From Aoraki, Mt Cook to Oamaru by the Pacific Ocean - Alpine to Coast in just 315km - you will be following changing environments, with diverse scenery and history that follows the water falling in the Southern Alps down to the mighty Waitaki river and beyond. You will journey past snow-capped peaks, glaciers, azure glacial lakes, stunning braided rivers, varied and dramatic vistas, boutique vineyards and luxurious hot tubs. This incredible trail will provide something of interest for everyone, jump on to one of our tours for the easiest way to experience this journey of a lifetime. This page is dedicated to providing you with some detailed information of the trail and our wonderful region.
Explore and Savour the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail
Breathtaking is only one way to describe what you’ll feel on the journey from the Southern Alps down to Friendly Bay and the glorious Pacific Ocean. The Alps to Ocean cycle trail offers 315 kilometres of immaculate scenery, ever-changing environments and history.
Imagine cycling past snow-capped peaks, glaciers, azure glacial lakes, varied and dramatic vistas, boutique vineyards and luxurious hot tubs. This trail has something for everyone, offering the journey of a lifetime.
Everything You Should Know About the A2O Cycle Trail
The trail exceeds 300 kilometres from start to finish, so we’ve divided it into nine sections. Each of these offers unique highlights. The route includes rest stops at various towns and settlements where you can find food and accommodation.
The first four sections of the trail are in the “Alpine” region of the Mackenzie Basin, while the others meander down the Waitaki Valley, finishing in Oamaru. Naturally, the beginning of the trail offers more mountainous views, with spectacular nature prominent in the Waitaki sections. Here’s what you can expect.
The Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail starts at the White Horse Hill Campground, north of Mt Cook Village. The off-road trail departs from the starting point near the campsite’s toilets and shelters. You will take a short helicopter ride across the Tasman River to Tasman Point. The trail can be soft in some places since it sits on the braided glacial river scree.
Heavy rains can cause swollen streams, so take care when crossing the river. You’ll travel 10.6 kilometres to the Jollie Car Park from Tasman Point, where you can look back at Aoraki and Mt Cook, which is 3,754 metres high. Once you get to the car park, it’s 16.8 kilometres away from the end of the section at Braemer Road Junction. You will find accommodation near the end.
The gravel trail takes you to the Tekapo B power station – along an 18-kilometre gravel road – to where the sealed road starts. This section of the route offers toilets, shopping options and magnificent views of Lake Pukaki. Then, travel five kilometres to the dedicated trail near the highway on your right.
Expect the route to wind up and down through trees and rosehips alongside the lake from this point. After 29 kilometres, you cross the Pukaki dam and head for the visitor’s centre. Follow the signs and cross the highway to get to Twizel, ending the second section of the trail. You will encounter a dry grassland called the desert once you’ve crossed the main road past the Pukaki Flats.
The route takes you from the T-junction onto Mackenzie Road, right onto Nuns Veil Road, and left onto Glen Lyon Road. After riding for six kilometres, you will see Loch Cameron and a canal bridge, which you go through, landing on a quiet, sealed road to Lake Ohau’s edge.
The trail takes you off-road again and over the Ohau weir along the foreshore of Lake Ohau. You’ll reach the Ohau Road 29 kilometres from Twizel. The thoroughfare will take you to the Lake Ohau Lodge, three kilometres after Lake Ohau Village. Please avoid riding off the trail through this section, as the Matagouri bushes can cause tyre punctures.
You will take on the slopes of Ruataniwha to reach the Tarnbrae peak, about 400 metres higher. The initial six kilometres are gentle, but the trail narrows after Freehold Creek and becomes bumpy near the top. The false summits may affect your motivation here, but we suggest you soldier on. It’s not as bad as it seems – you will be glad you pressed on.
Once you’ve reached the top, it’s time to head down to Quailburn Road. Those fast-moving seven kilometres require some caution, yet the creeks and green hills along the way are the ideal setting to reflect on the location and what you’re doing. You may want to look around the historic woolshed after a lunch and toilet break at the Quailburn Road junction.
You can take a side tour of the Clay Cliffs, where the trail heads past Henburn Road. The detour is a seven-kilometre return trip, and the gravel road can be busy. Quailburn Road will take you to the highway, where you’ll find the off-road trail.
To end this section, you must go through the Ahuriri Campground and over the river. The highway bridge will get you there, but be cautious when crossing – traffic moves fast. Once you reach Omarama, you’ve officially completed half of the Alps to Ocean trail.
The off-road trail from Omarama takes you to the Waitaki Valley and the highest Chain Valley spot, five kilometres from the departure point. You can enjoy a glorious view of Lake Benmore from the top before you descend alongside State Highway 83 and pass Pumpkin Point on the way to Sailor’s Cutting, where you’ll find toilets and a campsite.
Take a little break and then continue up the highway to the Otematata saddle with views of Lake Aviemore and the valley beyond. Then, cycle downhill to Otematata. The information about this section may change depending on the trial.
Start your journey from Otematata down a sealed pathway and gravel tracks that will take you alongside a lake that follows Loch Laird Road. You may want to join the six-kilometre sealed road climbing up to the Benmore Hydro Dam. Please note that some riders push their bikes through the final hundred metres to the summit.
You will head back down Te Akatarawa Road from the opposite side of the Benmore Hydro Dam and may wish to stop for a swim or a picnic at Lake Aviemore. You’ll reach the Aviemore Dam after 28 kilometres, where you must cross to follow the trail along the highway. The traffic flow on this road requires riding single-file past the Waitaki Dam. From there, it’s just seven kilometres to Kurow.
The trail from Kurow takes you to the edge of the Waitaki River, which you will follow for three kilometres until you arrive at the highway. A winery awaits at the five-kilometre mark to sustain those who enjoy a glass or two. Why not stop here and taste what’s on offer or have a coffee if you like?
Head back to the river’s edge – through the winery – and along Haul Road. Be cautious of 4×4 vehicles since the road is ideal for recreational off-roaders. Next, you cross two rivers – the Otiahe at 11 kilometres and the Otekaieke at 15 kilometres. The trail resumes and follows the highway.
If you want to enjoy the art on offer – cross the road after 23 kilometres to access the Takiroa Māori rock art site. The trail takes you back toward the river and eventually to Harris Street and through the Duntroon wetlands on your way to the centre of Duntroon.
Section Eight – Duntroon to Oamaru (55 km) View map >
Six kilometres into the final stage of the Alps2Ocean cycle trail, you’ll be on the rural road to Elephant Rocks. If you’re a fan of the Narnia movies, you will love the off-road trail that goes through the Hore property and the set of Aslan’s camp. Afterwards, take the zig-zag challenge and rejoin the road at Prydes Gully.
A journey down to the limestone valley escarpments just off Island Cliff awaits, and as you follow the trail, you head toward Ngapara and turn left onto the track beside Karara Creek. If you enjoyed the first little zig-zag challenge, the next one is bigger, and you will pop out onto Cants Road afterwards. Turn left onto Peaks Road for your first views of the sea and North Otago.
Continue on this road and turn right onto Tunnel Road and right again when you reach the bottom of the hill. You can use the facilities, get water, picnic, and check out the old railway line. You will find the settlement of Windsor six kilometres from this point. The road leads back to the cycle trail, which will take you to Enfield and Weston after crossing the new bridge.
Heading down the hill on Saleyard Road will get you to Oamaru. The cycle trail goes through the gardens and across State Highway 1 into town, where you can check out the main shopping street. Turn left when you spot the information centre and take a right at Steam Punk HQ, then another left at the Criterion Hotel down Harbour Street.
Cycle to the end of the street and turn left to find the end of the A2O cycle trail. Our building is in the vicinity, but we believe you will find the harbour at Friendly Bay and the magnificent Pacific Ocean in front of you more impressive.
The alternative route begins in the Tekapo township near the police station. You must follow the off-road track up the road until you reach Aorangi Crescent. Follow the red arrows, turn left, and continue until Aorangi Crescent turns into Andrew Don Drive. The road eventually becomes gravel after 800 metres, and you can follow this trail until you reach the first cycle barrier.
You can cycle along the Tekapo Canal Road, and when you reach SH8, you’re halfway to Lake Pukaki. Cross the highway and cycle alongside the canal, passing the salmon farm and toilet facilities. From this point, it’s five kilometres to Lake Pukaki, dropping downhill beside Tekapo B Power Station.
Accommodation Options Along the Trail
You can select the accommodation that suits you. On the Alps to Ocean cycle trail, high-end establishments offer en-suites and cheaper lodgings with bunk rooms. You can camp throughout the journey if you’re adventurous, but you should note that toilets are only available in some sections.
Accommodation during the high season can prove tricky, so we advise securing a spot in advance, especially if you have a group of four or more. The good news is that our tours come with pre-booked accommodation, ensuring availability when you need it.
Tips to Consider for the A2O Cycle Trail
The elements in this region are unpredictable, and you need to prepare sufficiently to enjoy the journey.
Prepare for the Weather
You probably know the expression, “four seasons in one day”. That’s what you may get in this region. Conditions can change quickly, especially in the mountainous sections of the trail. We suggest you check the weather report and carry spare clothes or waterproofing items.
Layer Your Clothes
Wearing thin layers is best. This system allows you to add or remove thinner layers depending on the weather conditions. We recommend a base layer that wicks moisture and sweat away from your skin to keep you warm and dry. Cotton is not ideal, but thermal fabrics, synthetic blends, or merino wool are perfect. The other layers should provide insulation and warmth, while the outer layer must repel water and block out the wind.
The region you’re cycling in will be dry, and you will put much effort into the ride, so keep your body hydrated. Always carry a water bottle and inform yourself of the sections where you can refill to calculate how much you can drink while riding. We suggest taking a lip balm or moisturiser to prevent dry skin.
The UV rays from the New Zealand sun can be harsh in the open, especially in a mountainous region. Sunscreen is essential on the trail, but you can wear long sleeves and leggings to protect your body.
The area is home to sand flies, and although they’re not aggressive while you’re on the move, they bite and create irritation. Readily available insect repellent and an anti-itch cream are the solution.
You’ll need several items of cycling gear on the trail to secure a more enjoyable experience on the A2O cycle trail. This list informs you of the equipment you should have with you.
- Bike riding shoes that can handle wet and muddy conditions
- Two pairs of padded cycling shorts you’ve used before
- Cycling gloves with ample padding for comfort and warmth
- High visibility vest or jacket
- Waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers
- Cycle helmet
- A thin hat to wear underneath the helmet
- A camera to record the beautiful scenery and memories
- Sunglasses for protection from the sun, dust, and wind
- Personal medication
- A day bag if usually ride with one
Unleash the Adventure of a Lifetime
The Alps to Ocean cycle trail offers an exciting opportunity to see some of the world’s glorious sites in a journey of just over 300 kilometres. The team at Cycle Ventures has in-depth experience in assisting people on the trail. Over the years, we’ve gained valuable knowledge and developed relationships that enable us to turn a cycle trail into an unforgettable adventure.