Three of the Best (Bike Rides Ever)

posted in: Cycling | 0

Some bike rides are so good that you want to tell everyone about them so they can go and enjoy them too. During our recent trip to the South Island we did three such rides which, although totally different in character, were good candidates for the best bike ride ever. The first ride was in the Marlborough Sounds near Picton.

Kenepura Road to Portage and Beyond

This road winds its way along the south side of Kenepura Sound offering amazing views of turquoise bays and sandy beaches.

Portage Pier

It is 42km from Linkwater at the start of the road to Kenepuru Head at the end of the sound.

Portage Map 2

In contrast to the steep, forested hills we had ridden beside up the sound, Kenepuru Head was flat and fertile farmland with crops and grazing cattle.


We tried to continue to Punga Cove but the sealed road ended after about 1km.

End of the Road

We also followed the road around the head of the sound towards Waitaria Bay but that too turned to gravel after about 5km.

Another End of the Road

If you go to the end of the sealed section on each of these roads, the total distance for a return trip from Linkwater is about 100km with 1,700m of ascent.

The only place that we saw where there was a cafe or restaurant was the Portage Resort. We had stayed there when we mountain-biked the Queen Charlotte Track several years ago so we were happy to go back inside and take a look.

Portage Hotel

The view from the restaurant is great but, whilst my fish and chips was fine Lillian’s salad was the smallest main course salad that we had ever seen. Do not be deceived by how big it looks in the picture below!

Small Salad

A couple of days later we moved to the Abel Tasman National Park which is near to the city of Nelson and about two and a half hours drive away.

Takaka Hill

When we discussed riding from Motueka to Takaka with the owners of the accommodation where we were staying, they warned us there was a big hill on the way so we weren’t surprised when the road started going up. The name of the road on the map, ‘Takaka Hill Highway’, also gave us a clue. However, neither made us suspect it was something that would require a lot of effort.

Takaka Hill Map

However, half an hour later when were we still climbing we started to wonder when it would end. We eventually found the answer – at 791m altitude.

Takaka Hill

Takaka Hill (2)

The view from the top down towards Takaka felt Alpine in scale as did the swooping descent.

Takaka Hill (3)

We stopped in Takaka, which is about 25km from the bottom of the climb, to have a coffee and a bite to eat. Takaka is a nice little town with a very relaxed feel to it… perhaps a little too relaxed in the coffee shop we were in; having said that, we were not in too much of a hurry to commence the return trip over the climb in the mid-day sun.

Takaka Cafe

We both tried hard coming back over the climb but the heat (30 degrees in the sun) make it even harder. Poor pacing meant I rode the second half at about 20-30 Watts lower than the first half. It hurt!

Takaka Hill (4)

Motueka to Takaka over Takaka Hill and back is about 100km and the climb back from Takaka, which is probably the harder side, is 670m of ascent over 10km (from Upper Takaka). The total ascent going there and back again is about 1,600m. It is a main road so there is some traffic but it was not a problem even though we were riding over the hill on a public holiday weekend.

Motueka Valley

Our final ride around the Nelson area was completely different being relatively flat. It was up the beautiful Motueka River Valley and provided a welcome contrast to the leg mashing we had been given on the ride to Takaka.

Motueka River Road

Motueka River Road (2)

The main road, the Motueka Valley Highway, runs up the east side of the river.

Motueka Valley Map

It was not clear from our map whether the road we wanted to take, Motueka River West Bank, was sealed the whole way. It turned out that it was and it provided a quiet and wonderfully scenic ride for about 30km to Baton Bridge (which is just before Woodstock on the map above).

Baton Bridge

Here we crossed the river and followed the main road (which was also quite quiet) a few hundred metres to Woodstock.


I was a bit disappointed that Woodstock seemed to consist of just this sign and a house but I am not sure what I was expecting… a hippy commune maybe? (Actually there was probably one of those in Takaka.)

From Woodstock we did a loop up Dovedale Road and over the Neudorf Saddle (both these roads were sealed) to get back to Motueka and a welcome café stop.

Motueka Cafe

We had a final 200m climb over the hill towards Marahau to reach our accommodation which was a nice way to finish the ride (and our legs).

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