11 min read

The best motorcycle rides in New Zealand

Whether you’ve done a fair bit of riding around the country or are just starting out as a rider, here are ten of the best trips to experience as a motorbike rider in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
By · March 22, 2024
The best motorcycle rides in New Zealand

It’s not hard to find a great route for a motorcycle ride in New Zealand. Our country is known for lush scenery and endless kilometres of coastlines, and it has everything from dry plains to native rainforests to experience on your motorcycle trip.

Whether you’ve done a fair bit of riding around the country or are just starting out as a rider, here are ten of the best trips to experience as a motorbike rider in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

What to know about riding a motorcycle in New Zealand

If you’re new to motorbike trips in New Zealand, you should know a few things before you set out on your trip.

Driving on the Left

The most obvious difference between riding in New Zealand and riding overseas is that New Zealand drives on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re from a country that drives on the right, this may take some getting used to.

Weather Variability

New Zealand's weather can be unpredictable, even within the same day. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions, including rain, wind, and fog. Make sure you dress in layers and always carry waterproof gear. This will help protect you from the elements and ensure you have a more enjoyable trip.

Road Conditions

While many of our roads are in great condition and are well-maintained, some rural or remote roads may have gravel patches, potholes, or narrow sections. As you get off the beaten track, don’t be afraid to take it slow. Exercise caution, especially on winding roads and mountain passes.

Safety Gear

New Zealand has strict helmet laws, so make sure you're wearing a helmet at all times. It's also a good idea to wear appropriate protective gear such as a leather jacket, protective pants, motorcycle gloves, and proper boots.

Driving Distances

New Zealand might look small but our country can be deceiving. Windy roads and varying speed limits may make your trip a lot longer. Plan your routes using Google maps and allow for extra travel time on long days.

Licensing and Warrant of Fitness

Before going on a motorcycle adventure you’ll need to have a motorbike license and that your bike passes the Warrant of Fitness. It’s also a good idea to have vehicle insurance so that if anything goes wrong, you and your bike are covered.

Cell Phone Coverage

While cell phone coverage is generally good in populated areas and small towns, it may be limited or patchy in remote regions. Consider carrying a physical map or GPS device as a backup.

Single Lane Carriageways

Once you get off the motorways, New Zealand’s roads are largely made up of single-lane carriageways. This increases the chance of a head-on collision as there is no barrier between oncoming traffic. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings while riding, and don’t ride when you’re fatigued.

Ten of the best motorcycle trips in New Zealand

The best thing about owning a motorcycle in New Zealand is that you don’t need to plan ultra-long trips. We’ve rounded up a selection of trips from one hour to half a day that are totally doable on a day off or a long weekend.

The Coromandel Loop - 3 hours 10 min

If you’re a big fan of coastal views, small towns and lots of stops at beautiful beachers, then the Coromandel loop is for you. This 3-hour ten-minute ride covers 185km of the Coromandel, most of it coastal. And when you’re not riding along the pristine waters of the coast, you’ll be delving into the lush forests of the Coromandel Forest Park.

Start from the small town of Thames and head north or east as you journey around beautiful bays and lush forests, small towns and plenty of places to stop for lunch.

What to Expect

This can be a challenging ride for inexperienced riders. The roads are windy around the Coromandel with many one-land sections that will take you close to the water’s edge.

This is a busy area during peak times of the year. You’ll find lots of traffic in the Coromandel over long weekends or late December and early January. Try completing this journey during the week or outside of public holidays.


The Forgotten World Highway - 2 hr 45 minute

The Forgotten World Highway will take you from the small north island town of Stratford to the equally small town of Taumarunui via State Highway 43. If you enjoy exploring the cultural aspects of New Zealand, this trip is for you. You’ll ride through Whanganui Natioal Park and the Tongariro World Heritage area on the other.

The hub for learning more about local iwi is Whangamomona. This small town considers itself a ‘republic.’ You can even get a stamp on your passport as you drive through. Learn about the Bridge to Somewhere.

What to Expect

This area of New Zealand is very remote. State Highway 43 contains New Zealand’s only stretch of unsealed highway. Take care while riding on these winding gravel roads.

Cellphone reception is also very patchy and the area is known for a lack of services. It's a good idea to fill up the supplies before you set off.

The ride is worth it, though. You’ll enjoy views of Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu on either side of the road in the distance. You’ll also ride through single land, hand dug tunnels, constructed almost a hundred years ago along the route.


Takaka Hill - 56 minutes

It’s not the length of the ride that matters but the quality of the trip. The Takaka Hill ride is a 56-minute trip from Takaka, in Golden Bay, to Riwaka in Tasman Bay. During the ride, you’ll climb over 900 metres up Takaka Hill and enjoy views over Abel Tasman National Park on one side and Kahurangi National Park on the other.

What to Expect

If unreal views are your thing, then this trip is a must-do. At the top of the hill, you’ll enjoy miles of uninterrupted scenery on both sides.

Be careful, though. In summer, the traffic is busy (Nelson and its surroundings are hotspots for families and tourists alike), and logging trucks frequent this route.


Arthur’s Pass - 3 hr 53 minutes

New Zealand’s South Island is blessed with the Southern Alps. The many passes found between the West and East Coast mean there’s no shortage of stunning mountain rides for riders to enjoy.

Methven to Punakaiki will take you from the East to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass. The roads have many tight twists and turns.

Climbing 900 metres, this trip will take you into the heart of the Southern Alps.

What to Expect

Riding from the East Coast (Methven) to the West (Punakaiki) allows you to climb rather than descend the tightest sections of the trip.

You’ll experience everything from stunning waterfalls to majestic snow-capped peaks, native forests and alpine rivers weaving their way through the landscape.


Lewis Pass - 3 hr 53 min

Looking for another alpine ride that will leave you breathless? This Lewis Pass ride will take you from Nelson to Hanmer Springs via Lewis Pass. Over 300km, you’ll pass by New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery, including high country stations, paddocks of sheep and views of the Canterbury plains.

You’ll also pass by Nelson Lakes National Pass, Richmond Hill Forest Park and Victoria Forrest Park, New Zealand’s largest forest park.

What to Expect

This is a relatively easy ride and great for less experienced riders or anyone who just wants to take it easy. You can start at either end. However, finishing your trip in Hanmer Springs will give you time to soak in the hot springs once you’re done.

Expect sweeping corners and winding country roads as you get deep into the trip.


Haast Pass - 1 hr 56 min

Looking for a day ride that will take you through winding roads and towering mountains? This Haast Pass ride will take you from Wanaka in Central Otago to Haast on the West Coast.

Pass by the alpine lakes of Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka beneath snow-capped mountains and the peaks of the Southern Alps. To the west, you’ll enjoy views of Mount Aspiring National Park.

What to Expect

This trip is considered one of the best in New Zealand for its stunning scenery. Make sure to dress warmly if you’re riding during autumn, and take care riding in Winter, as the roads can be slippery.


Lindis Pass - 56 mins

The final ‘Pass’ we recommend experiencing is Lindis pass. It’s short but a great ride especially if you live nearby and can get out on the road easily. Starting from Tarras, not far from Wanaka, you’ll drive the 79km to Omarama.

What to Expect

Although fairly easy, riders rate this route for its beautifully rolling hills, grasslands, and scenery, which are a bit like the Scottish highlands (but better). The roads are just windy enough for beginner riders to feel challenged and experienced riders to enjoy.


Lake Pukaki - 2 hr 4 min

The Central Otago and Canterbury regions of New Zealand have no shortage of beautiful rides for motorbike enthusiasts to enjoy. This Lake Pukaki ride starts in Omarama and will take you past the towns of Twizel and Lake Pukaki towards Fairlie, finishing in Geraldine.

Taking you over State Highway 8 and finishing over State Highway 79, you’ll enjoy diverse scenery from grass plains and farms to jewel-coloured lakes and hydropower dams. You can also stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd for some local history and an iconic photo.

What to Expect

This is an easy but stunning ride and well worth switching it up from riding along the coast if you often travel from Christchurch to Central Otago. Enjoy views of Mt Cook as you ride around Lake Pukaki.


Milford Road - 1 hr 20 min

Again, New Zealand’s South Island is punching well above its weight when it comes to stunning motorcycle routes. Riding from Te Anau Downs to Milford Sound will take you a little under an hour and a half, but you’ll feel like you are in another world.

Enjoy towering peaks, lush rainforests, cliffs, waterfalls and the ride through the Homer Tunnel. You’ll finish in Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area.

What to Expect

Although this is a short trip, you’ll want to extend your stay at the other end. Fiordland is beautiful, and its worth staying at least one night to experience kayaking or a cruise in the sound. Make sure you book ahead.

Always check the weather before taking this trip. The deep south is cold and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Make sure you wear appropriate gear as well.


The Devil’s Staircase - Kawarau Gorge Loop - 3 hr 28 min

This ride will take you from Kingston to Wanaka via the Devil’s Staircase with an added loop to take you through Kawarau Gorge. If leaving from Kingston, you’ll pass through the popular towns of Queenstown and Arrowtown before heading out to Cadrona and reaching Wanaka.

From here, you can continue down to Cromwell and pass through the Kawarau Gorge. Or complete it in the opposite direction and start in Wanaka and over the Crown Range first.

What to Expect

The Crown Range is 1121 metres above sea level and has many hairpin turns. Make sure you are prepared for cold weather and the possibility of slippery roads. Take extra care in Winter as these routes will be covered in snow and ice, and visibility can be poor.

The Devil’s Staircase is also an area to take care of while riding. Its a narrow, windy road with steep cliffs to one side and a rock wall that leaves not a lot of space for oncoming traffic.

This ride will take you past the beautiful Lake Wakatipu over the Crown Ranges and past the Kawarau Gorge - a stunning array of scenery to experience in just one ride.

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