Queenstown Trails: Around the Basin
By Rebecca Holden
Queenstown. Renowned for its beauty and christened the adventure capital of the world, this area once attracted people from all over the world in their droves because of gold. Nowadays people similarly flock here from far and wide because of its beauty and the opportunities that this environment provides to pursue active passions with fervour.
I’ve done the typical Queenstown activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving and jetboating, so for a change I decided to explore this inspiring environment by bike, joining a tour with Around The Basin Bike Tours.
The Wakatipu Basin has a plethora of high quality trails which the Queenstown Trail Trust, with the help of multiple sponsors and private landowners, has invested much time and energy in developing. Trails link Queenstown, Lake Hayes and Arrowtown, extending all the way past the Kawarau Bridge to the Gibbston Valley, an area famous for its wine production. These wide and gently undulating trails are shared by both walkers and bikers.
Doing this tour was an excellent way to meet others and learn facts about this place that I might not have learnt otherwise. The Around The Basin van picked us up in Queenstown. We then drove to Arrowtown, receiving commentary, light-hearted banter and interesting facts along the way. Our hosts for the day were owners Steve and Lisa who made an excellent team, creating an effortless and pleasurable experience for us.
On this particular day it was glorious. We hopped out of the van at the Arrow River where our bikes were unloaded with impressive speed and precision by Steve — he’d certainly done this before! After a quick chat about what to expect and what to look out for, we were into it, just like that.
As expected, the very gentle trail route produces some spectacular scenery. Like the whole morning in general, the bike along the Arrow River was charming, the track initially sheltered under a canopy of trees with the sun refracting off the early-morning damp leaves. The shade was nice and the colours so beautiful. Before long though we broke out from the shelter of the trees and were in the valley, the sun warming our backs. As it was only spring, a time of year when the mornings remained crisp, I still had long sleeves on but I could imagine in summer that it would get quite hot!
The trail winds alongside the Arrow and Kawarau Rivers, crossing them in several spots along the way. Knowing we’d be tempted to stop and take pictures of the water flowing below us from the first bridge, Steve warned us to save our photography until we reached the Southern Discovery swing bridge. Sure enough, he was right! Looking down the gorge I was once again in awe.
We kept the wheels rolling at a perfect pace: fast enough not to lose momentum and fall off our bikes, but slow enough not to crash while appreciating the vista enveloping us. We then reached the 80m long Edgar Suspension Bridge, a massive swing bridge positioned 45m above the Arrow River. It swung too, not something I wanted to cross in strong winds. A small rush of adrenalin hit as I crossed it, my bike swerving slightly as the bridge wobbled with the movement of my group passing across.
For half of us, the tour ended at the Kawarau Bridge where some characters chose to pursue the more extreme activities of bungy jumping and zip lining. The other half of us continued onwards for another few kilometres to reach the Gibbston Valley Winery for a tasting in the quaint garden courtyard, and a nibble of cheese from the Cheesery. Here I discovered a new favourite variety of wine; it was delicious and I couldn’t help but indulge in buying a bottle.
Overall, biking along the Queenstown Trail with Around The Basin Bike Tours left me feeling visually and actively enriched. It was a great way to meet other people and appreciate the beautiful scenery from a different perspective. This would be a perfect activity to share with family or friends who aren’t necessarily bikers. Regardless of ability, fitness or age this was an activity that everybody could participate in and feel rewarded from.
The beauty of this trail was that it wasn’t just about biking. Of course there were the sights, but there were also other activities along the way, both adventurous and relaxing. On this occasion, Steve and Lisa were fantastic hosts who held a wealth of knowledge about this area’s history and geography. As well as sharing plenty of factual material, they were fun to listen to and made my experience even greater, as did the other people on the tour with me.
Around The Basin Bike Tours include bikes, bike equipment and a bottle of water.
You can choose to do a guided tour or be independent. Pickups can be arranged.
Although it’s beautiful at any time of year, this area is particularly enchanting in autumn with the vividness of changing colours.