Mt Cook to Braemar Station
A2O SECTION 1 – MT COOK VILLAGE TO BRAEMAR STATION
Technical Difficulty: Grade 2
Fitness Required: Moderate
Trail Overview: A mix of cycle trail and gravel road with a helicopter flight required to cross the treacherous Tasman River. Parts of the trail are remote and subject to flooding after heavy rain or snow melt. It is highly likely you will get wet feet, even in summer. The road section is undulating and occasionally has livestock on the road.
The Alps to Ocean Cycle trail starts near Aoraki/Mt Cook Village in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. The trail start sign is in the car park in front of building in the White Horse Camping area. The building has toilets and is a good place to top up your water. The purpose-built trail meanders through the national park for approx. 8km to the Mt Cook Airport. Be aware that section of trail is a duel use trail with walkers so look out for riders and walkers travelling in both directions.
There are 2 companies offering helicopter flights to take you and your bike over the icy cold and treacherous Tasman River. (Heliworks.co.nz and Helicopter.co.nz). Many people decide to miss this section of trail in order to save money on the flight. As the Mt Cook start and the remote section of trail opened up by the helicopter are two of the highlights, and points of difference, of this trail over all others in New Zealand, we highly recommend spending the money and taking the flight.
This first half of this section is on flat terrain along a dedicated cycle trail. But, this is the most remote section of trail, the surface is rough in places (river rocks/sand) and there are a few un-bridged streams to cross that may result in wet feet so make sure you do not wear cotton socks that will make your feet cold when wet. After heavy rain or snow melt, these streams may become dangerous to cross so check before you fly. It is possible to extend the helicopter flight to a safer landing area beyond the stream crossings (this will cost extra). Gale force NW winds also have the potential to delay or cancel your flight so make sure you have a plan B in place if the weather does not look good.
Remember to keep looking behind you as you ride away from the Mt Cook mountains at some of the most awe-inspiring Alpine views anywhere in the World!
The cycle trail then meets a quiet, unsealed gravel road that winds and undulates (that’s ‘Kiwi’ for has small hills!) alongside Lake Pukaki to Braemar Station. There is very limited accommodation here so you must plan your trip in advance. Unless you are on an organised Alps 2 Ocean Tour, you may need to consider riding section 2 on the same day and stay at Twizel instead. This will make the first day a long 77km.
Please be considerate of the pristine environment around you and stick to the mountain bikers care code. If you think you may need one, please carry a Poo Pot (available from Mt. Cook Village, DOC info centre) as there are limited toilet facilities from Mt Cook Airport and no places to hide behind! (We also recommend a SheeWee or equivalent for the ladies!).
NON-RIDER. I didn’t actually ride, I was worried about the comfort of the bus but it was great. Excellent food and most of it was New Zealand made which was great. Loved the exclusive accommodations. Very nice. (The guides were) very informative and were very knowledgeable. I felt very safe being driven around by them. Bus very comfortable and plenty of room.
How would I rate the cycle tour? It exceeded expectations. We were very well supported with excellent guides who were Very attentive and co-operative. Accommodation exceeded expectations.
Food was fantastic and better than we expected. Thoroughly enjoyed the variety of accommodation.
The best recommendation I can give about the bikes is that I have purchased a new bike the same as those used on the trip. Unfortunately it hasn't come with the excellent van and trailer we became used to on the trail - we were spoilt rotten with such good quality, well maintained equipment.
I could not fault (the guide's) commitment, energy, knowledge, good humor and patience and evenhandedness and attention to each individual. I would imagine that we all felt absolutely attended to, as I did.
I was very worried about how I was going to survive the 300km ride on a different bike seat without destroying some of my anatomy, however the bikes were totally appropriate for the trail we were doing & the guide reassured us, adjusted & tweaked until all of us were comfortable in the saddle.
Awesome scenery, wonderful service, and helibiking was "fabulous" to quote daughter Odette!
Every meal we had, without exception was excellent... the best breakfasts, the lunches were always in the most perfect spots, dinners ... well YUM! Great variety, tasty fresh ingredients ... nice.
Every dietary need was offered...absolutely wonderful food.
Lunches were perfect - sandwiches, make your own and plenty of choices. Healthy - good balance. Breakfast was excellent - the cooked breakfasts were a great 'base' for a day's biking. Evening meals were good to amazing.
Big thanks to you for a great trip and especially to the guide who with his sound knowledge and advice I was able to cycle a good chunk of the track despite not being able to walk! Thanks so much we really had a great time. Everything was good, keep doing what you are already doing well :)
I was totally inexperienced but thoroughly enjoyed tho whole day...Our guide exuded passion for the region and was full of information regarding flora and fauna and history... giving me helpful tips enabling me to complete the ride with growing confidence!!!
I was concerned about the price at first... now I would rate it as absolute value for money… it was much better value than we possibly imagined.
All accommodation was very good. All food was excellent. The guide's home cooked meals/breakfasts were great. Meals out delicious. Also liked the fact that when we ate out we could have what we liked without restrictions. We suggested it could be marketed as a gourmet tour!
We came to this tour from word of mouth and we've been to Central Otago many times before so we knew how great the environment and scenery would be, but the efforts made with accommodation and meals was much more than we expected. I loved the cycle tour and we're determined to come back and try out your new tours.
The bikes, the scenery and the accommodation and food exceeded my expectations. I have done very little mountain bike riding and was even a little apprehensive about it. As it turned out, I loved the bikes and my confidence on them soared. I could have taken my bike home with me!
I didn't expect so many extras to be included plus the freedom to order any meal off the menu at the evening cafe's. The food was exceptional. All the accommodation was first class, and the different types added to the experience. Each day was an adventure and I cannot think of any aspect that I could possibly recommend a change.
I've been on lots of guided tours all around the world incl TDF, Vietnam, Greece, Turkey, UK and you have surpassed everything I have experienced in the past.
The evening meals were fantastic. The guide was very accommodating, knowledgable about the area and their enthusiasm was inspiring. This was our first cycle tour, we had so much fun & the scenery was spectacular! Thanks to the guide for accommodating our little side trips … and gliding. It was an AWESOME cycle trail.
I did a few gulps at the price - shortly into the trip it was obvious that we were Definitely receiving Value For money. Worth every cent.
Your guides were excellent, couldn’t have asked for anything better. Loved everything about the trip. Wonderful value for money. My thanks to you all.
The accommodation and food was excellent, much better than anticipated in comparison with previous rides.
I loved your selection of interesting and sometimes spectacular accommodation and eating locations. You adapted according to changing weather and cyclist abilities with quiet grace and thought for the group.
All meals were excellent Always looked forward to eating! It was great to stay in a range of different accommodation. a job well done finding the variety of places. nice to have some meals at the accommodation as well and not have too go out.
Thoroughly enjoyable day out, May 2014. Really nice riding...it was quite cool in May with dusting of snow on neighbouring hills - which made for gorgeous photos.
...riding in the middle of nowhere was a beautiful experience ... Thank you for making our honeymoon a truly amazing experience. We loved every day of it and did not want it to end. We will be back!
This trip surpassed expectations by quite a margin.
Professional ,informative & well organised tour still adding a personal touch making the trip a memorable one. Ability to adapt to any situation maintaining group dynamics and moral. Well done an outstanding team!
Thank you so much for the wonderful trip we have had and the photo – was just the ”icing on the cake!”
Thank you again for a truly memorable experience... you provided the greatest and most enjoyable service we have experienced in a very long time.
Great scenery. great company. great organisation.
All accommodation was very good and some outstanding.
Excellent food; excellent variety; all needs cared for including snacks en route.
I loved that everyone had the option of following their choices to ride through their challenges, or not, without judgement or pressure.
My favourite parts of the trip? Impossible to answer, so many wonderful aspects to the experience. Wineries were enjoyable, distances each day were manageable, bikes were excellent, food and accommodation were exceptional.
A really enjoyable morning MTB ride with a very professional outfit.
Both Vernon and Sara are very professional, nothing was too much trouble.
Enjoyed every day and thought the guides and accommodation were very good. The tour was better than I thought. Food was very good and I thought the tour was well balanced but particularly enjoyed unique accommodations where food was provided on site.
The cycle tour was better than my expectations. Honestly I can't think of anything you could do better.
Accommodation exceeded my expectations, especially the last night which just blew my mind.
I thought it was a good mix of wine tours, cycling, resting, exploring, hot tubs, shopping, food, information, walks and talks. Don't change a single thing.
Change nothing…you don't need to do more!
Fresh healthy and hearty meals. plenty of choices.
We thought the whole operation was marvelous. (The guide) was incredible, and everything was so well organised. Great variety each day in the cycling and different places we stayed each night added variety.
The guide's explanations and information added to the enjoyment of the ride. It was great when we had a guide to support the slower cyclist so that the rest could go at their own pace.
Totally amazed by the food. Can't give a top choice as each night was special and different. Breakfasts, lunches and snacks all superb. I ate far too much.
(The guide) went the extra mile and encouraged me without being patronising.His knowledge and love of the area was tops and we missed him when the trip was over and we had to look at places without his explanations. He was the perfect guide.
I was blown away by the scenery and organisation of your trip. All I can say is thank you and congratulations!
Nothing was a problem. The welfare, safety, experience and comfort of the group was paramount. We were so well looked after. Thank you!
Fantastic attention to detail. Different experience/adventure every day. I have dietary restrictions which are a pain in the neck. This was handled brilliantly and without fuss. Very authentic Kiwi experience.
We managed to bike almost 200kms and still come home a bit heavier! So nice to have healthy fresh food, good coffee and a different dinner experience each night. Food was fantastic!
The whole trip was fantastic and I especially enjoyed the mountain bike tracks around the edges of the lakes. Thanks Sara and Vernon, We had the best time and we were very lucky to spend time in such a spectacular environment.
You guys are awesome. Thanks again for a wonderful experience...we appreciate all of the things you guys did to make this pretty special.
C/O Not A Rail Trail PO Box 2716,
New ZealandNew Zealand: 0800 4 CYCLE (429 253)
Australia: 1 800 445 709
World: +64 (0) 3 428 2912