We stumbled upon a fantastic trail to take us along the north coast of South Island New Zealand. The trail, a combination of mountain bike track, road, cycle path and dirt roads, travels through the heart of the northern South Island wine and agricultural region. The trail is aptly named the Great Tasty Trail – and tasty it was! We literally stumbled onto the trail on our way down, out of the Buller Gorge, as we approached Motueka – we made a turn over a bridge and noticed the Great Tasty Trail signs on the road, making navigation into town easy. On the trail we noticed an increase in fruit and vegetable stands – so much so that we had to stop ourselves from stopping and buying produce everywhere.
We camped just south of Moteuka and decided to checkout more of the Great Tasty Trail unloaded and so opted to stay an extra night. We ventured north towards Abel Tasman National Park – still following the Great Tasty Trail, and found ourselves in the middle of the sweet Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park – Sweet As. Traveling unloaded for the day, we reveled in a bit of lovely, well planned single track which meandered through the thick rain forest and dropped down along the coast. The trail ends officially at Kaiteriteri Beach. From there we continued north to Marahau – the jumping off point for tramping in the Abel Tasman National park.
To our surprise, we found that the café we planned on eating lunch was not open until happy hour – 4-6pm and had to settle for an ice cream before heading back to Moteuka. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We made our way to a bench overlooking the beach and watched the tractors picking up and dropping off kayaks and boats. The tractors were very noisy making this beautiful bay less than idyllic. We returned to town very hungry after playing a bit more in the mountain bike park and fighting a headwind most of the way back. For dinner, we decided to stop at Hot Momas.
Hot Momas was listed in our Cycling New Zealand Lonely Planet guide as a must try restaurant – which we usually ignore – but this time, we were more than pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere was refreshing, the wait staff kind and friendly and food was amazing – we would go back there in a heartbeat. Our second night in Moteuka, we weathered another violent rainstorm but, yet again, our tent, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3, was magnificent. We awoke to brilliantly sunny day, perfect to head south to Nelson on the Great Tasty Trail.
This time the trail wound through wine country, up and down the hillsides through the vinyards, very similar to the back roads and dirt tracks in Yamhill County. The trail eventually drops back down to the coast via the lovely little town of Tasman, pretty much a couple of cafés and a few art galleries. We visited the Playing with Fire art gallery and fed tame river eels at the Jester Café. I think we stopped about every kilometer or so along this part of the trail. From the town of Tasman, the trail runs over to Mapua, an artsy fartsy, oh so cute little village with a seasonal “naturist” (clothing optional) camp and a 4 minute ferry ride over to Rabbit Island. We had plans to stay in Stoke for the next few nights and so had to pass on the naurist camp option. Jay chatted with a bike store owner in Mapua who offered him a job turning wrenches next season. Hmmmm.
The short, 10 minute ferry ride out of Mapua lands you on Rabbit Island – named such because, well, according to one little girl I met, it was once covered with rabbits. I’ll have to look that one up one day. We had to wrestle our bikes through the thick sand to get from the boat landing to the trail, a quite amusing site to the unloaded onlookers. The track along Rabbit Island is remote and unpaved – right along the water’s edge, perfect riding while away from cars and a visual treat as well. From Rabbit Island the Great Tasty Trail winds along the water’s edge all the way into the heart of Nelson. The beauty of the trail, besides all the yummy café’s and food stands, is that it takes you off the main roads. In fact, the trail runs along the bay, often traversing long plank walkways across the tidal estuary with all the water birds to distract you as you ride. It is quite spectacular.
After riding into downtown Nelson, we had ridden most of the Great Tasty Trail. Nelson is a bike friendly town with a love of craft breweries. We happened to be there for Marchfest, their craft brew festival – where we sampled some of the local brews and ate more than our allotted calories for the day! Jay was assigned as our designated driver. A good thing because they were checking everyone who was driving for alcohol. Jay passed his first breathalyzer test. Still an A student! There was only one more portion of the Great Tasty Trail we had not yet cycled, traveling south and inland towards Brightwater. As luck would have it, our next nights lodging at an alpaca farm was located just outside of Brightwater, at the end of the inland portion of the trail. Although this section is routed (not rooted) next to the highway, it is separated by green path or vineyards and is very well maintained. We agree with many of the folks who told us that some of the nicest bike ways are in the Nelson area. The Great Tasty Trail is certainly a fantastic example of a well planned and executed bike path. It would be great to see Yamhill County develop more safe and enjoyable bike ways such as the Great Tasty Trail.