Hi Wooly, thank you for joining. I think you will love NZ, it is really a beautiful country.
The best maps for bicycle touring in NZ are by far the Pedaller's Paradise maps. They are made specifically for bicycle touring. They show pretty much every road and give locations with campgrounds, grocery stores, bicycle shops, etc. They also have great elevation charts, which is nice in NZ, as it is rarely flat. There is one map for the South Island and one for the North Island.
Here is my personal list of my favorite routes to ride on the South Island of NZ (Of course, I didn't ride every route out there - I inserted a picture to go along with each route
):Queenstown to Te Anau
: You will probably like this one. To be more accurate, it is from Mt. Nicholas on the southern side of the lake from Queenstown to The Key on route 94 east and not far from Te Anau. You have to take a nice (and affordable) ride on a steamboat from Queenstown to St Nicholas. No cars at all on this road. Very scenic, very quiet, you will pass a lake and tons of great camping spots. It is a mix of dirt roads and packed gravel. It is one my favorite routes in NZ. In Te Anau, you can hike the Kepler Track (a breathtaking 2- to 3-day hike that doesn't need to be booked months in advance).Queenstown to Glenorchy
: This is a one-way road so you will have to come back the same way. It takes you along the beautiful Lake Wakatipu to an area called Paradise where a lot of "Lord of the Rings" shootings took place.Te Anau to Milford
: The route is very scenic and Milford is really gorgeous. But it is also one of the most touristic towns in NZ.Wanaka to Haast
. Here is another breathtaking route. It will take you through a nice variety of landscapes, including along two beautiful lakes and many waterfalls. I would recommend staying in Hawea and not in Wanaka, where there is one of the nicest campgrounds I have ever seen. It is called Lake Hawea Holiday Park. http://www.aatravel.co.nz/main/listing.php?listingId=69695Wanaka to Lake Pukaki
: Nice ride that will take you over the beautiful Lindi Pass.Route 80
: This route goes along Lake Pukaki to the foot of Mount Cook (highest mountain in NZ) in Mt Cook National Park. Unfortunately, it is also a one-way road so you have to do it twice. But it is worth it, and it is not that long (1 easy day ride). Amazing view of Mount Cook, nice little hike at the foot of glaciers and the whole route is really stunning all the way.Tekapo canal
: to go from Lake Pukaki to Tekapo, you can avoid the main road by following the Tekapo Canal. Nice and quiet. A lot of wind, though.
Haast to Fox Glacier: Nice views. On this ride, you get to see the the sea once in a while. Nice hike at Fox Glacier (the glacier is one of only two on earth where you can see tropical forest at the foot of the glacier.).Other routes that are known to be very scenic
Southern tip of the island: Te Tua - Invercargill - Balclutha
Northern tip: Route 6 and 60Not so nice
: Ok, I gave a very optimistic view of the island because it is truly breathtaking. But there are also parts that are not so nice:
sand flies: they can be a real nightmare on the west coast
wind: very strong along the Tekapo canal
rain: Milford gets some of the heaviest rain on earth (but personally I think it is truly magical to see the zillions of waterfalls that start flowing in the fjord when it's raining)
hills: be prepared to have some good climbs (a tough one is on the shortcut between Queenstown and Wanaka via Cardrona)
I hope this helps. Enjoy NZ and I wish you a lot of tailwinds