multi-geared touring bike is recommended for longer rides. E-bikes are also very popular.
The Great Taste Trail consists of three sections:
- The Coastal route – from Richmond to Kaiteriteri
- The Motueka Valley route – from Riwaka inland to Tapawera
- The Rail Route – from Tapawera to Nelson via the Spooner’s Tunnel, a disused railway tunnel spanning almost 1.4km
The Gentle Cycling Company is located close to the trail in Stoke, 8km from Nelson city and 3km from the trail junction. The point where the Rail Route splits from the Coastal Route.
Popular multi-day tours
Plains & Coast
Plains and Coast Tour – after a briefing and bike fitting, we shuttle you up into the hills above Nelson. You then cycle downhill along the Rail Route section, through the Spooner’s Tunnel, farms, forest, passing rambling rivers and quaint historic towns. Days 2 and 3 involve cycling along the stunning coastal section with beaches, arty places, wineries, fruit stalls and cafes for tasty treats. Mapua and Kaiteriteri are wonderful coastal places to spend the night and access gorgeous places to replenish your energy.
Coastal Classic Tour – as above, but without the Rail Route section of the trail. Great for beach lovers and people who only have 3 days to explore many of the finest places on the Great Taste Trail.
Loop the Loop
Loop the Loop – committed cyclists who are going around the country, chalking off each and every great ride often select this tour. You’ll get to complete the whole 200km circuit in 4 to 7 days. Depending upon the mileage your legs can handle and how much time you want to have to explore the region. This tour travels anti-clockwise, heading up the coast from Nelson, inland to Woodstock before coming back to Nelson via the Spooner’s tunnel.
Great Taste Trio
Great Taste Trio – modelled on a triathlon, this tour involves you cycling the coastal route from Nelson to Kaiteriteri over 3 days. Before heading off into the Abel Tasman National Park with our friends Wilson’s Abel Tasman. They will support you on a walking and kayaking adventure through New Zealand’s most iconic National Park. Total tour length is 6 or 7 days.
The Coppermine Trail is a 43 km loop. It officially starts at the Nelson iSITE although most locals begin a few kilometers away at the popular Codgers Mountain Bike Park (38km). After leaving Codgers, the trail follows the route of New Zealand’s first railway before emerging into the alpine mineral belt near the summit of Dun Mountain (878m). With a summit elevation of 1,129 meters, be prepared for quite an uphill grunt. Your efforts will be well rewarded as Dun Mountain offers magnificent views of the Bryant Range, Pelorus Valley and Tasman Bay. From the summit, the trail descends into the lush Maitai Valley, and takes a riverside trail back down the valley to the city. This is a Grade 3 intermediate to Grade 4 advanced trail. Riders should be competent mountain bikers, with good fitness levels, and ride a mountain bike with full suspension.
For your safety, riders should take the following: mobile phone (reception is patchy) food, drink, wet weather gear, puncture kit, pump and basic first aid kit. There is also a Great Rides App available on Google Play and the App Store.
Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park
Kaiteriteri is located one hour by car from Nelson city. This small coastal village is one of the most scenic areas in the Nelson/Tasman region, offering gorgeous golden beaches, walking tracks and swimming in crystal clear waters. We love it and It’s also the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, with kayaking, water taxis and charters available to access the park, for day trips or longer for walking the trail.
The Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park, is located just minutes from the main beach, and offers a range of trails. From Easy, to Intermediate then Advanced and finally Expert. From its conception in 2009 the park has been managed and developed on behalf of the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve by Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park Incorporated.
Old Ghost Trail
In the Northwest corner of the South Island of NZ, a long-forgotten gold miners’ road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail. Connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north. The spirits of the old miners and track builders are inescapable, and four ghost towns populate the route. The 85 km-long single-track Old Ghost Trail traverses’ majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys. For most fit and competent riders, The Old Ghost Trail is grade 4 advanced and will typically be ridden over 2-4 days.
Note: This trail is not suitable for riders of all ages and abilities. Riders should expect a mixture of long steep climbs, narrow trail, poor traction and difficult obstacles to avoid or ride over. The outer edge of the trail may be exposed with steep sides or drop-offs in places. Most riders will find some sections easier to walk. If you are in doubt, we recommend using the following guide, as recommended by NZ Cycle Trails:
NZ Cycle Trail Guide
- Can you ride along a narrow winding trail that is only 400-600mm wide in places?
- Are you competent and confident riding along a trail with steep, exposed edges and drops on one side?
- Can you ride over rocks, drops and obstacles the size of soccer balls?
- Are you fit enough to ride long steep hills for an hour at a time?
- Can you ride for extended periods (up to 8 hours) each day?
There are twenty-one bridges along The Old Ghost Road that provide safe passage over the main waterways. Be aware that some remaining unbridged waterways and trail sections have potential to flood under heavy and/or sustained rainfall. It is recommend starting at Lyell and riding in a south to north direction owing to the technical nature and gradient of 4km of trail north of Ghost Lake (this section is easier to descend than ascend).
Silvan Forest Trails
Silvan Forest is located in the Stoke/Richmond area, close to Nelson city. This mountain bike park is located in a privately owned forest, made accessible for recreational use by its generous owners, Rick and Sarah Griffin. The comprehensive trail network provides a great country riding area, with trails suitable for beginners through to advanced riders. This park is very popular with local mountain bikers, and I enjoy challenging myself here from time to time.
Cable Bay Adventure Park
The Cable Bay Adventure Park has a range of biking options to suit riders who like more technical trails in beautiful native bush.
Access to the trails is made easy by the hourly shuttles which deliver you to the top of the 4WD track and provides stunning views over Delaware Bay. There has been a lot of native tree planting and trap lines established around the park. Together, this has helped to increase the number of native birds seen and heard as you explore the rugged terrain.
Here to help!
If you are planning to visit Nelson and wish to explore on two wheels, then do get in touch. We specialize in both single day and multi day tours, largely based on and around the Great taste trail. We also have some E-mountain bikes that are suitable for more challenging trails.
Popular Single Day Tours:
Spooner’s Tunnel – A popular day ride which takes you on a (steady) downhill adventure through forest, farms and along a meandering river. We will transfer you from our base up into the hills above Nelson to the Flat Rock Café at Kohatu. From here it’s a beautiful 46.5 km off-road trail back to Nelson loosely following an old railway line. The route is very scenic, and you will ride through some of the prettiest rural landscapes in Nelson. The Spooner’s Tunnel is a disused rail tunnel 1.4 km long. Good lights are required. The villages of Wakefield and Brightwater both have cafes or make a detour to visit a winery or two.
Great Taste Wine
Great Taste Wine Tour – Take a day to explore the wine country on and around the Great Taste Trail. Linger at the wineries, stop off at cafes & galleries and relax with friends. With this self-guided tour, you will have many options to choose from. Typically starting on the Great Taste Trail Coastal Route, you’ll follow the shoreline with boardwalks and stunning estuary views. The rest of the route will depend upon which wineries are on the menu and how far you wish to cycle.
Great Taste Beer
Great Taste Beer Tour – Visit some of Nelson’s oldest, newest and best breweries whilst cycling this nice and easy, flat circuit. You’ll hardly work up a sweat whilst riding a few kilometers between each stop. A coastal country pub, McCashin’s Tap Room (the home of Stoke beer & Rochdale Cider), Speights Ale House and the innovative Eddyline craft brewery. You will be provided with a beer / cider tasting paddle as part of your tour. And be able to watch the beautiful beers being made in the same building whilst you taste and discuss which drink is your favourite
Marvelous Moutere E-bike Tour – Visit the Tuscany of New Zealand. Cycle along the stunning coastal section of the Great Taste Trail. Glide along the shoreline, over boardwalks and enjoy expansive views of the Waimea inlet. You’re on your way to Rabbit Island where your ferry awaits. It’s a short hop over to the waterfront hub of Mapua where you can enjoy art, coffee and tasty treats before heading inland to the fruit laden hills of the Moutere. Gravity winery is ideal for tasty platters, fine wine and art. Choose to peruse a historic settler’s cottage, art galleries or a Buddhist temple. Before enjoying a marvelous meal at New Zealand’s oldest pub, the Moutere Inn. Or choose fine dining at Forsters restaurant at Moutere Hills Winery before your shuttle back to sunny Nelson
Tours for you!
We tailor make itineraries to suit every need. We also have kids’ bikes, kiddie trailers, tag-along and kiddie seats to help get families out exploring.
Contact us if you’d like to start planning your tour!