After a successful first multiday bikepacking trip, Myrthe heads out again, this time exploring the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, passing by the beautiful lakes of Mackenzie Country in New Zealand.


The official Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail runs from Mount Cook to Oamaru. A great way to explore most of this trail without the need for a shuttle is to include the Hakataramea Pass, which creates a 340km, four-day bikepacking trip through an area known as Mackenzie Country. The trail can be accessed in less than three hours from either Christchurch or Queenstown.

About the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail runs through some of New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes and offers a wide variety of terrain, ranging from the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps to the beautiful turquoise lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki.

With Mackenzie Country being part of a dark sky reserve, the stargazing is next level and in autumn, the trees along the hydroelectric lakes turning yellow will make your trip even more memorable.

How to Get There

The trip is described here starting from Kurow, which lies in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. This loop could also be started from Tekapo or Omarama. 

From Queenstown, it takes under three hours to drive to Kurow and about two hours to get to Omarama. From Christchurch it’s a 3.5 hour drive to Kurow, and slightly less than three to Lake Tekapo. You can also take the Intercity bus to Tekapo or Omarama.

Mackenzie Country History

The Mackenzie region is named after James Mackenzie, a Scottish shepherd who emigrated to Australia before making his way to New Zealand around 1850. Mackenzie was arrested for stealing a flock of sheep, which he’d herded into the then uninhabited basin with help from his dog Friday.


Looking out into the vast valley


He was sentenced to five years in prison, but after nine months and several attempted escapes, James was given an unconditional pardon and returned to Australia. The Mackenzie Basin ended up being divided into sheep pasture stations in 1857. 

Places to Stay Along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

You’ll find campsites, cabins, motels, and B&Bs in most towns along the way, including Kurow, Tekapo, Twizel, and Omarama.

You can also practise responsible wild camping on public conservation land. Check the Outdoor Access Commission’s Public Access Areas map to find areas with legal public access.


There are plenty of places to pitch a tent!

Where to Eat Along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

There’s a variety of places to eat in the bigger towns along the way, including Tekapo, Twizel, and Omarama. If you want to treat yourself to some well-deserved fine dining, visit the restaurant at Lake Ōhau lodge or Moraine Lodge near Lake Pukaki.


You’ll definitely want a coffee and a slice of cake at some point

Skill Level



Our trusty transport

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration

Total: 338km / 3,040m / 27 hours (including stops)

Day 1: Kurow to Tekapo – 100km / 1200m / 7 hours (including stops)

→ camping/hotel/B&B available in Tekapo

Day 2: Tekapo to Ōhau – 105km / 680m / 9 hours (including stops)

→ camping/hotel/B&B available in Twizel, or stay at Ōhau Lodge

Day 3: Ōhau to Benmore – 88km / 910m / 8 hours (including stops)

→ camping/hotel/apartments available in Benmore

Day 4: Benmore to Kurow – 45km / 250m / 3 hours (including stops)


A map of the route

Essential Gear for Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Read more: 4 Days Bikepacking Central Otago in New Zealand

What it’s Like Bikepacking the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Day 1: Kurow to Tekapo

Distance: 100km
Duration: 7 hours

We put our feet on the pedals and start riding, and just like that, our adventure has begun. We finally switched from planning, preparing, and peering at maps, to doing, and being out there. Four days of biking lie ahead of us, and we have no idea what we’ll find, what we’ll see, and where we’ll sleep. It’s time for an adventure.

We ride out of town. Tarmac changes to gravel, houses give way to farms, and then the farms also disappear. We’re alone on the road, slowly making our way up the pass.


The gravel roads can make for some slow going

The 1,000m climb is gradual, enjoyable even. But the last stretch is steep and leaves me struggling. My body is telling me to stop and eat, but the top is so close, and would make for a much nicer spot to pause.

Ronnie pulls ahead of me, her being the better cyclist, her bike having more gears. I hate lagging behind, it makes me feel weak.

Ten minutes later I join Ronnie at the pass, and am rewarded with an amazing view of Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.

We rest, eat, and gaze at the view, the struggle already forgotten. The downhill is a breeze and before long, we turn left onto the highway. We now have a strong headwind, but it doesn’t matter, we’re so close, the day is almost done.

Day 2: Tekapo to Ōhau

Distance: 105km
Duration: 9 hours

We wake up feeling broken. The only thing that gets us out of the tent and onto the bike is the cafe 8km down the road. The caffeine performs its usual miracle, as does my cinnamon scroll.

Our renewed energy only lasts 20 minutes, when we leave the main road for no other reason than there being a hut along this route, which looks like it would make for a nice place to visit.

The headwind is insane. At first we laugh. This is ridiculous! But then it stops being funny. We can’t hear each other over the wind, so we stop talking. I put on music, but the wind is so loud I have to guess which song is playing.

I tell myself that this is fine, that I can do this. I remind myself that I chose to be here, to suffer like this.

We finally reach the hut. We were right, it’s a great place to visit.

We sit inside, the hut protecting us, the quietness eerie after such violent winds. We eat chocolate. A day like this deserves chocolate.


A hut is a welcome sight on a windy day


We have one more uphill before we go downhill. The road swings around, changes headwind to crosswind, taking all the fun out of the descent.

But we can now see glimpses of the lake, the turquoise at odds with its surroundings. When we eat lunch next to the lake, we’ve only cycled 37km in four hours.


Lakeside lunch


Suddenly we’re on a cycle trail, without hills and sheltered from the wind. We’re flying. There are people everywhere, but they haven’t been where we were, haven’t seen what we saw.

We stop at a supermarket, buy too much food and try to eat it anyway. We’ve ridden 80km, but we’re not done yet.

The last kilometres feel like a slog. We’re no longer flying. I’m tired, and my butt hurts. I can’t wait to get off the bike, go for a swim, lie down in the grass. I’m so relieved to end this day.

Day 3: Ōhau to Benmore

Distance: 88km
Duration: 8 hours

Once again, we have to bike for less than an hour to make it to our first coffee stop.

The lodge is full of cyclists having breakfast, their luggage piled up in the hallway, ready to be shuttled to the next accommodation. We feel smug, carrying everything we need on our bikes.

Today should be good. We’ve had our hilly day, and we’ve had our longest day. Today, all we need to do is follow the cycle trail and enjoy the views. But it’s never that simple, is it?

I have a flat tyre. I pull out my spare inner tube, but it’s got the wrong valve. I feel like an idiot.

Who goes bikepacking with a useless inner tube? Ronnie repairs the punctured tube, while I stand by and watch. I suck at bike maintenance, and rely on other people’s skills, tools, and knowledge. It makes me feel inept.


The highs and lows of bikepacking

We cycle on, but the patch doesn’t hold and I have to pump up my tyre every ten minutes. I’m constantly worried and annoyed at myself.

We make it to Omarama, where the celebratory drinks and hot chips are overshadowed by the fact that none of the shops sell tubes.

We put Ronnie’s slightly-too-big spare tube in my tyre, and I re-patch my inner tube to bring as a back up. Proving to myself I’m capable of fixing a puncture.

Day 4: Benmore to Kurow

Distance: 45km
Duration: 3 hours

The last day. I’m ready to be done, but I don’t want it to be over. We only have a short section left to bike. We stretch out the day by stopping along the river, making another coffee.

Eating whatever food we have left. We see a sign with the distance left to bike, it’s 20km shorter than we thought. At lunchtime, we’re back in the town we started from.

We stop pedalling and take our feet off the pedals. And just like that, our adventure has come to an end.


All that hard work was worth it!

Tips for Bikepacking the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

As the Mackenzie Basin is a plateau surrounded by mountains, the region doesn’t get much rain. With clear, crisp snowy winters and long, hot summers, the best time for cycling in the region is spring and autumn.

I highly recommend visiting the Mackenzie Region in autumn, when the poplar leaves turn yellow.


Look at that blue!


Even though you’ll pass through towns with shops and cafes along the way, the area can be quite remote in between villages.

Make sure you’re self-sufficient and prepared for things like variable weather and mechanical issues. Bring plenty of warm layers and food.

The Mackenzie Basin is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, as its clean and dark sky makes for some great stargazing. So make sure to set your alarm and pop out at night to take a peek at the starry sky!

FAQs Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Where is the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail located?

This bikepacking trail is located on Mackenzie Country, also known as the Mackenzie Basin, in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island. It stretches between the Southern Alps to Burkes Pass in the east and Omarama in the south.

How do you get to the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail?

You can access the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail via Burkes Pass (2.5 hours from Christchurch) or Omarama (2 hours from Queenstown).

Is bikepacking the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail good for beginners?

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail requires some previous biking experience and isn’t recommended for complete beginners. However there are additional cycle trails located near Fairlie, Tekapo, and Twizel.

How long does it take to complete the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail?

This bikepacking loop through Mackenzie Country takes about 4 – 6 days to complete, depending on how many kilometres per day you can comfortably ride.

Can you swim along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail?

There’s great swimming to be had in Mackenzie Country, as there are five large lakes in the region. Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, and Lake Ōhau are fed by numerous large rivers coming straight down the Southern Alps, whereas Lake Benmore and Lake Aviemore are artificial hydroelectric lakes.

Is the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail free?

Yes! The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is free to ride.