Easy Riding: The Ultimate Motorcycle Tours
"I don't believe in a risk-free society, where the thrills of living are traded for the safety of existence. A long life is good only if it's chock-full of memories.... Motorcyle riders are in touch with the need to live life, this need to experience something potentially dangerous and master it...."
-Nick Ienatsch, in Motorcycle magazine
Both as a sport and as a form of exploration, motorcycling is an adventureone in which the process of getting there is its own reward. For most motorcyclists, the joys of riding far outweigh any risk. And here are eight unparalleled spots to embrace that joy.
New Zealand: Unspoiled Paradise
New Zealand is a perfect destination for motorcycle touring in the Kiwi summer (November through March). The North Island evokes the California of an early day, while the South Island represents the best of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. With only 3.5 million people in a land mass about the size of California, most places you go will be virtually undeveloped. If you start in the north from Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, head north to visit the Bay of Islands. Keep to the smaller roads through farmlands along the coast. At the northernmost tip of the country is a great 100-mile beach that shouldn't be missed. Looping back south, most tourists head straight for the geysers and sulphur pools near Rotorua. Instead, try exploring the rugged and sparsely populated west coast: It offers long isolated beaches, verdant tropical vegetation, and even a snow-capped volcanoe or two.
At the southern tip of the North Island is Wellington, New Zealand's capital. A city of hills, much like San Francisco, Wellington is the departure point for the ferry trip across the Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island. This is a notoriously rough stretch of water; make sure your touring rig is well secured, for 25-foot seas and 50-knot winds are not uncommon. From Picton, enjoy the winding road southwest to Havelock, where you can board a small boat for a day tour of the nearby island farms. If you continue down the west coast, be prepared for serious downpourssome spots receive over 200 inches of rain every year. About halfway down the coast, cross inland along the scenic Haast Pass and head to the little town of Wanaka in the heart of the Southern Alps. Continue south to QueenstownNew Zealand's mecca for outdoor recreation, including paragliding, rafting, and jet-boating. Try to set aside a day to visit nearby Milford Sound. (You may want to park the bike and hop a tour bus; the Milford Highway is awash with water and gravel even in the summer.) Your last stop should be Christchurch and its international airport.
The circuit described above covers 1,800 miles of driving and requires a couple of weeks to complete. You can either rent a bike in Auckland or Christchurch, or go with a group tour. Adventure New Zealand Motorcycle Tours and Rentals (01164-2196-9071. www.thunderbike.co.nz/anzmtr) runs the best trips, which start at $2,600 per person for ten days. For an independent twin-island trip, contact Motorcycling Downunder (800.788.6685. www.adventour.com). Based in Christchurch, this firm also has facilities in Auckland, so you can cruise both islands without backtracking. Motorcycling Downunder rents a full range of bikes from 250cc (about $65 per ay) to the 1500cc Honda Gold Wing (about $125 per day).
If you want a fully escorted two-island tour, both Beach's Motorcycle Adventures (716.773.4960. www.beachs-mca.com) and Edelweiss Bike Travel (800.582.2263. www.edelweissbike.com) offer fine programs that hit the highlights of each island. Such trips last two to three weeks and start about $3,800, including lodging, motorcycle rental (road or dual-purpose), and sag-wagon support.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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