A week staying in Mapua put us in touch with a fantastic day trip you can do by bike in the Nelson region. What were the goals of this pedalling adventure? Scenery, wine and food. And exercise of course, to burn it all off and start the next day with a clean slate.
We stayed in a retro Airbnb cottage just five minutes’ walk from Mapua Wharf. A decade ago, the wharf could only really offer fish and chips. These days it’s a thrumming micro-village of excellent eateries, craft shops, a wine bar and the Golden Bear Brewery. There’s even a hat shop, with the biggest range of headwear I’ve ever seen in New Zealand. I came away with four flattering hats for just $20. Top value!
From the get-go, our plan was to do some biking and hiking, in no particular order. Mapua is on the Great Taste Trail, a big loop of a cycle journey that connects Nelson, Richmond, Mapua, Motueka and Kaiteriteri. There’s also a sub-trail within the loop that’s all about wineries, which immediately appealed to us.
Bike hire in Mapua
We walked to Kiwi Journeys’ depot to pick up our bikes one glorious Mapua morning. Our initial intention was to hire hard tails, but we were talked into comfort bikes – slightly cheaper and miles more comfortable. A comfort bike lets you sit tall in the saddle, with no weight resting on your arms. French style, as if you had a basket full of baguettes. Comfort bikes also come with delightfully gel-cushioned seats – a huge benefit when your butt hasn’t seen a bicycle seat for a while. The Kiwi Journeys guy equipped us with a map and various tips, then waved us goodbye.
Riding the Nelson wine trail – Mapua to Upper Moutere and back
We knew the worst part of this ride was right up front – Seaton Valley Road. Not only did we have to push our bikes up part of this endless hill, but we were passed by a flock of lycra-clad MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) who suggested we should have hired electric bikes. Oh the shame.
However after that it was glorious riding. The ups were short and the downs were fun. Rather than off-road trails, this route follows country roads. There’s a short section on the Coastal Highway, but motorists gave us a wide berth.
Side-of-the-road shopping opportunities popped up as we biked towards, Neudorf, our first winery. I managed to acquire two apple cucumbers and a couple of pots of jam before we sailed into the winery. It wasn’t yet lunchtime, so the wine tasting – memorable for a gently-buttered chardonnay and a well-mannered sauvignon blanc – went into an empty stomach. There’s something about drinking before lunchtime that’s kind of wicked, which makes it even more enjoyable. The small cost of tasting was waived, because we bought a delicious dessert wine – funny how the saddle bag on the back of a comfort bike is just the right size for wine bottles.
We timed our arrival at Moutere Hills perfectly. Lunchtime. And the restaurant at this winery is something of a legend. While there are plenty of tables inside, it was the alfresco area beneath the huge trees that appealed to us, gorgeous day as it was. The menu caters for both the extremely hungry and the slightly peckish. There are plenty of hearty offerings; however we were in a grazing mood so opted for a couple of tasting platters. It was a degustation of sorts, because we also ordered four different glasses of wine to share between us. All up, a divine food and wine experience with a beautiful outlook over the vineyard.
Our experience here wasn’t quite as perfect as the other two. Nothing wrong with the wines (we especially liked the montepulciano), however the fee for tasting was over the top. What’s more, it wasn’t refunded when we made a purchase! Bad form Kahurangi Estate. The upside of this visit was the chance to sniff some hops.
And home again…
The ride back from Upper Moutere involved a decent amount of downhill, so it wasn’t too bad at all. While it’s not off-road, the traffic is light and there’s some stupendous scenery looking down to the coast. I particularly loved the segment along Old Coach Road.