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A Guide to New Zealand E-Bike Trails

In Aotearoa New Zealand we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to spectacular scenery. Every corner of this country abounds with natural beauty. What you might not know is that many of these places also have impressive bike trails that allow you to easily access these amazing environments while experiencing some thrills along the way.

E-bikes add a new dimension to the adventure, allowing people of all ages and ability to access these incredible trails. The addition of a silent and efficient electric motor to the traditional bike is truly a revolutionary invention. E-bikes make short work of long distances, flatten big hills and make epic trails easier and even more fun. E-bikes mean you can set your own pace and level of exertion at all times, leaving you with more time and energy to take in the views and just enjoy being on the journey.

Many of New Zealand’s 22 ‘Great Rides’ can now be ridden on an e-bike, so our guide will introduce you to some of the best ones to give it a go when starting out. With that in mind we’ve compiled this list especially for beginner and intermediate e-bike riders. The trails we've listed will take you through some of the most epic and beautiful natural environments New Zealand has to offer.

So, get ready to start pedaling!

Central Otago Rail Trail

152km | Grade 1 | 2-5 Days

We have to start this guide with the venerable Central Otago Rail Trail. Located near Alexandra and about two hours drive from Queenstown, The Central Otago Rail Trail is the original ‘Great Ride’ and remains one of the most popular for beginner riders. The trail offers a unique bike tour experience in the heart of the South Island, packed with interesting historical sites, including charming old railway stations dotted along the route that make for great rest spots.

The trail can be completed in two to five days, depending on how much time you want to spend at each rest stop. There are some long distances to cover, but an e-bike will make the going all the easier. Thanks to being an old railway line, the trail is also relatively flat and firm, making it perfect for anyone who wants to experience high-quality biking without the strenuous uphill climbs. It’s suitable for almost any riding ability and there is plenty of scope for skipping sections and heading off to do side trips.

West Coast Wilderness Trail

140km | Grade 2 | 2-5 Days

The West Coast Wilderness Trail is another relatively flat and smooth ride, with only one major incline - but hey, that’s why you got an e-bike, right? Starting in Greymouth, the trail showcases the best of New Zealand's West Coast scenery, with ancient rainforests, close encounters with birds and stunning views of the Southern Alps all on offer. If you're looking for an e-bike ride that includes some of the world's most fantastic wilderness, mountain views, and plenty of native wildlife, then this is the one for you.

It’s a multi-day trail that has been designed to be completed in three days, although it can be extended or shortened. The trail stretches from Greymouth to Hokitika along the coast and through the forests of the Southern Alps. There are many small villages and towns along the way, with pubs, cafes and comfortable beds on offer, making it an ideal spot for a beginner or a family on holiday.

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

300km | Grade 2-3 | 4-6 Days

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is a fantastic route for e-biking. Running from Aoraki/Mount Cook all the way to Oamaru, the trail is divided into nine sections. The trail itself is mostly flat, with only a few steep climbs, so it's a great choice if you're looking for more adventure than a workout. Plus, you don’t have to ride the whole 300kms, you’re able to pick and choose which sections you want to ride.

Much of the trail is off-road, carving through glacial valleys. The varied landscape includes braided river flats, sweeping valleys, meandering canals, pastoral farmland, beech forest, and residential areas. Along your way you’ll ride through the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and alongside stunning Lake Pukaki and then out into the Mackenzie Basin.

There are plenty of opportunities to stop at picturesque lakes and rivers for a picnic or swim. Several small towns along the way also offer accommodation and restaurants as well as off-bike activities, such as wine tasting, penguin spotting, star gazing, glider flights and relaxing in nighttime hot tubs.

Clutha Gold Trail

73km | Grade 1-2 | 1-3 Days

The Clutha Gold Trail is one of the most popular bike trails in New Zealand and for good reason. The trail passes through small towns, farms, gold mining sites, and the stunning Roxburgh Gorge as it makes its way along the mighty Clutha Mata-au River. The river guides you through colourful willow and rocky outcrops surrounded mostly by farmland but with a back-drop of dramatic mountain ranges.

It's one of the shorter trails at 73 km long and can be ridden in either direction. The trail officially starts at Lawrence and ends in Alexandra, though it can be started at any point along the path. The terrain is mainly flat and relatively easy to navigate from start to finish. But riders should be aware that there are some steep hills just before reaching Alexandra - so make sure to reserve some battery power for assistance towards the end of the trail.

Tasman’s Great Taste Trail

175km | Grade 1-2 | 1-3 Days

The Tasman's Great Taste Trail is a world famous e-bike trail. The trail consists of mostly off-road tracks and occasional sections on quiet back roads. With an e-bike it’s possible to cycle the whole trail in one day, if you're keen – just make sure you’ve got the battery life and fitness to do it. But we highly recommend you split the trail up into shorter sections, take your time and enjoy yourself!

Starting in the cycle-friendly city of Nelson, you'll find plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants to load up on energy before heading out. As you leave Nelson, the trail meanders south through Richmond and then west to the settlements of Mapua and Motueka, before finishing at Kaiteriteri Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park. There’s plenty to indulge on this trail, with the plenty of bounty found at local orchards, vineyards and breweries you’ll be passing along the way. The urban tracks at the outset eventually lead to scenic beaches, bird-filled estuaries, forest trails and many a picturesque picnic spot. There is also the option to arrange a water taxi from Kaiteriteri back to Nelson.

Timber Trail

85km | Grade 2-3 | 1-2 Days

We wouldn’t want to be accused of missing out on the North Island, where there are also some fantastic trails to explore. The Timber Trail is a spectacular example located in the heart of King Country. It follows an old logging railway line running through the Pureora Forest Park between Ongarue and Pureora. Along the way you'll pass through some of the North Island’s most lush and scenic landscapes. Purpose-built tracks lead you through dense forests, past historic relics left by timber loggers and over the enormous Maramataha suspension bridge.

You're very likely to see some incredible birds along the way – piwakawaka fantails are everywhere and, if you're lucky, you'll be greeted by toutouwai robins, you might even get a glimpse of a kaka in flight or a kokako in the canopy. Try this trail if you're a nature lover looking to explore deep wilderness over a short period of time. 

Hawke’s Bay Trails

200km | Grade 1 | 1+ Days

Hawke’s Bay offers the North Island’s equivalent of Nelson’s ‘Great Taste Trail’. A 200km network of trails take you across the region and to some of New Zealand’s top wineries, such as Clearview and Black Barn. You can also venture out to famous pubs such as Puketapu and Westshore Beach Inn. Napier offers a charming base from which to start, with plenty of restaurants, accommodation and amenities. The region is mostly flat and you’ll never be far from a charging point, making it a great option for less able riders and for those looking for a family holiday option. There really is an endless array of riding available, especially if you’re into your viticulture.

Twin Coast Cycle Trail

87km | Grade 1-3 | 2 Days

Finally, we head to the top of the North Island with the very popular Twin Coast Cycle Trail - Pou Herenga Tai. The trail can be ridden in either direction, from the iconic beaches of the Bay of Islands on the east coast to the remote and picturesque Hokianga Harbour on the west – or vice-versa. Northland's sub-tropical climate means the trail is also comfortable to ride year round. There is no shortage of scenic vistas and story boards along the way take you on a fascinating journey through some of New Zealand’s earliest Maori and European settlements.

The route is short enough to make it a day ride, but if you’d like to take your time, mid-point accommodation can be found in either Kaikohe or Okaihau. The trail is suitable for most riders, generally flat with some gentle climbs. The surface tends to be good, but can get rougher after recent rain. The Pou Herenga Tai is a great choice for those wanting to set out on their first e-bike adventure in New Zealand before taking on longer multi-day trails.

The trails we’ve listed are intended to give you a flavour of some of the best e-biking New Zealand has to offer. But there’s plenty more to do, with many other Great Rides to explore. If you’re looking for even more adventure with your e-bike, we recommend you check out New Zealand Cycle Trails - Ngā Haerenga website. You can find information on all the Great Rides here: