Early Autumn, and a family wedding in Wanaka, followed by a few days in Queenstown, at the centre of New Zealand’s southern lakes, provided the opportunity to explore one of the trails in the middle of NZ’s prime outdoor recreation area.
With poor planning meaning that all my biking gear was left behind in Wellington a quick trip to the big red barn was needed to pick up some “cheap and cheerful” substitute gear: a pair of sneakers, hard-shell track pants (it was cold and wet), a polar fleece vest, riding gloves and a hi-viz vest for $90 was a bargain.
So, armed with my new gear, and a decent rain jacket (which I had packed) it was off to Bikeaholic on the outskirts of Queenstown to pick up a hire bike (a very comfortable Kona Cindercone). A quick discussion with the local experts, and off.
Queenstown is well served with cycle trails, grouped together as the Queenstown Trail. One of the most popular – and easiest – is the Lake Wakitipu ride, which starts at Queenstown, and follows the shore of the lake around the Frankton Arm, through Frankton and out to the end of the Kelvin Peninsula (see header picture; claimed to be the home of the world’s most scenic golf course; since I don’t play golf I can’t dispute this, although a visit to Millbrook the day before does raise a few questions!).
With rain being the order of the day, the relative shelter of this ride was more attractive than the other option of interest, a run out to Arrowtown and back. Given that from the Queenstown end this latter ride is all uphill all the way, and that I was limited by time, the attraction of tackling this trail in the rain palled very quickly, and the lakeside run won out easily.
Once out of the Queenstown Centre, and onto the track in the Queenstown Gardens, the trail comprises compacted grit for the vast majority of its length, with only two or three short areas where it skirts housing or commercial property on formed roads. It is also a very easy ride, sticking close the lake edge, and therefore remaining largely flat. The highest point is where the trail “climbs” (a mere 40 metres it must be admitted) away from the lake side to cross State Highway 1 on the historic one-lane Kawarau Falls Bridge. This is where Lake Wakatipu flows into the Kawarau River.
Although it did rain on and off all day, the rain was generally relatively gentle, and with no wind, mild temperatures (about 15 degrees) and the trail winding in and out of the shelter of trees, the rain was no impediment to enjoyment. Taking my time I made my way slowly out to the Kelvin Peninsula, taking in the sights of both the lake and surrounding mountains, and the up-close view of some of Queenstown’s most notable contemporary homes.
The Kelvin Golf Club café is open to the public, and offered an ideal spot for a break and lunch half-way through my ride. That break fortunately coincided with the heaviest downpour, so taking my time over coffee and lunch I was able to avoid the worst of the weather. By the time I finished the sun was out again, and relatively dry and replenished, set off on the return trip.
Not surprisingly, although the return trip was on the same trail, the “reverse view” provides a different aspect of the country, and opens up many different photo opportunities. Even in the rain the ride is clearly popular, with several family groups (including one with Grandma on a town bike and junior on a mini) and couples sharing the path with walkers and joggers.
A very enjoyable – albeit genteel – ride, in highly scenic country, despite the rain.
Perhaps even a “recce” for a future trip for 5 Men . . .