MOLESWORTH ROAD, NEW ZEALAND
Blenheim – Hammer Springs (3-5 days, 207km)
This long-distance ride is not for the faint-hearted, as it can get challenging and very isolated. Situated in picturesque South Marlborough high country, the Molesworth Trail follows the Acheron Road (an old coaching road) through Molesworth Station, the largest (180,787ha) and most remote working farm in New Zealand.
This cycle route is graded advanced, with steep gradients along a well-maintained gravel surface, therefore a reasonable level of fitness is required and knobbly tyres are a must. There might be some bike-pushing involved, but refreshing downhill runs overlooking the farm – home to 10,000 cattles – should be enough to cancel out the effort.
While mobile reception and facilities en route are lacking, the trail provides an unforgettable journey through spectacular wide-open landscapes, with a rich history of Māori explorers and hardy settlers. The trail traverses a land of shifting screes, steep hillsides and wide grasslands, providing stark reminders of the region’s ice age era with its moraines, glacial plains, cirque basins, and tarns.
Stock up at Blenheim, as there is no shopping in between. There are basic campsites along the way, at the historic Molesworth Cob Cottage (1866) and Acheron Accommodation House (1862, but recently damaged by an earthquake) – both were part of a chain of accommodation which served early travellers using the stock routes.
These are currently the only accommodation options for independent travellers; B&Bs and meals at farms en route are possible on a guided cycle tour, who will bus you up difficult portions.
Stop along the way to go fishing, bird watching, or dip in one of the many swimming holes. At Molesworth Cob, there’s a stream with a plunge-pool.
The final stage is a long descent from Jack’s Pass towards Hanmer Springs where you can soak your weary muscles at a luxurious resort here.
You can also start from Hanmer Springs and end at Awatere Valley’s vineyards overlooking the ocean.
From Blenheim, head towards the Awatere Valley wine country, then turn right at the Awatere Valley intersection towards the snow-capped mountains along Acheron Road. The road is open to the public between Labour Weekend until Easter (December 28 and April 1), as it is prone to damage from weather (and earthquake).