Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail
In the space of 300 kilometres the A2O lowers cyclists almost 800 metres from an alpine village at the foot of the country’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/ Mt Cook, through mountain-girded tussock land, around turquoise glacial lakes, along a canal system and through the deep Waitaki River Valley with its hydro dams, lakes and paper-bag-brown sheep country.
The trail then glides alongside lush paddocks of bizarre geological phenomena, through a sweetly green and leafy valley, and delivers the cyclists to the harbour foreshore of Oamaru, one of the prettiest towns in New Zealand.
Officially opened in February 2013, the trail is still under development with 37 kilometres of cycling still on State Highway 83, first from Sailor’s Cutting on the edge of
Lake Benmore to Otematata and then from Aviemore Dam to Duntroon. The trail falls 780 metres over undulating ground with a few notable ups. The 350-metre vertical gain over 11 kilometres from Lake Ohau Lodge to Quailburn historic woolshed is the toughest part. And then there’s the Benmore Grunter – the short but steep stretch to the top of the Benmore Dam.
There is no fee for using the trail. Some individuals and groups bring their own bicycles and provisions and camp out under the night sky. Others engage any one of the dozen or so tour operators who are official A2O partners and offer everything from straight cycle hire to fully managed tours.