Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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An introduction to the South Island of New Zealand

With a population of only one million people and a land area approximately equal to that of England, you don’t have to travel far to get away from the crowds in the South Island NZ.

In fact, you would be hard pushed to actually find a crowd in much of the island.

It is no surprise that NZ is considered to be a motorcycling mecca.

The roads are amazingly quiet with very little traffic to compete with, particularly in the South Island.

They are generally very well maintained with a great variety of long straights, long sweeping corners, and more than its fair share of tight, twisty hairpins.

The scenery is simply stunning wherever you go. Choose from farm tracks, gravel roads, the beach or tar seal, whatever your preference.

Don’t let the weather bother you too much either. Although some areas can get heavy snowfalls and frost in winter, it is generally very temperate and you can ride all year round without risk of your fingers dropping off with frostbite.

NZ is a very motorbike friendly country too. I grew up in the UK in the 70’s where motorcyclists were treated as second class citizens, often being denied entry to venues simply due to having arrived on a motorbike.

Not so in NZ where everyone is welcome.

One of many places where you can pull over and admire the view of the ocean on this 38km gravel coastal road. Most places in the South Island are within 100km of the sea.

We also have lakes, often surrounded by mountains. This one is near the Alpine ski village of St Arnaud. 

We also have beaches. You can’t drive on this one but there are plenty of beaches all around NZ where riding on the beach is permitted.

We have mountains and snow though Kaikoura is most famous for its whale watching expeditions.

We have rivers to cross.

And bridges to cross. This particular bridge was built in 1911.

We have green hills.

And forests to explore. The Maruia Saddle Road takes you for a 40km adventure along gravel road through forest, farmland and across creeks, from Maruia to Murchison.

We have wharfs. Nowadays used for shellfish processing, this historic wharf was once a thriving fishing port.

And when you need a coffee to keep you going we have some great cafes in the middle of nowhere.

This café is 50km up a side road off the main road and takes you along a twisting mix of tar-seal and gravel to the tiny settlement of French Pass.

The scenery along the way is stunning. If you zoom in you may see a Weka next to the front wheel of my bike.

The Weka is just one of the flightless birds we have in NZ. They have little fear of humans and co-habit with us around our dwellings looking for food scraps.

The final destination!
The final destination!

Then at the end of the journey we also have graveyards.

This one near Collingwood, Golden Bay has to be my favourite ever. Dating back to 1857 this historic cemetery is a fascinating record of the people who lived (and died) in those times.

It is difficult to do New Zealand’s South Island justice in just a few photos but hopefully I have given you a bit of an idea.

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