Bike riding around New Zealand is set to become the next ‘must do’ as a network of 23 bike riding trails have been showcased by the country’s first ambassador to promote cycling to the world, Megan Gale.
Born in Perth, Western Australia, to an English father and a part-Maori mother, Megan won a modeling competition at the age of 18 and moved to Sydney where she worked successfully for several years. However, after she won the role of a voluptuous spy in a commercial for Italian telecommunications company, Omnitel, now known as Vodafone, her life changed completely. Sixty million Italians had acquainted themselves with Megan and she was turned her into a celebrity overnight.
Since then Megan has launched swimwear range, Isola aimed at giving women in their 30s and 40s sophisticated, sexy, chic and completely wearable options; hosted, judged and acted as executive producer of Project Runway, Australia and become a L’Oreal Paris’s official ambassador joining a prestigious ‘dream team’ alongside some of the world’s most beautiful, talented and accomplished artists including Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Jane Fonda, Andie MacDowell, Diane Kruger, Gerard Butler and Hugh Laurie.
The new role will allow Megan to be more deeply connected to New Zealand and bring her closer to understanding her mother's culture. “That was a whole new interesting element to the proposal,” she said. “I knew I'd be tapping into the Maori side of things, the communities and meeting different Maori people along the way.”
“Not so long ago, only skilled, fit mountain bikers could venture off road into New Zealand’s amazing landscapes. Not any more. Leading the way are 23 new Great Rides, a diverse series of cycleways in remarkable places, many following old railway lines and pioneer trails. With handy bike hire, shuttles, and hospitality galore, they’re an unbeatable way to explore New Zealand and feel great while you’re dong it,” she explains.
“Whether it’s peddling around country towns, tripping around the wineries, or just soaking up the amazing scenery around New Zealand, with a picnic lunch on board, riders of all ages and abilities will be accommodated,” she says.
Although her 20-month-old son, River stayed home with dad, Shaun Hampson, Megan personally enjoyed the Otago Central Raid and the Timber Trails, which she said, would be “a beautiful trip for the family”.
“I did two multi-day rides including The Timber Trail, which winds through ancient forests in the North Island, and the historical Otago Central Rail Trail in the South Island.”
“Informative locals and talented cyclists including Olympic Gold Medallist, Sarah Ulmer and Commonwealth Games Silver Medallist, Samuel Gaze who is one of the country’s finest cross-country cyclists guided me at different points on the trails. Celebrity cook and writer Annabel Langbein even prepared my lunch one day using fresh local produce, which was a highlight!”
When asked where her favourite place to stay during her cycling journey she said “I loved the variety of accommodation options especially Olivers Central Otago Lodge & Stables in the beautiful town of Clyde. It was the first place I stayed and I immediately felt at home. Owner Andrea’s home-cooked breakfast was second-to-none.”
“There’s so much to see and do in both islands and apart from the cycling I enjoyed an afternoon stop at the historic Chatto Creek Tavern in Central Otago, and managed to squeeze in some gift shopping in Rotorua.”
Megan plans on going back to New Zealand “It is one of my favourite places to visit. I would like to explore more of the Great Rides with my family – there are around 2700 kilometres of trails to cover so I might have to make a few trips back. I really want to cycle the Hawke’s Bay Trails and check out the town’s unique art deco architecture. Visiting the world-class vineyards of the South Island is also on the list, via the Great Taste Trail in Nelson. I’d also love to visit Northland with Mum, and see where she grew up.
Megan tells us that you can sample the renowned Otago Central Rail Trail with Trail Journeys – one of the first operators on the trail. You can journey between Clyde and Lauder (44km), taking in the stunning scenery and meeting local characters knowing that every detail of your Rail Trail holiday has been taken care of. Trail Journeys excels in providing a friendly, personal, expert, trouble free, relaxing and top class specialty service. Trail Journeys operate from both ends of the Otago Central Rail Trail at Clyde and Middlemarch providing all the services required to cycle or walk the trail. www.trailjourneys.co.nz
She recommends you stay in Clyde prior to starting the Rail Trail. This golden heartland is an expansive dry land of continental climatic extremes, dramatic landscapes, breath-taking colour, and abundant flavours. Walk, cycle or horse-ride the country's first Rail Trail, past productive farmlands, spectacular gorges, awesome schist rock and magnificent mountains. Retrace the steps of hardy pioneers, through goldfields, historic sites, museum collections, and small towns with stone architecture. Stop by orchard stalls of succulent summer fruits, and take a wine trail to fledgling vineyards of international repute. Admire the first wildflowers of spring, and the stunning shades of autumn. Try the ancient winter ice sport of curling, and visit the many exceptional art and craft galleries. www.centralotago.co.nz
1. A visit to Two Paddocks – a small family wine producing business that is entirely dedicated to making great wine. Sam Neill (actor) started the winery (plantings in Gibbston Valley) in 1993 with friend Roger Donaldson (Director) planting next door, hence the name Two Paddocks. Tastings by Appointment. www.twopaddocks.com
2. Experience history alive in discerning, contemporary style at Olivers Central Otago. Benjamin Naylor built the first building at Olivers in 1869 as a general store, servicing the prospectors who sought their fortunes during the Otago Gold Rush. The Lodge and Stables quickly followed and these buildings have been sensitively restored to provide accommodation that is elegant, unique and gloriously comfortable. Olivers Central Otago is dedicated to preserving its unique local heritage, and maintaining the highest tradition of New Zealand hospitality and service. www.oliverscentralotago.co.nz
3. On the completion of the rail trail you can either return via transfer to Queenstown or head to Dunedin on the Taieri Gorge Railway. Dunedin Railways specialises in scenic train trips into the spectacular Central Otago Hinterland and up the rugged Otago coast north of Dunedin, New Zealand. The Taieri Gorge Railway and The Seasider train trips offer unique and panoramic views over ever-changing scenery. There are opportunities for photos where the train either slows down or stops for you to disembark. There is a licenced Café and bar on board and live commentary on all trips.
Our Top Five New Zealand Great Rides:
1–3 days/82 km, www.haurakirailtrail.co.nz
1–4 days/200 km, www.hawkesbaynz.com
1–4 days/174 km, www.heartofbiking.org.nz
1–5 days/150 km, www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz
1–8 days/301 km, www.alps2ocean.com
To read more about the New Zealand Cycle Trail, see www.nzcycletrail.com.