Saturday, March 19, 2011

Touring New Zealand.

I often come across people on other forums that ask questions about touring down under, the problem with this is you can not possible cover all they would need to know in just a few sentences.  With that in mind I have set a bout compiling as much information on the basics of biking through New Zealand in this blog, if for no other reason it will come in handy  when I wish to offer advice to people travelling down here.  I can simple point them to my blog.  I hope over time to be continuing editing this blog and updating with other tips, blogs, and any information that I feel is relevant.

New Zealand is a bikers paradise, From Cape Reinga in the North, to Stewart Island in the South, undulations and sweeping bends and little traffic makes New Zealand a bikers paradise.    As such  NZ sees a lot of people coming from other parts of the world to tour here.  It is an easy country to get around, people are friendly, accommodation is excellent and there is plenty out there to suit any budget.  The roads are good, and down south are sparsely populated. There is nothing that can eat you, we don't have crocodiles or snakes or creepy spiders, although insect repellent is recommended when you travelling  during the summer months.

The best months for touring are February and March. The holiday period is over and the roads are not as busy.   In reality you can ride a bike all year round in the North Island, but it is best to advoid the South Island during the winter months.  Most people choose to fly into Christchurch, hire a bike there and spend most of their holiday on this Island only.  The South Island certainly offers the best of everything, fantastic roads and stunning scenery.  But for those with extra time, a few days in the North is also good, and I know most bike hire companies will let you drop the bike off in Auckland. So adding an extra 4-5 days to see a bit of the North Island is still a good idea.  A personal tip here, do not be afraid to get of the beaten track and main highways, you just never know what you will find.

There are plenty of bike hire places , or if intending on a long trip buying a bike and selling it when leaving is always a good idea.  New Zealand version of EBay, is Trade me, searching this may provide a bargain and offers an alternative to hiring.

NZ Bike Hire
Te Waiopunamu Motorbike Tours.

New Zealand road laws are similar to most countries, we drive on the left.   Getting a copy of the New Zealand Road Code   and having a brief read is not essential but would be recommended reading to understand and get better idea of our laws.  Wearing a helmet is compulsory for both pillion and rider.

The weather  is normally warm this time of year, but be prepared, temperatures can drop and carrying some thermals and wet weather gear is high recommended.  I rode into Christchurch once in 35 degree heat, and rode out two days later it was 3degress Celsius.   It can rain a lot on the West Coast of the South Island, but don't be put off by that, it is fantastic biking country.  

Getting hold of the book "Motorcycle Atlas of New Zealand" is an excellent starting point for planning your trip, it is well written and gives good indication on what roads to travel and the time you should allow.  Even though some of the trips are as little as only a few hundred Kms it can take you all day to travel them, especially if you want to take in the sights.  It also covers some off road stuff for the more adventurous. Highly recommended and it is not expensive.  In an earlier blog of mine I wrote about five of my favourite roads, you can read it here.  Also the AA has a thing on its web site with great Kiwi road trips, well worth a here

The Inter Islander or Blue Ridge Ferry , takes you between the two islands.  It is a crusey 3 hour ride, and the ferry company  often provides tie downs on the ship, saying it is recommended that you take a couple of your own.  The last hour as you enter Queen Charlotte Sound is beautiful.

Here is a couple of links to great blogs of people who have all ready toured NZ.  They are well worth the read.  Kiwi bound    Dankalal  BanditRider , and this is also a great blog

Accommodation Links.  NZ Accommodation  Budget accommodation

View Larger Map

Essential Items.

Puncture repair kit. - I have only ever used this once for myself, but I have saved at least three other bikers who have got them selves stranded with a flat in the middle of nowhere. They are a stopgap only, but at least will get you where you need to go.
Tie downs- if catching the ferry Tie downs are required to secure your bike. Although the ferry does supply some, there is no guarantee there will be any available for you when you get on board.
Insect repellent-enough said, but some places can be a mozzie heaven!
Small first aid kit-and I mean small, consisting of some savalon cream, plasters and panadol. (Panadol helps hangovers).
Visor cleaner- I have some small wipes and also a little brush bottle thing, it is amazing how dirty your visor can get in a very short time. I pretty much get into the habit of cleaning it every time I stop.
A Map- for those of us that don’t use GPS, making sure you carry a map is the next best thing.   Personally I also recommend seeking out local knowledge of the place you are at, they will often recommend a road or a site that you may miss if you just follow a GPS or map.
Thermals.  It can get cold!

Other tips.  (Taken with permission from another web site Thanks to Dan)

+ Yes; do take tie-downs (two is enough), and do sort out before you go just where you will attach them to your bike and ensure they will be long enough to reach a floor-ring three feet away.

+ Heh.  You must be from the South Island.  I found both to be terrific.  It would be impossible to say which is the better.  You cannot go wrong if you stick to just one, but if you have the time; see them both!

+ Don't forget that you can rent a Guzzi from Dave Gale at Guzzi Gander.  Dave is just north of the Auckland bridge.

+ New Zealand has a peculiar law concerning right-of-way and turns.  I understand that this will be changed, but that won't be until after the rugby world cup.

+ ATMs are as common as they are in the US.  Do not expect to pay-at-the-pump, but your card will work just fine at the counter.

+ If you use what we call a DEBIT card in the US, note that you will select CREDIT on the little machine that you used to punch in your PIN.  Your card will work just fine.

+ When you check in, expect most all motels to ask you if you want milk.  This refers to what you'll want with your tea or coffee next morning.

+ Motels (by that name) are often more up-scale than the mom-and-pop motels you see in the US.

+ Do not avoid the hotels that are also taverns or pubs.  If it concerns you, check that they have in-room toilets.

+ I've looked through lots and lots of maps of New Zealand.  I think the best for motorcycle use is Reise Know-How.  These are german (which won't matter).  They are very clear, show all the little roads, and best of all, they are waterproof.

+ New Zealand pavement if mostly what we would call chip-seal.  In fact, the word "pavement" isn't much used; instead, these roads are "sealed."  In hot weather you need to pay attention to the color of the roads to avoid the slick spots which are generally before curves (areas of braking).

+ Apart perhaps from Auckland freeways, I found the drivers all to be friendly.

+ A bakery is a great place to stop for lunch.  Do not think of a bakery as a place to only buy bread and cake.

+ bring your own tire gauge (in units that you know).


  1. OOOO!!! Great information! I will definitely be scouring the information for weeks on the sites that you link to. and daydreaming once again.

    Hmmm...Feb...right during my winter months...



  2. I already wanted to ride NZ, now the itch is much worse! Someday......

  3. Cool post. I've been hit up for info in the past too and only too glad to encourage people to visit our great country.

    Started doing a few write-ups of must do routes on my website here:

    I promise to eventually add some more. Did Taihape-Napier today and it was fabulous!

  4. I agree with Ken. Was already thinking on how cool it would be to ride in NZ and now we really need to add it to the bucket list.

  5. Great information, Roger! A friend spent most of last year in NZ. He was saying in the southern part of the south island there are penguins. Amazing extremes you have there and it looks beautiful!

  6. Great resource and information for the NZ bound traveler!

    The nice thing is your summer is a great winter getaway for us! Some friends of ours did a tour of NZ a couple years back. They're bicyclists, but chose to rent a car and spend time hiking and exploring. They came back with wonderful photos of their trip.

  7. Lori, I have pre warned immigration of your immenient arrival....should be fun!

    Ken: You just never know u might get here.

    Andrew: I have added your link to the blog.

    Mike: Your friend must of had a great time.

    Bluekat: THe NZ Govt is in the process of building a walkway the length of NZ, I am sure your friends would be interested in doing that.

  8. Now that just wasn't nice. Giving prewarning is bad. Now I can't slip under the radar and never leave! :( Bad Roger! LOL.

  9. Thanks Roger. Great tips for the road. I will keep your posting in mind for my next time around in Kiwi-Land. (Which unfortunately still hasn't been planned yet thanks to company investing in video conferencing equipment...)

  10. Too many bikes to repair, places to see, things to do and too little time!

  11. my partner and i have been 'dreaming' of touring nz on a bike! thanks for the tips! Anyway, you're welcome to visit our lodge next time you need Wanganui accommodation

  12. "Company" Thanks for your comment. I have visited Wanganu many times, so I will be sure to saty with you guys next time we are in the are. As for touring NZ, just do it!! NIke !!!!!