New Zealand is a wonderful place to ride a motorcycle. I just had a week and a half riding the south island and apart from some mixed weather it was some of the best riding I have ever experienced.

(Update – photos fixed 2018)

I flew to Christchurch to meet a mate who was joining me on this ride and wow that city is really in bad shape from the earthquake, I hope the can recover.
I booked a Suzuki Vstrom with City Motorcycle rentals Christchurch and we set off next day.PB140110
First of all went to the West Coast over Authur’s Pass and via Lake Brunner. Beautiful scenery and great roads despite overcast conditions.PB140115I have a new camera for this trip and my mate elected to use a new Go-Pro.PB140116After this I rode north to Westport along the coast. Sun warms a little, curves that never let up for 90km. Generous road speed limits and low to zero police patrols outside of major towns.
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I really liked riding the Northern part of the South Island. There is a network of roads servicing the rural areas that are all well surveyed and surfaced with next to no traffic.PB150136The Buller Gorge area was particularly good riding. The Lewis Pass also a lot of fun.
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Riding down the west coast is at times dramatic as you skirt the ocean then have the mountains rise up as you get closer to Franz Joseph. I have already done the helicopter to the top of the alps so just chilled in town while my mate experienced it.PB160158Look at those mountains, you could be in Europe, but this is much better, not crowded or difficult like I find Europe to be.
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The Alps recede as you once again skirt the ocean riding south. There is a almost tropical feel to the vegetation but only for a short time before you turn left and climb up into the high mountains. Riding over Mt Aspiring you can enjoy a series of sweepers that go on and on.PB160160Exiting the mountain to Lake Wanaka where you hug the cliff for some exciting twisty road riding.

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PB160192I know this sounds overused but the scenery is just amazing.

About now I had accustomed to the Vstrom and will try explain my thoughts on it from my riding experience. It feels large compared to a regular mid capacity naked bike however it is not difficult to ride. All day comfortable seating and very stable in the sweepers. Not as quick on change of direction, perhaps the 19 inch front wheel but just modest difference. I would have liked a little more passing power but only because I was following my mate who is quick rider.

I experienced very bad wind buffering despite adjusting the screen every way. I guess I did not personally find the bike a good match for me, the CBF600 I rode in Europe did everything better as a touring machine. The 19″ front wheel on this will be little better on gravel but riding up high on what is still a full weight road bike it’s not something I would ride too far off road. Anyway is it a good bike no doubt, it’s just me that doesn’t ‘get’ these 200+kg road bikes dressed as off roaders.
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From Wanaka I rode the spectacular Crown Range, perhaps the highest road I traversed this tour over to historic Arrowtown. I was a little disappointed with Arrowtown, they have this wonderfully preserved frontier look town yet the main street is chock o block full with new SUV’s and hire cars all blocking the shop frontages and spoiling any chance of photo’s. Why not make it pedestrian zone…
PB170205My mate at the zig zag road.PB170212He was thinking about the Yamaha Tenere so chose to rent one but already commented about the weight. As I said I don’t get ADV bikes, I mean 260kg to go off road, you must be joking? Perhaps because we both used to ride two stoke moto-x bikes that are 1/3 the weight it seems so odd. PB170218Saw some of the Jetboats the South island is known for.PB170227
Riding to Glenorchy via Authurs Point encountered a spot of rain. It looked rather heavy ahead so after some thought’s turned around and went past Queenstown and tried the road from Frankston down to Kingston which also looked wet but as my mate said ‘this is what we came here for’ so we rode on and it soon cleared.
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Riding across from Frankston to Lake Tepaco there is an amazingly landscape, from snow covered mountains and fiord like lakes the country changes as you traverse the superb Lindis range and on to an area with huge tree less grassy hills with lunar like canyons.
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Very strong cross winds on last few days, coming into lake Tepaco the wind would blow me across my lane which was no fun at all. The temperatures plunged so I had to don my thermal base layer but generally was comfortable despite the ice blast wind. The water in these glacier fed lakes has the most amazing blue tinge which you have to see to believe.
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Lastly, great riding roads are located quite close to Christchurch in the Akaroa area.
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The roads in NZ are great and have so few cars that they are a non event. Airfares from Australia are as low as $99AUS, fuel was between $2.15-2.20 a litre but the Vstrom was cheap to operate even at these rates.
Accommodation was pricey and I found Wi-Fi lacking but I’d get a sim card in future. Meals ranged between $20-$40NZ which is expensive but fast food is much less. I cannot think of anywhere you could go and ride so many fantastic roads with such amazing scenery so easy as New Zealand. I had a great time despite the poor selfie below SmilePB180287
Follow up – no video, my mate struggled to get anything decent from the Gopro, the device produces very poor quality in the overcast light. We also agreed the POV helmet footage was boring.

2018 notes – can’t believe I have not been back here. Despite being old photos because I used a camera there was something to work with now. But they were just jpegs from small sensor camera. Oddly I cannot recall the Olympus I had then so suspect I sold it again after the trip. This was before I realised I needed to learn post processing and was always changing cameras seeking better quality. Only now am I grasping how much post editing matters.

22 Comments

  1. Glad you enjoyed your stay here!

    • hi…I was planning to travel all around sth island…is it good ? here in Australia is very bad recently !!! the police are everywhere and is to serious today..,

  2. I was planning to do the north island in (this) december, but my finances took a hit and it wasn't to be. Now, I'm quietly hoping to do a tour of both north and south islands at the end of 2012.
    I'm also keen to upgrade to a Tiger 800 (which would be great to ship over there for the adventure), so we'll have to wait and see what happens.
    Thanks for the pictures and adventure report, though.

  3. Looks like you had a fantastic time over there. I would have loved to have riden around there on my recent holiday but had the family in tow.

    It's hard to take a bad photo with scenery such as that. Do you have any more pics.

  4. Thanks for the great story and pics.

  5. Got some video and more pics coming from my ride partner when time permits. The video will surprise I think how good the roads are!

  6. Breathtaking! I am saving up for a trip to New Zealand, and hope to be able to make it on a bike when I am there. WOW! More pics please.

  7. Glad you had such a great time. I have an almost identical photo of the drop down the Crown Range – must have used the same parking spot!

  8. More photos to come, and for first time some video from my mate as well, couple of weeks till I get those.

  9. Glad you enjoyed your time riding here, we really enjoyed meeting you. The best places to stay before heading off are in the Addington or Riccarton suburbs which haven't been affected by the quake.

  10. Thanks Andrea, I sure hope the city can recover, the cbd was so vibrant when I first visited it some years back and I was really sad all those places are now gone.

    But as for riding it really was as good as I have experienced anywhere. Europe has the history and culture which are a attraction in themselves but it also has very old surveyed roads full of switchbacks with lots of cars.

    I enjoyed the NZ alpine scenery with sweeping roads with low traffic very much and with the economical airfares and generous exchange rate it is a great destination for riders to think about.

  11. Wind buffeting seems to be the norm for the Vstrom. Which is why so many 1st, add a centre stand and 2nd, change the screen.

  12. Oh really? I didn't mind the bike, just thought I perhaps was not the right fit for it. If I had more time I would have experimented removing the screen and adjusted the suspension.

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  14. Thanks. Nice looking blog you have.

  15. Anonymous

    WOW awesome blog and some brilliant rides. Somewhere you have to get to is down Batlow and Tumut way, brilliant scenery. We just got back from a ride the other week, down through Gundagai up into Batlow, of apple fame, and then into Tumut. We stayed the night in Tumut at the Merivale motel and the staff were brilliant and they are soon to install a bike garage I hear…highly recommended. There is a road over the back to Canberra but it is dirt…but sometime down the track they are apparently going to tar it….cant wait. Keep up the good work!

  16. Hey there, I am trying to do another ride that way at the moment but it will not stop raining! I stayed in Tumut last time but cannot recall where, will keep that motel in mind if the weather clears.

  17. Anonymous

    Hi, great info and thanks, going over in November this year and will cover many of the roads you mentioned. I just sold a Strom and found it a great touring bike, but even better after adding the MRA vario touring screen. Standard screen sucks the buffeting is sooo bad! Don't know if I can bring myself to hire one with standard screen but the price per day is good! Will let you know how we go after we return, thanks again PS: how cold did it get in November, and what riding gear would you recommend?

  18. I took the gear listed here –
    https://motorcycleparadise.net.au/2011/11/new-zealand-motorcycle-tour-preview.html – Both Jacket and pants had thermal inner liners fitted so this is near to a full winter outfit however it should be noted NZ had a extra long winter in 2011 so check the temperatures in the lead up to your departure.

    I'd certainly give the Suzuki another go if I could solve the buffeting, was otherwise very easy to cover distance on. Perhaps just remove screen and put in panniers!

    • Hi IC, well we just got back, and you are right. Awesome roads and scenery, we ended up using Triumph Tigers and they were very comfortable and plenty of power. What a beautiful country and the roads are made for bikes. Can't wait to go back and do some more of the roads we didn't get to. Cheers Craig

  19. Hello!

    I'm writing to you in hope you or one of your contacts could help me. I don't normally do anything like this, but I am doing it in hope to surprise a guy I like, who currently resides in Auckland. Let me explain. He had a beautiful motorbike with decent engine power up until 6 months ago, because he sold it before his move abroad. His move abroad did not work out. He is back in Auckland (Pakuranga) and currently a full time student (undergrad Law and Masters- busy man!). He cannot afford a motorbike as he is struggling to find a job. It is his birthday coming up in June 2nd. I would like to ask if it is possible you or someone in Auckland area could lend him a motorbike for an hour or so on June 2nd or any day before? It does not matter which day. I could pay a little for your time (unfortunately not much as I'm saving up to move to NZ). I know he daydreams of riding a motorbike, to take in the scenery, feel the wind and the engine vibrating. He misses that. He is the kindest person I know who had a tough time lately, and deserves a motorbike ride to forget his troubles for a short while. I want to put a smile on his face. Could you or someone make this happen? If yes, please email me: gabbiehall93@gmail.com. Thank you for your time reading this.

    • Hi Gabrielle,

      You can easy rent motorcycles in Auckland at a few places. Why not surprise him on his birthday with a voucher for one day rental. I am sure he will love it and you for the wonderful gift 🙂

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