Motorcycle Touring in the South Island, New Zealand. By Liz Hardy

Posted: March 13, 2016 in motorcycle touring
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


The South Island of New Zealand is like Middle Earth for motorcycling. It’s green, it’s lush, and you wouldn’t be surprised to see a hobbit or two on your travels.

Motorcycle touring here is a little different from what you may be used to.

New Zealand is about the same size as California, and you’re never more than 170 km from the sea. But it still surprises me that what looks like a fast, easy ride will actually take at least twice as long as you expect. And there are 4 very good reasons for that.

  1. The Roads

Riding in New Zealand involves everything from smooth three-lane city highways, to quiet country lanes, and rough gravel tracks.

But it’s not the road surfaces that you’ll notice. It’s the lack of straight lines. The twisties are everywhere you look.


There are roads that wind alongside deep blue rivers, lazy wide corners through chocolate-brown farmland, and hairpin bends cut right into mountains. Sometimes you meet a corner so long that time seems to stop: it’s just you and your purring machine leaning into an endless sunny curve.

And you might not see a car for 20 minutes at a time.

  1. The Scenery

Riding in New Zealand will leave you at a loss for words. It is so beautiful that it makes you feel stupid. You’ll pull over, take off your helmet and stand there, gaping at snow-capped mountains, fields of purple lavender, mini-waterfalls tumbling down cliff faces, and more shades of green than you’ve ever seen in your life.


The big challenge is to keep your eyes on the road instead of the scenery.

  1. The Weather

It’s near impossible to plan a riding itinerary here, because of the weather.

The sky can change colour in a matter of minutes.

Temperatures can suddenly soar or drop, as blazing sunshine quickly becomes a thunderous downpour. You’re riding through hot, dry fruit country and just as you’re thinking of pulling over to unzip your jacket lining, the sky opens up and threatens to drown you.


It helps if you carry wet weather gear, and be prepared to change your plans. If you’re suddenly soaked to the skin, find a motel and start again tomorrow.

  1. The People

In the South Island of New Zealand, bikers are not seen as axe murderers in training. Motorcycles are not a source of suspicion here. In fact, they’re the perfect ice-breaker.

When you’re out on the road, prepare to be bailed up by chatty strangers who want to talk about bikes.

Every time you stop for lunch or a coffee, add an extra half hour to your travelling time. At least. Because, look out: the locals have spotted you’re on a motorcycle.


P.S.  Liz Hardy is the editor and proprietor of the PILLIONESS website. Her site is geared to “Helping Women Love Motorcycling!”


  1. Sandy says:

    After reading your article Liz, now I have another place I want to ride!

  2. lauradorisdover says:

    Another country on my list – thank you for sharing.

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