Riders on last summer’s Tour of Aotearoa labelled the West Coast Wilderness Trail as the best trail they rode in their 3000km plus odyssey from North Cape to Bluff. Given the tour weaved through much of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand cycle trail network, that’s a big call.

The main street of Ross, the starting or ending point of the trail

Trip Advisor says: “There’s a reason this ride is gaining a reputation for being one of the best rides in the world” and has reviews of some of the highs (and some of the lows) of trail riders to date. The trail is 132 kms, and while some sections are in that awkward transition of being taken off-road, the on-road riding is reasonably comfortable.

Riders will debate the best direction to ride and at the end of the day there’s no real issues with riding either direction. My preference is to start from the southern end at Ross and cycle into Hokitika, and then cycle up to Lake Kaniere and through Cowboys Paradise and the Kawhaka Pass, and from there to Greymouth, which technically is all downhill.

The northern section approaching Greymouth hugs the coastline with plenty of opportunities to check out the wild West Coast beach

Ross is one of the real iconic gold mining towns of the Coast. The Empire Hotel is as historic as can be, and the township reeks of early gold mining history. Rumour has it that a gold mining company wanted to buy the town and shift it, so it could mine beneath the town itself.

The trail starts out by the coast a couple of kilometres away, and then follows the old tramline across numerous wetlands – a feature of this section. A short on-road section takes you past the Treetop Walkway, which offers a great place to stop for a coffee and a walk high in the treetops with amazing views to the nearby lake. The trail section across the wetlands and the historic tramline north of Lake Mahinapua is a stunning example of wetland forest and once you’re over that, there’s a final road and then dedicated trail section leading into Hokitika.

Kapitea reservoir. The trail skirts the edge of a series of reservoirs, separated by a stone face dam that was hand-laid in 1883 by miners during the gold rush

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