Riding the Queenstown Trail

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By Kim Mackay-Wallace

9 minute read

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The Queenstown Trail

Queenstown’s premier biking and walking trail network, The Queenstown Trail, covers 130km of stunning off-road tracks. Part of the network of 22 Great Rides of New Zealand, The Queenstown Trail is the most popular cycling route in the country. Weaving its way around the shores of Lake Wakatipu, through the quaint historic town of Arrowtown, alongside crystal clear rivers, and through the heart of the Gibbston Valley wine region, the Queenstown Trail takes riders on a journey through the most beautiful parts of the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago region. Whether you’re just after a short ride, a full-day activity, or even a multi-day adventure, the Queenstown Trail has something to suit everyone.

We have put together some information on our favourite sections of the Queenstown Trail along with itinerary ideas for short rides, half-day and full-day rides, and multi-day trips below.

Keen to ride a section of the Queenstown Trail as part of your New Zealand adventure? Our small-group active adventure tours include a variety of activities including day walks, overnight hikes, kayaking trips and bike rides. Check out our Kiwi Classic, Masterpiece and Pure South Tours which all include a ride along the Arrow River Bridges Trail.

Short Rides on the Queenstown Trail (1-3 hours)

The 130km Queenstown Trail can be broken down into 9 shorter sections, each of which can be ridden as a stand-alone short ride, or combined with other segments to form half-day, full-day and multi-day rides. Each section of the trail is categorised by its difficulty, allowing riders to choose sections of the trail that are appropriate for their abilities and their desired level of activity and adventure.

1. Frankton Track | 1-1.5hrs easy | 8km one-way

If you’re staying in Queenstown and looking for a nice short, easy ride, the Frankton Track is your best option. Starting right in the heart of town, the Frankton Track winds its way through the beautiful Queenstown Gardens before following the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Frankton Beach. Pack a picnic to eat on the beach, or stop in at the Boatshed Café and take in the views of the Remarkables as you sip on a delicious coffee. This section of track is wide and very well-groomed, and is suitable for anyone comfortable on a bicycle. From Frankton you have the option to turn around and ride back into town, continue on and connect with one of the other sections of Queenstown Trail, or take transport back to town. Better by Bike and Around the Basin both provide bike rentals in Queenstown, and offer shuttles to different points along the Trail.

Queenstown Earnslaw

 2. Kelvin Heights Sculpture Trail | 0.5-1hr easy | 3.5km loop

Whether you’re travelling with kids, haven’t ridden a bike in a long time, or just looking for a very small snippet of Trail to explore, the Kelvin Heights Sculpture Trail is a stunningly scenic short loop. Circumnavigating the Kelvin Heights Golf Course at the tip of the peninsula, this Trail is dotted with impressive art pieces and overlooks Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables.

 3. Kelvin Peninsula Trail | 2-2.5hrs easy| 15km return (to/from Frankton)

 The Kelvin Peninsula Trail starts at Frankton, follows the lakefront along the northern edge of the Kelvin Peninsula, before joining onto the Kevin Heights Sculpture Trail. The trail travels past lots of beautiful secluded beaches, which are a popular summer swimming and boating spot with the locals. This is a nice extension to the Sculpture Trail and can be ridden as a return loop from Frankton. The trail can be started either from the Frankton Marina or Beach, or from the Kawarau Falls Bridge. Bikes can be hired from The Hilton (next to the Bridge), making that an ideal start and finish location for this ride.

Jacks Point Kelvin Peninsula Queenstown Trail2

 4. Arrow River Bridges Trail | 2-3 hrs easy | 14km one-way

Starting in the quaint historic town of Arrowtown and following peaceful riverside trails out to the famous Kawarau Bungy Bridge (the first ever commercial bungy operation in the world, and the official ‘home of bungy jumping’) the Arrow River Bridges Trail is our favourite shorter bike ride on the Queenstown Trail. The track is nice and wide and even, has just enough undulation to get the heart pumping every now and then, but is overall downhill if you ride in the direction of Arrowtown to the bungy bridge. It crosses two impressive suspension bridges, soaring high above the Arrow River beneath, and affords spectacular views of The Remarkables after emerging from the forest. Bikes can be hired from Arrowtown Bikes, who will also pick you up from the other end if you wish to just ride one-way. Alternatively, you may wish to ride back to Arrowtown, or continue to Gibbston Valley for a touch of wine tasting.

 5. Gibbston River Wine Trail | 1-2hrs easy | 9km one-way

 This one is for the wine lovers. The Gibbston River Wine Trail meanders its way through the vineyards of the Gibbston Valley wine region, leading cyclists between the area’s most famous wineries. While the ride itself doesn’t take too long, you’ll likely want to allow plenty of time to stop at the wineries’ cellar doors to sample the award-winning wines. Gibbston Valley Winery also produces delicious cheeses that pair beautifully with a nice glass of wine, and Kinross Cottages is our favourite place to stop for a bite of lunch. Several local operators offer transport and bike hire in the Gibbston Valley, and will deliver you back to town after a pleasant afternoon cycling through the vines. Bikes can be hired from Gibbstown Valley Winery, who also provide transport to and from Queenstown.

 6. Lake Hayes Trail | 1-1.5hrs intermediate | 8km loop

 For those looking for something slightly more adventurous, but not too difficult or long, the Lake Hayes Trail is ideal. The trail loops around the beautiful Lake Hayes and while still a non-technical and high quality trail, it is a bit more rocky and uneven than the tracks described above, and is narrower in places. The panoramic mountain vistas make a great backdrop to this ride, and on calm days are often reflected in the glassy waters of the lake. The reserve at the northern end of the lake is the perfect place to stop for a picnic, or for a dip in the lake to cool down on a hot summer’s day. The Lake Hayes Trail is a loop, and is easily accessed by car or bus, or can be ridden to from either Queenstown or Arrowtown.

Lake Hayes Queenstown Trail

 7. Countryside Trail | 2-3hrs intermediate | 13km each way

 If you’re in Queenstown in the Autumn, this is the trail to pick if you want to experience the best of the Autumn colours. Starting in Arrowtown, the trail makes its way to Millbrook Resort – a world renowned golf course that is beautiful to cycle through. In Autumn, the tree-lined streets of Arrowtown and Millbrook are an impressive spectacle and you’ll find yourself wanting to stop frequently to take photos of the beautiful colourful display. The trail then leads you past Lake Hayes (a great opportunity to add the Lake Hayes Trail into your day’s itinerary for a longer ride) before emerging at the glacial-blue Shotover River. From here you can continue on the trail into Queenstown, ride back to Arrowtown, or arrange transport back to Arrowtown.

 8. Twin Rivers Trail | 2-3hrs intermediate| 18km one-way

Enjoy the best of Queenstown’s picturesque river vistas with a ride along the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers. Starting from the Kawarau Falls Bridge in Frankton, the Twin Rivers Trail follows the Kawarau River to the Shotover Delta, the confluence where the Shotover River meets the Kawarau. It then meanders alongside the Shotover River to the Old Lower Shotover Bridge, an impressive historic wooden bridge that is now reserved for pedestrians and cyclists only. Re-joining the Kawarau River on the opposite side of the Delta, the trail weaves up and down over a series of small hills, affording great views of the Kawarau River from above. 

9. Jack’s Point Trail | 2-3hrs advanced | 7km one-way

This is one for the more adventurous and experienced riders. The Jack’s Point Trail starts from Jardine Park on the Kelvin Peninsula and follows the lakefront to the Jack’s Point Clubhouse. Unlike the wide, even trails of other sections of the Queenstown Trail, the Jack’s Point Trail is a Grade 4 mountain biking track and is therefore suitable for advanced riders, or intermediate riders who are happy to get off and walk the trickier bits. The trail has some steep climbs and descents and is narrow, rocky and technical in some places. There are just enough technical sections interspersed between smooth gravel sections to keep you on your toes, but not so many that you can’t sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery around you. You will see far fewer people on this trail and feel like you have the whole place to yourself, so for those with the appropriate skills, this is a must-do ride in Queenstown.     

Longer rides (4+ hours)

One of the best way to experience the Queenstown Trail is by embarking on a half-day ride. This allows you to experience a good portion of the trail while still having have plenty of time to stop along the way, perhaps for a spot of shopping in Arrowtown, for some wine tasting in Gibbston Valley, or to get the adrenaline pumping with a bungy jump off the Kawarau Bridge. Or for cycling enthusiasts, spend a full day on the Trail and explore more of the spectacular scenery the area has to offer. 

Each of these longer rides is a combination of a couple of our favourite segments described above. Many of these are one-way, so you can either turn around and ride back again, or check out our information on how to get to and from the Trail in the FAQs below.

 1. Queenstown to Arrowtown | 4-6hrs easy to intermediate | 33km one-way

Combine the Frankton Trail, Twin Rivers Trail and Arrow River Bridges Trail for an epic day of exploring the Queenstown and Arrowtown area. Starting at the Queenstown Gardens in the centre of town, follow the Frankton Trail to Frankton Beach. After stopping for a coffee and perhaps a quick dip in the lake, continue from Frankton on the Twin Rivers Trail following the Shotover and Kawarau Rivers until you reach Morven Ferry Road near Arrow Junction. From here, a short journey along the Arrow River Bridges Trail will bring you to Arrowtown for a well-deserved cold beverage and bite to eat. The trails from Frankton to Arrowtown undulate over a few small hills making the grading intermediate, but the trail surface is smooth gravel the whole way and is suitable for all riders with a decent level of fitness.

Arrow River Bridges Queenstown Trail

 2. Queenstown to Kelvin Peninsula return | 4-5 hrs easy | 28km return

A great family friendly, easy option for a longer ride is to ride the Frankton Track and Kelvin Peninsula Tracks. Take the Frankton Track to the Kawarau Falls Bridge at the far end of Frankton Beach. The Kelvin Peninsula Trail starts on the other side of this bridge, and follows the Peninsula out and around the Kelvin Heights Sculpture Trail. Stopping at Jardine Park at the end of the Sculpture Trail would make for a pleasant 2-3 hour one-way ride option, although for a logistically simple day it is easier to return to Queenstown by bike. Ride back to Queenstown the way you came for a perfect half-day adventure.

 3. Arrowtown Loop | 5-6 hrs intermediate | 34km loop

For the best of the Queenstown area’s riverside trails and secluded countryside trails, the Arrowtown Loop is a wonderful half-day ride. Cruise along the Arrow River Bridges Trail to Morven Ferry Road, where you will pick up the Twin Rivers Trail and follow that to the Old Shotover Bridge. The Countryside Trail starts here and leads you back to Arrowtown, with panoramic views of the mountains along the way.

 4. Queenstown to Gibbston (6-8hrs easy to intermediate) | 40km one-way

This is the ultimate day out by bicycle in Queenstown. A ride along the Frankton, Twin Rivers, and Gibbston River Trails will take you past the most spectacular lake and river views in the area, past the iconic Bungy Bridge, and have you finish with some wine tasting at the famous Gibbston Valley Wineries. If you have one day to spend biking the area, this is the day trip to do! There are so many places to stop along the way you’ll hardly notice the day fly by.  

Riding the Entire Queenstown Trail

 Biking enthusiasts keen to take on the Queenstown Trail in its entirety can do so in a few days. Our recommended itinerary involves 4 days of riding, including plenty of time each day for site-seeing, sampling the local cuisine, and relaxing. The Trail can be ridden in as few a 2 days if you’re keen to do longer days with fewer stops. 

Day 1. Queenstown to Frankton via Kelvin Peninsula and Jacks Point | 6-9hrs easy to advanced| 38km

Ride the Frankton Trail to Frankton Beach, then follow the Kelvin Peninsula Trail to Jardine Park. From here a return trip to Jack’s Point is an exhilarating and rewarding optional add-on for advanced riders, before heading back to Frankton along the Peninsula Trail.

Day 2. Frankton to Arrowtown via Lake Hayes | 4-6hrs easy to intermediate | 37km

Leaving Lake Wakatipu behind, today you will follow the Twin Rivers, Countryside, and Lake Hayes Trails to Arrowtown. The side-trip to complete the loop around Lake Hayes is well worth doing, and is a great spot to stop for lunch

Arrowtown Queenstown Trail Bike

Day 3. Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley | 3-5hrs easy | 22km

Today you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to check out the various wineries in the Gibbston Valley. After setting off from Arrowtown, take the Arrow River Bridges Trail to Morven Ferry Road, where you will connect with the Gibbston River Wine Trail which leads you to vineyards of Gibbston Valley.

Day 4. Gibbston Valley to Queenstown | 6-8hrs easy to intermediate | 40km

The final day of your Queenstown Trail experience takes you back to the centre of Queenstown where your journey began. Reminisce on a pleasant few days spend on bikes as you ride back along the Gibbston River Wine Trail, Arrow River Bridges Trail, Twin Rivers Trail, and finally the Frankton Trail. Treat yourself to a meal at one of Queenstown’s many fine restaurants, and put your feet up and relax after an exciting ride of New Zealand’s favourite cycle trail.

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