Whether you are a biking fan, a pinot lover, or both, you owe yourself a journey across the alpine wonders of the Gibbston River Wine Trail, writes Martina Grossi
Twenty-four kilometres east of Queenstown lies a winding cycling trail that's still, surprisingly, Central Otago's best-kept secret. It's snuggled on the sides of the Arrow and Kawarau Rivers and State Highway 6 - south of Arrowtown - and visitors get to ride over bridges, hills, and mountains, all while sipping on award-winning wines.
Suited for riders of all ages and skill levels, this is an outdoor experience for families and friends looking to add a bon-vivant twist to their Queenstown adventures.
Exploring the Gibbston River Wine Trail
A cycling trip across the valley can be planned as a full day, a 3/4 or a half-day outing. With three main starting points, the official half-day, 8.7 km trail kicks off at the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre and roams past nearly 10 wineries open for tastings, nibbles, and artisan cheese platters.
For a full-day adventure, spring into action at the Historic Arrowtown Chinese Settlement and reach Gibbston after a 23km ride. Otherwise, head to Arrow Junction and set off on a 3/4 day journey by the Arrow and the Kawarau rivers.
The Gibbston River Wine Trail is part of the Queenstown Trail. This stunning 130km off-road track is one of New Zealand's Great Rides and also includes the paths starting from Arrowtown.
Organising your trip
Apart from deciding the best alternative for your day trip, you also need to weigh in logistics.
Designed to work as a self-guided tour, you still have to map out drop-off and pick-up points. As this is not a loop, you won't finish where you started - which may not be that obvious after a few glasses of world-class pinot.
The easiest way to enjoy a breezy escapade is to book with a tour operator who will take care of drop-offs and pick-ups. They will also gear you up with bikes, e-bikes, and helmets, plus give you a brief with all the wineries and tips for the road.
Around the Basin offers a variety of packages and hire options to suit both holidaymakers and locals. Friendly and packed with expertise, the team will ensure you have a great time. The best part? They even pick up the wines you purchase along the way, just so you don't have to carry them on-the-go.
Touring the wineries
From the Tuscany vibes of Chard Farm to the cosiness of Gibbston Valley and the funky old-church charm of Cargo, all the wineries are gorgeous, inviting, and ready to spoil your senses.
The speciality of the region is pinot noir, but you will also find pinot gris, rieslings, and chardonnays.
Most of the cellars are open to the public for tastings from 10-11 am to 4 pm. Some offer lunch and tapas, on-site brewed beers, and even live music. If you are set on visiting a specific vineyard, call ahead in case you need to book.
What you can expect on the trail
The Gibbston River Wine Trail is graded as easy (grade 2) but, if you are starting around Arrowtown, you'll soon discover a few slightly challenging sections.
This is not because of any dangers on the trail, but because of its steady climbs. That said, it's easy enough for everyone to enjoy and yet, it's still fun for up and downhillers alike - keep in mind, you can always get an e-bike.
The cycling path is dedicated to bikers, so you don't have to fear or worry about cars.
How many wineries to visit
It can be easy to try and check out all the wineries in the area. However, riding takes time! You're likely find yourself stopping every few kilometres to snap a pic, grab a snack, and a quick - non-alcoholic - drink.
Considering most of the trail is not sheltered, if you are lucky to take the tour on a sunny day, you will be cycling under the blazing sun. So, before you tackle loads in a rush, prioritise self-care, more so when you'll be sipping along.
Realistically speaking, it's possible to visit five, max, wineries in a day. If you get tired or simply lose track of time, you can always call your tour operator and re-arrange your pick up point.
All cellar doors can also be visited by car, which is also a great option if you are not into biking or are short on time.
The Gibbston River Wine Trail is a superb experience for families, friends, and colleagues as it combines the thrill of an active adventure with the sweet "gulp" of the good life. Add Central Otago's magnificent sights, and you are in for an absolute treat.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com