If you have some spare time while visiting Queenstown then I recommend that you hire a bike and cycle the Queenstown Trail. The Queenstown Trail is a network of bike trails in Queenstown and the surrounding area that takes you past some truly stunning scenery.

There are approx. 120km of trails; you can customize your ride from a few hours to several days. We spent three pleasurable days cycling from Queenstown to the Gibbston Valley wine region, on to the historic mining town of Arrowtown and then back to Queenstown.

If you are interested in other cycling holidays in New Zealand then you might like to read about our Alps 2 Ocean cycling holiday, planning a cycling holiday or 4 reasons you should go on a cycling holiday.

If you have young children i recommend you read NZ Cycle Trails with Kids for tips on cycling with the family.

Queenstown Trail

Queenstown Trail Map
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Day 1 – Queenstown – Gibbston Valley

Our day started with a relaxing ride through the Queenstown Gardens and then continued along the shoreline of the picturesque Lake Wakatipu. There were more stunning views to come as we followed along the edge of the scenic Karawau River on the Twin Rivers Ride. You may recognise parts of the river from some of the boating scenes in the The Fellowship of the Ring and most particularly, the ‘Pillars of the Kings’.

From your vantage point high up on the cliffs, you might even catch glimpses of thrill seekers in their pursuit of an adrenaline rush as they race through the canyons doing 360 degree turns in high speed jet boats.

Karawau River - Queenstown Trail
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Karawau River

The trail takes you over the Edgar Suspension Bridge and then on to the Karawau Bridge.

Edgar Bridge - Queenstown Trail
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Edgar Suspension Bridge

I don’t really like heights and found riding over the Edgar Suspension Bridge with its lack of solid sides a bit challenging. Not only does it feel like there isn’t a lot between you and the river but it starts to swing the further along you go. It ended up getting the better of me and on my first crossing I had to get off and push my bike part of the way.

Crossing the Edgar Suspension Bridge

Wineries between Queenstown and Gibbston Valley

The Gibbston Valley or ‘Valley of the Vines’ is famous worldwide for their pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The following vineyards (and brewery) can be found along a single 8.7km stretch of road known as the Gibbston River Ride:

I should add a disclaimer at this point and mention that the blood alcohol limit in New Zealand is .05, though there seems to be a grey area as to whether you will be fined for riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol. If you believe this post by Bike Auckland then you are more likely to get fined for riding without a helmet than for riding either drunk or naked!

Cafes/Restaurants between Queenstown and Gibbston Valley

Once you get to the start of the Gibbston River Ride there are plenty of options to stop and buy lunch:

We rode to Gibbston Valley Winery and Cheesery, parked our bikes near the vineyard and enjoyed a late lunch at their Cellar Door. After having been riding for several hours that day we had built up quite an appetite and made short work of the delicious selection of cheeses, chutneys, pickles, fruits and bread.

Lunch at Gibbston Valley Winery
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We then continued further on down the valley towards Kinross Cottages and their Boutique Vineyard Accommodation. Kinross is such an idyllic corner of the world. The staff were all incredibly friendly, dinner was delicious, the red was even better, and the accommodation was clean and comfortable.

Kinross Cottages, Gibbston Valley
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Photo courtesy of Kinross Cottages.
Kinross Cottages, Gibbston Valley
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Day 2 – Gibbston Valley to Arrowtown

The next morning we left our cosy cottage and headed back across the Karawau Bridge and on towards Arrowtown. The ride from Kinross Cottages to the Karawau Bridge is 6km and from there you join on to the Arrow River Bridges Ride.

The Arrow River Bridges Ride is an easy 14km ride that follows along the shoreline of the Arrow River and takes you on a zigzag path across five bridges towards Arrowtown.

Cafes/Restaurants between Gibbston Valley and Arrowtown

There are no options for purchasing food or drinks on the trail once you have ridden past the Karawau Bridge. If you don’t have morning tea already organised you might want to pick up some snacks at either the General Store run by the Kinross staff or the Karawau Bungy Centre.

Alternately, you can deviate 2.5km from the Arrow River Bridges Ride and visit Wet Jacket. Their Cellar Door and Cheese Room are open 11am to 6pm daily. 

Trail to Arrowtown, NZ
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Trail to Arrowtown, NZ

Arrowtown, a gold rush village, is popular with tourists and their main street has lots of shops to explore. You can also check out some of the local hiking trails, play a game of golf or even go gold panning.

On our second evening we had chosen to stay at the Settlers Cottage Motel, which was conveniently located just a short walk from the centre of town. The cottages were very reasonably priced and “combine(s) old-world charm with all modern comforts and conveniences.” We found the staff to be very friendly and helpful.

Settlers Cottage Motel
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Photo courtesy of Settlers Cottage Motel

Book your stay at Settlers Cottage Motel.

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Day 3 – Arrowtown to Queenstown

We left Arrowtown on the Countryside Ride and continued on it till we reached the Lower Shotover Bridge where it joins up with the Twin Rivers Ride and then onto the Lake Wakatipu Ride into Queenstown.

Susan and John on the Lower Shotover River Bridge just outside of Queenstown, NZ.
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Susan and John on the Lower Shotover River Bridge just outside of Queenstown, NZ.

A slightly longer option is to leave the Countryside Ride and take the Lakes Hayes Circuit. The Lake Hayes Circuit has stunning views and will take you past several wineries.

Where you join up again to the Twin Rivers Ride will depend on whether you do the full circuit or half circuit of Lake Hayes. 

All of the above rides are Easy to Intermediate.

Cafes/Restaurants between Arrowtown and Queenstown

Wineries between Arrowtown and Queenstown

Sunset Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown - Susan Gan
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The perfect way to end an amazing holiday was this beautiful sunset over Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.
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We hope you enjoyed reading about our Queenstown Trail cycling holiday and are now considering a cycling holiday of your own. If you have already been on a cycling holiday, leave a comment below to share your cycling holiday stories.

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