The pre-winter snow flurries that hit New Zealand in the last few weeks is a cold reminder that, for most of us, the next few months will see us huddled around fireplaces dreaming of summer.

And with dreaming comes planning – of possible summer road trips. To be honest, I’m pretty much a four -wheel type of traveler, happy to motor around the countryside, checking out the offbeat and the unique, stopping now and then to hike a trail or two.

But after hearing about friends’ experiences along the Otago Rail Trail, I must admit I could almost be tempted to give two wheeling a go.

The Otago Rail Trail is probably New Zealand’s best-known cycle trail. Following the route of the former Otago Central Railway, this 150-kilometer cycle trail passes has it all – bridges, tunnels, gold mining relics, quaint small towns and country pubs, and ever changing picture worthy landscapes.

But it is just one of a number of cycle trails that have been established throughout New Zealand.  Known collectively as the New Zealand Cycle Trail, these predominantly off-road trails will have you riding through diverse landscapes, from subtropical fern forests and lush wetlands to wild beaches and breathtaking (literally and actually) mountain views.

The latest edition to this collection of New Zealand Cycle Trails, which takes the number of trails to 21, is the Queen Charlotte Track.  A grade 3-4 (out of 5) seventy kilometer ride, which means it probably isn’t for beginners like me, this trail at the top of the South Island, goes from historic Ship’s Cove to Anakiwa, offering spectacular views over the Queen Charlotte and Keneperu Sounds.

For more information on the Otago Rail Trail, the Queen Charlotte Track, or any of the other 21 great rides, check out this useful Great Rides Directory  (intro, North Island, South Island) put together by Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand (TRENZ).

Covering detailed cycle trail information as well as tour suppliers, cycling itineraries, accommodation (including Peppers Portage conveniently located at the start of the Queen Charlotte trail), and cycle rentals, it’s an invaluable guide for anyone considering two wheeling around New Zealand.

(image @Peppers Portage Marlborough Sounds)