Guest Post: Biking to the Boundary – Waimakariri River Regional Park, Pt.1

Guest blogger Robert has been exploring our northern recreational trails…

As New Zealand leaps forward in the provision of good infrastructure  for urban cycling, and adventure tourism cycle trails, increasingly it is easy and attractive to jump on a bike and go somewhere for transport, recreation and sightseeing.  Canterbury has no regional drought when it comes to the variety of options easily accessible. Whether it be a paved protected cycle route to get to work, Port Hills and Banks Peninsula roads for Lance Armstrong wannabes (without the drugs…), or tracks and parks in the foothill regions for adrenalin seekers, there is a huge bucket-list of places to go on two wheels.

This post is written for those starting their biking journey and wanting to push some boundaries in terms of places to visit, stamina and fitness, or expanding some skills on a bike. Perhaps you have begun recently by riding slowly to work along a major cycleway route, benefiting by increased fitness levels and now are asking  ‘what next’. Or perhaps you have heard of our amazing New Zealand Cycle Trail network, have viewed the beautiful pics and are thinking:

“Could I do one of those?”

“Are there local longer routes to practise on and enjoy that do not involve a lot of road sharing with vehicles?”

Yes and yes, there most certainly are. Heading the list would be the Little River Rail Trail. Locally, there are the options of riding along the Heathcote River, or the The Eastern Walkway and Cycle Network Avon-Otakaro  through the Red Zone to New Brighton. The route to Sumner on what eventually will be  a completed Coastal Pathway is also a great day out. Both Selwyn and Waimakariri Districts have built off-road cycle paths along the roads linking several of their towns that are flat and easy to ride along.

A good next step would be to go for a ride around the tracks at McLeans Forest and/or Bottle Lake Forest Park. These are great places to build up confidence in good handling skills without traffic to worry about.  For a wonderful day trip out, adding stamina to the scenery, follow the tracks between them through the Waimakariri Regional Park.

The ways to do this are:

  1. Travel to McLeans Forest by motor vehicle, park, check the route maps displayed and ride to Bottle Lake Forest and return.  This option will be about 76km – 5 to 6 hours of slow easy riding (including lunch stop)

  1. Check MetroInfo for bus options (with bike on rack). This enables you to pick and choose a bit. For instance, the 17 or 125 bus will get you close to McLeans Island Road, and the Orange Line or 80 bus will get you near to Bottle Lake Forest, enabling a full circle ride with bus at each end. Alternatively, by getting the Blue Line bus to drop you at Belfast or Kainga,  the route could be completed in two separate chunks of about a half-day each.
  1. If (like us) you enjoy riding a circuit from home and return, start in the early morning when the traffic at weekends is light along the cycle lane routes on Wairakei, Woolridge, and Harewood Roads to McLeans Island Road (via the Harewood Rd underpass). A wider shoulder along parts of McLeans Island Road, however, would be an improvement. Getting to Bottle Lake Forest Park is better, following the QEII Drive, Travis Road and Frosts Road off-road paths to Beach Road and Waimairi Beach. Head north from there.

For added fun and stamina building, complete a circuit or two of the bike tracks through each of the parks whilst you are there.

On our big day out it was interesting to see just how many recreational organisations there are based at McLeans Island. We also appreciated the big rural spaces with great vistas along the way and were amazed at just how much area of land there is between our urban environment and the Waimakariri  River. Something you just do not realise when speeding along the motorway north or west of Belfast.  And of course the pleasure of having lunch next to the cool, fast flowing river. An easy ride on the Coringa Loop at McLeans Forest Park got the heart rate up a just a little more.

Part two of the post will describe the section from Coutts Island Road to Waimairi Beach.  Our trip was cut short  this time near the motorway bridge by a flat tyre. Having a tool kit on board is of little use if the pump gets left back in the garage…  With some good map reading skills provided by a photo taken at the McLeans Forest information boards, and a bit of cross-country walking, we were on a Blue Line bus at Belfast heading home within the hour. Integrated transport at its best.

More information can be found at:


Have you visited the northern bike trails?


2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Biking to the Boundary – Waimakariri River Regional Park, Pt.1”

  1. Thanks for posting Robert! The Harewood underpass is great and I love the cycle path along Johns Rd. I think it is an enormous shame that the McLeans Island cycle track has not been completed all the way to McLeans Forest Park as this is such popular destination for cyclists. There is a section that is really busy with (heavy) motor traffic coming from/go to Pound Rd and and it would great if there would be an off the road cycle path so people feel safer biking to Mcleans Island Forest. The separated cycle path along McLeans Island does not get much love from the council. The path is overgrown by bushes which makes it hard to see oncoming cycle traffic. There are weeds on the path and lots of gravel near the air traffic viewing area and in the corner near Isaac Construction. I let the council know more than a month ago (and send them some pictures of the state of the path) but they do not seem to be interested in maintaining this path. I do not think I have a come across a cycle path that is in a worse shape than the McLeans Island path. There is no point in building new cycleways if there are no resources to maintain existing ones…

  2. I agree Cyclo, for such a great recreational area access to McLeans Forest Park is pretty dismal for biking unless 8.00am on a Sunday Morning. QEII Drive walking/cycling path needs a bit more love also .

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