Tour New Zealand on two wheels

2012-08-13 12:30

Most of us have undertaken a tour of some sort on a motorcycle whethera couple of days with mates somewhere for the weekend, or a couple of weeks around the country. 

For motorcyclists, more often than not, it’s the journey that is more interesting than the destination. How many riders, though, have shipped bikes to a pre-determined destination, ridden for a few weeks and then shipped them back home again? One or two, I’m sure, but an increasing number of motorcyclists are doing just that to experience motorcycling in New Zealand or taking the easier option and renting a motorcycle on arrival in “The Land of the Long White Cloud” to commence their touring experience.


For many, New Zealand is the land of sheep and the mighty All Blacks rugby team, but for those in the know it also represents motorcycling Nirvana. Though roughly the same size as the US state of Colorado or just under one-quarter the area of South Africa – the island state is big enough to see plenty of varying terrain and small enough not to have daunting distances.  

North and South islands are of similar size and there are regular inter-island ferry services (similar in size to the English Channel ferries) traversing the three-hour journey across the Cook Strait. Visiting motorcyclists are always pleasantly surprised by how readily Kiwi motorcyclists return a wave or acknowledgement.

If you've ever considered motorcycling in New Zealand, you'll be in for a treat. The North Island has volcanic activity and great beaches with many awe-inspiring coastal roads; South Island has majestic mountains, sweeping forests, relatively uncongested roads and wide open spaces.  

If one is pushed for time, two weeks spent motorcycling can adequately cover the major points of interest throughout the country. the southern summer is the main touring season but in February both islands are jam-packed with touring motorcyclists.  

Highways are classified by a State Highway (SH) numbering system and virtually all are tar-sealed. Whilst there are thousands of kilometres of gravel roads in the rural parts, nearly all arterial roads are tarred though, in the more remote areas, motorcyclists do have to pay attention to the locality of fuel stations. 


Two recognised must-ride routes within the motorcycling community for the North Island, both starting from Auckland, are: the 1000km Northland three-day loop and the four-day 1200km Round East Cape Run. The 150km volcanic plateau day-ride loop passing the three central North Island volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu is also a whisker behind.   

For the South Island, the must-rides are the world-class 120km SH94 – the Milford Sound Road – which is hard to beat with majestic mountains and alpine scenery, along with SH6 which goes the length of  South Island and includes the remote Westland coastal forests and accessible glaciers.  

One thing you cannot escape is the rain and even if you’re planning to ride in the height of summer, expect to encounter rain at some point on your motorcycle vacation.

New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where Suzuki is regularly the annual top-selling motorcycle brand, with Honda second. Each has outlets in nearly all provincial centres should any problems be encountered. Like any tour, failing to plan is planning to fail, although New Zealand is an easy country in which to “wing it” and tour on a day-to-day basis. 

There's never been a better time to motorcycle tour the home of the Rugby World Cup champions!