Photography & Words: Jay French
Riders: Louise Ferguson, Emma Olofsson, and Conor Macfarlane
Situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Whakatipu, you'll find Queenstown, New Zealand's home of adventure, known around the world by mountain bikers, skiers, snowboarders, and adventure seekers alike. Queenstown, or Tāhuna as it's known in Māori, has long been the key destination in New Zealand for those looking to do something exciting. The township itself is more resort-like than small-town, with hotels restaurants, and bars in abundance. From five-star boutique to casual and cosy, there's something to appeal to everyone. Built around Queenstown Bay, on New Zealand's longest lake, the town is surrounded by impressive mountains such as the Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Walter Peak and Ben Lomond. There is natural beauty and awe-inspiring vistas everywhere you look.
The beauty of Queenstown not only lies within the landscape, but the abundance of opportunities it provides. It's the town where you can bungy jump, go jet-boating, skydive and luge in the morning, then cruise around the lake on the TSS Earnslaw, go to a vineyard and treat yourself to an exquisite meal in the evening. Go beyond these main attractions, and you'll find many hidden gems and the possibilities for adventure are endless.
In mountain biking circles, Queenstown is world-renowned. There's riding to suit every level and type of rider. Lakeside e-bike trails, to massive jump lines, lift-accessed downhill tracks to dirt jumps parks. If you like riding bikes, you'll like Queenstown. In recent years it's been the summer home for many pro-riders, Kiwi's and internationals, spending the Northern Hemisphere off-season living the dream every day, riding, training, and enjoying the vibrant nightlife. It's pretty hard to do the town justice with only a few days. There are so many iconic tracks and riding spots, you could stay busy for days without repeating a trail. Having an international airport set up to deal with bikes makes it super convenient to get to if you're not driving. Queenstown is also a great place to base yourself to travel further on from, with access to five of New Zealand's Great Rides, Cardrona right on the doorstep, and multi-day options headed into Central Otago, and Southland.
Coronet Peak and Arrowtown
Coronet Peak is the closest ski mountain to Queenstown, only 25mins away from the town centre, situated on the southern slopes of the 1,649-metre peak which shares its name. It gets amazing sunrises to the east towards the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell and is the starting place of some of Queenstown's most loved trails. The infamous 'Rude Rock' starts here. You can make your way down to 'Zoot track' or join 'Hot Rod' which takes riders to the valley floor, or during the summer months, you can ride the lift here and access the trails on the ski field itself, the XC, DH trails and the new Grade 4 Upper Rude Rock trails are a good time. With fast lifts that prioritise mountain bikers, you could link three absolute banger trails into one run and have yourself 1200m of descending. If your legs are feeling fresh enough, there is the option to get a shuttle back up to the Coronet Peak base building from the bottom of Hot Rod. Once you've worked up an appetite or found your thirst, head to Cargo at Gantleys. Originally built in 1865 for the gold rush, Cargo has been delightfully refreshed since then, with a superb outdoor area to enjoy a drink in, relax on a bean bag with a coffee, or sit around a picnic table for a meal with your crew. It's situated at the bottom of Coronet Peak road, so it would be kind of crazy not to visit.
From Coronet Peak you can also make your way to the more challenging 'Slip Saddle' trail, which heads straight down, giving you panoramic views of the Whakatipu Basin and The Remarkables. From here, you can connect with the freshly rebuilt 'Bush Creek' trail which will spit you out in Arrowtown. The perfect place to finish your ride. Arrowtown is a charming little ex-gold mining town, nestled beside the Arrow River only 20km from the centre of Queenstown. The main street takes you back in time, and the tree-lined avenues are stunning in Autumn. It's a lovely sunny haven in the late afternoon, sheltered from wind and catching the evening rays. There's no better spot to finish up your ride than The Fork and Tap, sporting nearly 20 beer taps of local and imported beers, satisfying post-ride food choices, ample bike parking and many spots where you can sit and relax inside or outside, to share tales and relive your ride. Coronet Peak Ski & Mountain Bike Park mountain biking trails
Queenstown Bike Park, Wynyard and 7-Mile.
Queenstown Bike Park is the most popular of all the options on offer, a staple of the local scene. From what started as a network of pirate trails created by some visionaries way back, the park has exploded in popularity in recent years, with over 30 trails totalling over 30kms of track. There is all matter of tracks here, for all types of riders. If you're new, Hammy's has you covered. Classic trails like 'Vertigo' have had a bit of a freshen up and run sweet, but if you're here to send, then trails like 'Huck Yeah' and 'Original' will satisfy your desires. There is all matter of trails in between too. Flow trails, downhill trails, tech, rocks, roots, you name it, you'll find it in the Queenstown Bike Park. Affectionately known as "gondy" to locals, you'll be able to lap until you can't hang on any more thanks to the enclosed Skyline gondolas taking care of the ascending for you. If going bigger is something you're capable of, then you can head to Wynyard to ride 'Dream Track' or progress your way up at 'Mini-Dream'. When it's time to recharge the batteries, visit Bespoke Kitchen just down the road from the Skyline Gondola. Great coffee, a fantastic range of fresh and unprocessed cabinet food, casual seating and one of the best smoothie bowls out there, a personal favourite. Hang your bike out front and cruise on in.
If you're looking to get some pedal laps in, make your way towards Glenorchy, along the lakeside to the 7 Mile riding area. Beautiful views make this pedal or drive pleasant, and it's only a few minutes from town. Once you get there, park at the lakefront and get on your bike to play amongst the rabbit warren of trails on offer here. The 'What's Up' climbing trail takes the sting out of the ascent and makes lapping easy. Once there, you can hit the progressive jump trail Kachoong, or play in the North-Shore inspired 'Buckland' named after builder Glen Buckland which is a real labour of love, and a lot of craft. After lapping here, jump in the lake to cool off, and then a trip to Atlas is a must. A quirky, cosy and integral part of the Queenstown scene, Atlas is a wonderful little pub. You'll find Kelly McGarry's bike hanging from the roof above the huge range of beers they have on tap, and outside you can have your pick of tables - there's a 99% chance you'll bump into someone you know.
Evening plans are taken care of south of town as well. Park up and pedal along to 'Phoenix' which is an awesome little loop from the Wilsons Bay parking area, it quickly gives you a taste of everything and drops you back at your car. You can chill out on the lakefront, have a swim and watch the sunset, go and session 'McNearly Gnarly' a couple of times or head into town for some dinner. The World Bar is another local favourite. Friendly staff, heaps of tables, great feeds and it turns into a bit of a nightspot later in the evening.Queenstown Bike Park mountain biking trails
There's a reason why so many people want to come to Queenstown, and a reason why so many end up staying. The vibe is great, the riding is second to none, and the work being put in on maintaining trails, developing new areas, and building fresh trails keeps the riding fun and engaging. A few key locals and groups are investing in the area, and there's the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club (QMTBC), which has been around since 2003. It's thanks to them that Queenstown has a lot of the riding that it does. The passionate group of volunteers, and what they call "GSD-ers" have been instrumental in the development of so many of the popular trails and riding areas. Summer is a great time to visit Queenstown. Long days mean plenty of time for activities, temperatures between 20-30° which is perfect for après and cooling off in the lake. If you've been dreaming of a trip here, it won't let you down. If you haven't been back in a while, then what are you waiting for? Every time you ride here you remember how good these tracks really are. The riding is world class, the activities on offer are endless and the atmosphere is truly inviting.
Local KnowledgeGetting Here:
Queenstown is a resort town located in the South Island of New Zealand and is easily accessible with daily direct flights from all of New Zealand’s main centres. Queenstown Airport
is an international airport and acts as the gateway to the lower South Island. The airport is also located an easy 15-minute drive from downtown Queenstown. Queenstown is also very accessible from Australia’s East Coast with multiple airlines offering a 3-hour direct flight.
If you’re flying to Queenstown, you can check-in your bike
as luggage. Or if you prefer to travel light, you can rent a bike at one of our bike hire places
.The Climate & Wildlife:
Queenstown has four distinct and unique seasons making it a favourite year-round destination with each season offering a different experience. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, Queenstown’s alpine scenery and landscapes provide one of the best backdrops for your riding adventure.
, temperatures can reach 30°C and dusk doesn’t settle until 10pm, which means there’s tonnes of riding time, with a post-ride dip in the lake a must. ‘All-time fall time’ is a saying that rings very true in Queenstown during autumn
with hero dirt, perfect riding temperatures and beautiful low light. In winter
you’ll experience the stunning snow-capped mountains and a winter paradise for snow sport enthusiasts. A lot of Queenstown’s mountain bike trails sit in the trees, below the snowline, so there’s still some epic riding locations to send it during winter. When spring
breaks and the days get warmer and longer, you can literally ski in the morning and mountain bike in the afternoon. Need we say more?Local Mountain Biking Groups:
The Queenstown Mountain Bike Club
is the heart of Queenstown's MTB scene. The club's volunteers are a passionate bunch who build and maintain the trails that make Queenstown famous, and if you bump into a club member, they’re always happy to share some local tips or favourite trails with you.Top tip: Download the QMTBC app for all the latest trail updates and some sweet local deals. Plus, you'll be supporting the growth of the bike park and trails you love to ride, giving you that extra feel-good factor
.Bike Shop & Repairs:
Queenstown delivers an unbeatable biking experience with supporting amenities to truly make your trip memorable. There’s loads of local bike shops
around the town centre which offer bike retail and bike hire to suit all styles, abilities and budgets. Most of them also specialise in servicing, repairs or workshops and the friendly crew (who are all passionate riders themselves) can hook you up with shuttle transport options and local knowledge on tracks and conditions. Food & Drink
With over 150 bars
, there really is something for everyone. From gastro pubs to iconic burger joints or fine dining restaurants, you’ll be relishing the local flavours served up talented chefs. Post-dinner, we recommend experiencing Queenstown’s epic nightlife – the scene never fails to deliver.Bespoke Kitchen
is just a few paces down from the Skyline Gondola and starting from 7:30am, offers a varied menu that accommodates all tastes and preferences – ideal to fuel up before or after a few lift-assisted runs at Queenstown Bike Park
.Atlas Beer Cafe
: Legendary and local. Share a craft beer with Queenstown’s local riders who eventually migrate here after an epic day's riding. Cargo at Gantleys
: An absolute essential for any mountain bikers hitting Coronet Peak
. Beautiful beer gardens, dog and rider friendly. World Bar:
Upbeat, bright and fun - if you fancy a post-ride boogie, be sure to check out World Bar. Searchlight
: A true locals spot, located beside the legendary Gorge Road Jump Park
. Cute and astute independently owned brewery with over 18 beers on tap.
Spots like Fergburger
, Devil Burger and Taco Medic
serve tasty takeaway food, perfect to enjoy on the lakeside.Must-Dos:
When you’re not in the saddle, you’re in the home of adventure
with adventures of all tastes and tempos. There is no shortage of adventure activities for anyone looking to test their limits, from bungy jumping
, to river surfing
. You can also get the heart pumping and immerse yourself in Queenstown’s natural surrounds with outdoor adventures from mountaineering and climbing, hiking, rafting and kayaking. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, there’s plenty of recreational activities
trails to explore, scenic flights
options to help ease the muscles after your riding adventures.