Queenstown doesn't pull any punches when it comes to self-promotion, claiming to be "New Zealand's ultimate mountain biking and cycling destination".
Aotearoa's adventure capital has sure got the scenery. It's also got the trails, heaps of them, ranging from laidback and horizontal to hilly and hardcore.
Its marketing messaging leaves no doubt as to its renown. Queenstown's mountain bike trails are "world-famous", its cycling amenities "world-class", and the jump park "one of the most legendary on the planet".
These claims are echoed by Mark Williams, Chair of the Queenstown Trails Trust, who says the wider region has "drawn interest from all around the world as a plethora of world-class trails have been developed".
Williams says the benefits are spread wide. "We're getting some really good conservation outcomes around the trails, such as wilding pine control, predator management and native reforestation."
Decarbonising local transport is also a priority. "New trail builds are focused around integrating the network so that both locals and visitors can ride from home and leave the car behind.
"Queenstown is upping its game, and is set to become one of the world's premier bike destinations."
All great news for those of us who'll never make it to Whistler.
The lay of the land
The Wakatipu Basin is liberally sprinkled with sights and attractions. Happily, many can be reached on the Queenstown Trail network, 130km of relatively easy biking byways connecting Queenstown, Frankton, Arrowtown and Gibbston taking in eye-popping vistas along the way.
If you're handy on a mountain bike you're spoilt rotten. Queenstown MTB Park, Wynyard Jump Park and the Fernhill trails are all on the edge of town, with 7 Mile Scenic Reserve just half an hour's ride away. Then there's Moke Lake, Macetown, Coronet Peak, and Rude Rock which is "a downhill single-track masterpiece now famous the world over". And that's by no means all of it.
Getting your bearings
The Queenstown Trail website provides ample detail including suggested rides and interactive maps, and their printed map can be picked up around town. The Great Rides App is a good go-to, as always.
Queenstown MTB Club produces a printed map ($5) but their freely available app is best for current intel.
The whole shebang is well serviced by numerous companies offering ride advice, bike hire and shuttles.
A town tour
The Queenstown classic is the return to Frankton, a Wakatipu lakefront cruise backdropped by the Remarkables. Starting at the Queens Gardens, it follows a flat pathway to the Frankton marina area where the Boat Shed Cafe and Altitude brewery bar are both highly recommended.
Turn tail for a two-hour ride, or double down by following the lake edge to Kawarau Falls bridge and on to the Kelvin Peninsula Trail, which passes through salubrious surrounds to the Queenstown Golf Club where there's a welcoming cafe.
Extend the ride even further via Jack's Point Track, which gets gruntier as it goes. It ends at the fancypants Jack's Point golf clubhouse restaurant, open to the public. From Queenstown, the full, one-way ride is 27km taking 4–6 hours, with public bus or shuttle options for getting back to town.
The Arrow River Bridges Ride is a particularly glorious stretch of Queenstown Trail. An easy two-hour, 14km meander along the picturesque Arrow River, it crosses five bridges and diddles down country lanes, finishing at historic Kawarau Bridge where the original AJ Hackett bungy jump offers a chance to knock the big bounce off your bucket list.
An irresistible add-on is the Gibbston River Wine Trail, 9km of noodling pathway through the ruggedly handsome "Valley of the Vines" where there are numerous tasting rooms and cellar door restaurants. By the time you've made it this far you'll want to park up for a long alfresco lunch and wait for shuttle rescue.
No visit to Queenstown would be complete without a swoosh up the Skyline Gondola for epic views, the must-do luge, and perhaps a spot of lunch.
Happily, from September to May mountain bikers can hitch a gondola uplift to blast the "world-class downhill trails" of Queenstown Mountain Bike Park. Some of it's a bit gnarly, but I'll vouch for Hammy's and Thundergoat as totally awesome options for those with respectable singletrack skills.
Where to start? With a winery? Why not! Our pick is Kinross in Gibbston, which takes a collective approach by proffering drops from some of the region's best producers including Wild Irishman and Valli. With wine-tasting ticked off, head outside to the ravishingly rustic garden for compatible, convivial cuisine. There's room to let the kids roam free too.
Another notable lunch-stop is the venerable Gibbston Valley Winery, which has a more upmarket vibe, wine cave tours, and bike hire conveniently on-site.
For a post-ride pint in town, our pick is Atlas Beer Cafe for its sizeable selection of craft brews and decent burgers. There's bike parking outside and the bonus of Lake Wakatipu views.
Hair-raising history. Between the moa hunters and gold diggers, you've got enough drama to half-fill the new history curriculum. The motherlode is located at the Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown, a terrific treasure trove of local stories with plenty of hands-on stuff and a seriously good little bookshop. Check out the heritage-listed Chinese Settlement village along the banks of the Arrow River while you're at it.
Hazards and cautions
Be wary of people who tell you that Queenstown is over-rated, overpriced, or has generally jumped the shark. They're probably just jealous or have succumbed to disinformation disease having not actually visited in recent years. Or maybe ever.
Sure, pre-Covid, Queenstown was grappling with some pretty serious growing pains. But it hasn't earned its global reputation for nothing.
The good stuff's still there, including the local people who make this place tick. Take the chance to visit a world-famous adventure resort on home turf, happy in the knowledge that you're helping paddle the economic waka. Just be ready to jostle amongst backpacks and jandals rather than Louis Vuitton handbags and Jimmy Choos.
Bike town rating:
Destination Queenstown queenstownnz.co.nz Queenstown Trails queenstowntrail.org.nz Queenstown Mountain Bike Club queenstownmtb.co.nz Bennett & Slater thank Destination Queenstown for assistance. Check alert level restrictions, vaccine requirements and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz
Queenstown Trails queenstowntrail.org.nz
Queenstown Mountain Bike Club queenstownmtb.co.nz
Bennett & Slater thank Destination Queenstown for assistance.
Check alert level restrictions, vaccine requirements and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz