canterbury’s own lifestyle magazine / a great local read

New Zealand’s longest continual cycle trail begins at the foot of Aoraki Mount Cook in the Southern Alps and ends some 300 plus kilometres away at sea-level in Oamaru; 780 m lower in altitude than the start. The descent from the alps to the ocean takes each visitor on a journey – not only through breath-taking scenery, but also into the communities and the lives of the people who are so passionate about their trail and the opportunities it can bring to their visitors and to those who live alongside it.

At the start of the trail, visitors encounter the unique alpine environment that is home to glacial moraines and startlingly blue lakes that get their distinct colour from glacial flour – finely-ground rock particles. From here the trail also delves into dense beech forests, with many walks to tempt intrepid adventurers up to the views that can be attained from above the bushline.

Wide-spanning valley plains once carved out of this vast landscape by a glacier offer visitors a sense of space and wonderment and a palette of golden colours create memorable photo opportunities. The newly formed Waitaki Whitestone Geopark showcases the incredible geological ‘geosites’ that tell the stories of this landscape, from the towering formations of Clay Cliffs to Elephant Rocks and the ancient fossils able to be viewed at Anatini and the Vanished World Centre in Duntroon.

One of the Great Rides of New Zealand, the Alps 2 Ocean can be enjoyed as a full trail journey or just in sections that fit into a stopover day or two (or three). The trail has eight sections which make it easy for visitors to choose what parts they would like to see and match that to their cycling ability and time available. With the addition of electric bikes to hire, cruising the trail feeling like someone has turned down the gravity is now an option too.

With lots to see and do around the trail and invaluable tour operators who can accommodate each individual itinerary and help with bike hire, pick-ups and drop-offs, handy information, recommendations and local lore, getting out onto the trail and exploring the surrounds is very easy.

Accommodation providers along the trail are well-versed in a proper country welcome full of warmth and hospitality, along with café and restaurant owners who have just what tired cyclists need for resting and refreshing before the next instalment of adventure.

A wide range of activity operators have enticing options for time off the bike: soak in hot tubs, glide over the wide-open skies in Omarama, jet boat across the mighty Waitaki River, sample fresh salmon, taste award-winning cheese, craft beer and whisky to name just a few. At the ocean-end there are little blue penguins to be seen coming ashore, long stretches of coastline with significant geosites such as the Moeraki Boulders, and the beautiful seaside town of Oamaru to explore.

The Alps 2 Ocean was conceived as an economic driver for the communities along the trail with the hopes that it would provide conditions for new and existing businesses to thrive, as well as being a beautiful back country ride. This early vision has been more than realised and the trail now provides a vehicle for New Zealand and international visitors to be embraced by the communities and people who make it so amazing as they make the transformative journey from the slopes of the Southern Alps to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

For more information about each section of the trail’s terrain, trail surface, highlights, fitness required and more, visit

[ WORDS Lisa Smith, IMAGES Tourism Waitaki ]