Hurunui Heartland Cycle Ride

Hurunui Heartland Cycle Ride

Kaikoura - Christchurch

260 Km - 3-5 days

Linking Kaikoura and Canterbury, this route follows an historic inland road from the Pacific Coast through mountain ranges to reach the farmed plains north of Christchurch.
A quieter, safer alternative to State Highway 1, the Hurunui Trail traverses a diverse range of landscapes – from the rocky Pacific Coast through mountain ranges, tussock lands, pastoral farms and wine country. Along the way are a range of historic sites and other rural attractions including inland Canterbury towns and Waipara wine country.

This Heartland Ride provides a link to the St James Cycle Trail Great Ride, along with the adjacent Molesworth Muster and Rainbow Trail Heartland Rides.

Need a place to stay, check out our list of accommodation providers here Hurunui Heartland Accommodation Options 2021

This route can be ridden in either direction, but we describe it here from north to south, starting in Kaikoura township.

Note that an extension of this trail through to Christchurch is under development, with the trail expected to reach Kaiapoi by September 2019, and Christchurch CBD by late 2020.

Check out the latest gpx files here.


Kaikoura—Mt Lyford Village

61km, 4–5 hours

The ride starts by crossing the Kowhai River via a ford and on to State Highway 70 – also known as the Inland Kaikoura Road.

Entering rolling hill country, the route soon crosses from the Kaikoura District to the Hurunui, climbing several inclines and passing over the Conway River and the historic Doone Station and gravesite.

The landforms around here still show the effects of the massive November 2016 earthquake, with the road crossing faultlines and scars.

From the high point at the Whalesback it is downhill to Mt Lyford Village where the lodge will be a welcome sight.

Mt Lyford Village—Waiau

22km, 1 hour

From the village, it’s a downhill run to the farming town of Waiau, the village most damaged by the 2016 eathquake and famous for its country hotel and ice creams.


30km, 2 hours

After crossing the Waiau River, the route turns towards the Kaiwara Hills, with some rolling gravel roads before crossing the Amuri Basin to Culverden.

Hanmer Springs is a 36km side trip up SH7/7a. A popular visitor resort for its hot springs, cafes and mountain biking, it is also the gateway to the St James, Rainbow and Molesworth Muster trails.

Culverden—Hurunui Bridge

26km, 1.5 hours

This largely flat, sealed section leaves Culverden in a westward direction to follow the edge of the Amuri Basin out to Balmoral Station. It then heads back to the Hurunui Bridge, on the south side of which is an historic hotel.

Hurunui Bridge—Waikari turnoff

20km, 1 hour

Another flat, sealed road section, this starts on SH7 for 3km before heading off on quiet rural roads through Hawarden and on towards Waikari.

Waikari turnoff—Amberley

45km, 3–4 hours

The route turns to the west at Pyramid Valley Road, famous for its limestone outcrops and winery. The route heads over the hill country of the Waipara Gorge, with 19.5km of gravel riding including several climbs. Care is required due to rural traffic, sheep, tractors, milk tankers among it.

Having returned to the sealed road, it’s a picturesque descent to the vineyards of the Waipara wine region, and on to the busy rural town of Amberley.

The Heartland Ride ends here, although plans are underway to extend it through to Christchurch by the end of 2020. In the meantime, riders may continue via public transport or a road riding route of their own choice.

Another flat, sealed road section, this starts on SH7 for 3km before heading off on quiet rural roads through Hawarden and on towards Waikari.

Amberley – Kaiapoi

38km, 2–3 hours

After refuelling in Amberley (check out Little Vintage Espresso), head out of town on the gravel path beside the highway before branching inland on Grays Road. Assuming the weather is fine, follow signs to a dry ford of Kowai Stream (after high levels of rain riders may have to take the wet-weather route). Either way, the route links into the Ashley gravel path, crosses the Ashley/Rahakuri River and then follows the signed bike path to reach the Waimakariri hub-town of Rangiora. Here, there’s a range of cafes, restaurants and supermarkets to choose from.

Heading south from Rangiora township, look for the Passchendaele Memorial Path. Opened in 2021, this lovely shared path leads past farmland to Kaiapoi. Upon reaching the Kaiapoi River at the edge of town, the route crosses a small footbridge to Raven Quay and then heads to the centre of town.

Kaiapoi – Christchurch

21km, 1–2 hours

Leaving the quiet river town of Kaiapoi on Peraki and Vickery Streets, look for the shared path beside Main North Road. At Tram Road, safely cross the mighty Waimakariri River via the new bridge path, and then follow the long, smooth shared path that goes all the way to Christchurch. On the edge of the city, the path turns into Rutland Reserve, and then heads down Rutland Street and other streets all the way to Colombo Street, which takes cyclists right into the centre of Ōtautahi Christchurch.

This revitalised city is the South Island’s largest and is a wonderful place to explore on two wheels – navigate your way round with the Christchurch City Council’s cycling maps.


Trail Map

No cellphone coverage on the Inland Kaikoura road between Mt Lyford and the Kaikoura coast, also in the Waipara Gorge.