Sun, surf and cycling

There are lots of great places to cycle around Christchurch. But at this time of year, with beautiful sunny days and warm temperatures, I am particularly drawn to rides that take me to the beaches and rivers. There’s something special about the combination of clear blue skies, a coastal breeze, and the sparkle created by the sun reflecting on the surface of water.

The growing network of cycleways across the city has made it easier than ever to get to the beach (or river) by bike. One of the most enjoyable rides is cycling along the Ōtākaro Avon river to the sea through the old residential red zone. It’s a peaceful ride away from the traffic and will take you just a few blocks away from New Brighton Beach (where there’s good bike parking). Or you can continue around the estuary edge to Southshore or head north to one of the other beaches.

For a more direct (but less scenic) route to the coast, there are several options from northern Christchurch:

  • There’s a shared path all the way along Queen Elizabeth II Drive from Main North Road past Travis Wetland to Tairoa and Queen Elizabeth II Park. From there, it’s a short ride through the streets to Waimairi Beach (via Beach Road) or North Beach (via Rookwood Avenue and Bowhill Road). Or take the shared path on Anzac Drive to connect to the river trail and New Brighton.
  • From St Albans, on-road cycle lanes will take you from Cranford Street straight along Berwick Street, Warrington Street and Shirley Road to the edge of the old residential red zone on New Brighton Road. The streets are quieter from here but if you want to go off-road, you can connect to the river trail at Avondale Road and continue on to New Brighton.
  • Prestons Road will take you to Waimairi Beach or Spencer Park. Once you get to Burwood Road, you can cycle through Parklands (turn off at Rothesay Road) or take the gravel path around the edge of Bottle Lake Forest (there’s a cut-through by the entrance to the landfill). Turn right when you reach the sand dunes for Waimairi Beach. Or turn left and head further north along the mountain bike track to Spencer Park. For an on-road alternative, turn off Prestons Road at Te Korari Street and connect to Lower Styx Road for your ride through to Spencer Park.

I usually use a combination of Marine Parade and the Southern Pegasus Bay Track for cycling between the beaches. But this summer I’ve enjoyed riding on the beach itself. At low tide, there is a lovely stretch of compacted sand that is easy riding – all the way from Southshore to the Waimakariri River mouth.

You need to take care around other beachgoers – go early if you want to ride the whole beach, or just ride the quieter sections. If low tide is later in the day, I’d suggest accessing the beach from the mountain bike track north of Waimairi Beach and exiting at Spencer Park (after a detour up to the Waimakariri River Mouth). And remember to give your bike a good clean when you get home.

I’m not sure what the best cycle route is for accessing New Brighton and the northern beaches from the south side of the city, so others may wish to comment on that. (Dyers Road provides a direct route from the southern end of Linwood Avenue through to Bridge Street and on to South Brighton, and it does have a cycle lane. However, being a busy stretch of road with fast-moving traffic, including lots of trucks travelling to and from the port, it won’t suit everyone.)

But if you’re coming from the south, then Sumner beach is just as close and now more accessible to cyclists thanks to completion of Te Ara Ihutai Christchurch Coastal Pathway. If you’re happy on the road, you no longer need to contend with roadworks. And if you prefer a more leisurely ride, you can stay on the separate pathway from Ferrymead all the way to Sumner.

Two of the city’s major cycleways provide options for connecting to the coastal path at Ferrymead:

  • The Rapanui-Shag Rock Cycleway goes along Worcester Street from Fitzgerald Avenue and takes back streets to Linwood Park and then goes up Linwood Avenue. It makes a small detour through Charlesworth Reserve before reaching Ferrymead and connecting to the Coastal Pathway.
  • The Heathcote Expressway starts at the city end of Ferry Road and detours through quiet backstreets in Waltham and Woolston to the Heathcote River, from where you can connect to a track to Ferrymead (at Cumnor Terrace, go through Radley Park and turn right to get to Tunnel Road Reserve). Or, if you want to check out the new section of cycleway, carry on past the Tannery all the way to the end of the cycle trail at Martindales Road in the Heathcote Valley. From here you can cut through to Bridle Path Road and ride back to the Ferrymead Bridge.

For a more direct route to Ferrymead, there are cycle lanes on Linwood Avenue and Ferry Road. I personally prefer Linwood Avenue but Ferry Road (or the Heathcote Expressway) will be more convenient for those connecting from the southern suburbs.

Of course, you don’t need to confine yourself to the beaches around Christchurch city. Thanks to the Christchurch Northern Corridor and the wonderful cycle bridge over the Waimakariri River, you can bike to Kaiapoi and connect to the Waimakariri district’s eastern cycle trails. The trail on the northern stop bank of the Kaiapoi River will take you out to the Waimakariri River Mouth and the settlements at Kairaki and Pines Beach. (It has recently been improved so it is smooth shingle all the way and no longer requires hauling your bike over two styles.) From here, you can join the track through the Tūhaitara Coastal Park and access beaches at Woodend, Pegasus and Waikuku.

And then there are the rivers. The Christchurch Northern Corridor connects to tracks in the Waimakariri River Regional Park, and the Waimakariri district’s eastern trails will take you to the Kaiapoi and Rakahuri Ashley rivers. I’ve already mentioned the trail along the Ōtākaro Avon river (one of my favourites). And there are also opportunities for quiet scenic cycling along the Heathcote river corridor.

So many options. Enjoy the rest of summer and take care when cycling in the heat.

What are your favourite beaches and waterways to cycle to (or along)? What route do you take?

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