With quiet roads, brilliant scenery and superb camping, New Zealand has long been on the cycle touring map and now looks set to become a major off-road cycle touring destination.

As a recession-busting project, the government has funded a series of 18 Great Rides, stand-alone, mostly off-road routes that comprise Nga Haerenga (wnzcycletrail.com). The rides (from a few hours to several days) should all be complete by early 2013 and boosters hope that they will emulate the successful Otago Central Rail Trail, providing superb riding while boosting the local economy. Eventually these may be linked together in an end-to-end network along the lines of Te Araroa.

Rent a bike locally and just tackle rides such as “From the Mountains to the Sea” in the north and “The Old Ghost Road” in the south, or come for a month or so and collect the set.

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