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Hobbit Odyssey Day 6: Iron Run

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand saddlebag
Road King with the missing bag

The inaugural Iron Run motorcycle rally is being held in Queenstown, New Zealand, in March so we are stayed an extra day to check out what the country’s playground has to offer rallyers.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Quad biking in Queenstown

You could call day six of our Hobbit Odyssey motorcycle tour a rest day, but you’d be wrong. Queenstown is adrenalin central. No rest for the wicked!

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Hang Gliding at Coronet Peak. No rest for the wicked.

The town sits by beautiful Lake Wakatipu and is ringed by towering mountains. These are the launch pads for an amazing variety of adrenalin sports including jet boating, bungee jumping, quad biking, parasailing, mountain biking, hang gliding, you name it.

If you can jump off it, swing from it, hang out of it, dive in it, or just defy death in some ludicrous way, you can do it right here.

Consequently, the town is filled with young backpackers and adrenalin junkies ready to party all day and night.

Not that motorcycle riders usually need an extra shot of adrenalin, nor will they be deprived of exciting rides around the region while at the rally.

Three of the best, most interesting, entertaining, challenging and picturesque rides in the world are right here. That’s just the tar roads. There are plenty more if you ride an adventure bike.

Our ride into Queenstown included summiting the Crown Range which is like a southern hemisphere version of the Stelvio Pass. Make sure you ride past the stunning views of the summit and down the other side through the pretty valley to Lake Wanaka, then turn around and do it all again. It’s a 65km trip each way.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Greg and Karen in Arrowtown

Today we ride out past some trendy cellar-door wineries to the charming gold-mining town of nearby Arrowtown with its streets of quaint historic buildings and host of coffee and gift shops. Here we meet UK couple Greg and Karen on BMW adventure bikes. They say New Zealand is like all the best bits of England, Scotland and Wales “on steroids and without the boring bits”.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Coronet Peak

Then we head back toward Queenstown via the 8km climb up to the Coronet Peak ski fields. It’s steep, twisty and affords spectacular views of the valleys below and the craggy Remarkables ski fields on the other side.

There are plenty of places to pull over to grab a photo and, despite the tight turns, hairpins and switchbacks, the road has good vision for overtaking slow-moving traffic which seems to move out of your way, anyway.

This is where many hang gliders jump off in summer and mountain bikers hurtle down the winter ski runs.

Just when we thought we had done the most spectacular roads, we took the 44km ride out along Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy for lunch.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Lake Wakatipu

Surely it’s not real! This is the most beautiful road I’ve ever ridden. Every centimetre is like a postcard view.

Imagine a swirling grey ribbon of tar stretching alongside a turquoise-mirror lake with towering mountain ranges climbing from its shores and in the distance are snow-capped peaks – even in summer.

If you can claw your eyes away from the view, the road is very challenging and the speed limit is 100km/h so you can really have a totally legal yet riotous romp of a ride!

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Harley police bike at Glenorchy

At the end, you can relax by the lake or grab lunch and a beer (low-alcohol Steinlager’s nice) in the local hotel’s beer garden. Thankfully the weather has been perfect today and we’ve scorted a little sunburn over lunch.

Furthermore, all three roads are made of a high-traction coarse chip to accommodate traffic in winter’s freezing and wet conditions, so when they are hot and dry, like today, they are super-grippy.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Lake Wakatipu

If you’re into adventure riding, there are myriad other roads made up of gritty white gravel, the best being the road that climbs up the Remarkables.

Iron Run organisers say they have filled 60% of their target bookings for the rally and motels report accommodation running out quickly. We’re not sure how many that means, but locals expect at least a couple of thousand to attend.

The March 20-21 event is sponsored by Harley-Davidson, but open to all bikes and although there are few details about entertainment and events, you can be assured of the usual rally treats on top of the adrenalin banquet and motorcycle road heaven that Queenstown has to offer.

Iron Run Queenstown New Zealand
Mrs MBW at Glenorchy
  1. I couldn’t agree more Mark. It’s absolutely gorgeous country. Every corner seems to bring new features to gawk at in amazement. The road from Wanganui to Rotorua is also a LOT of fun, although more open mostly and not as spectacular.

  2. Yes, a truly magic place. But what makes it especially enjoyable is that, – unlike most spectacular places in the word, – it is not crowded. I remember climbing the amazing Stelvio Pass a few years ago. Absolutely fantastic but when we got to the top, it was hard to find a parking space big enough even for our bike. In Southern New Zealand, you can stop at a spell-binding view, only to find yourself the only person there. It is absolutely unique in the world because of this factor.

    With my tour guide hat on, I get a great kick out of the reactions of people to this magic. Nobody ever returns home from New Zealand quite the same.

  3. Really enjoying this report, partly because it brings back good memories from decades ago.
    Agree that the Queenstown area is special.
    Now I’m gonna have to revisit.
    Thanks Mark.

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