URGENT Safety Message: Please note that traffic volumes in the area have increased significantly since the Kaikoura earthquake due to the close of State Highway 1. It is NOT RECOMMENDED for riders to use State Highway 63 between Tophouse Road and St Arnaud village due to these increased traffic volumes.
Wakefield — St Arnaud (1 day, 59km)
The Golden Downs Trail links Tasman’s Great Taste Trail (part of the Nelson/Tasman Trails) at Wakefield with St Arnaud, gateway to the Nelson Lakes National Park.
It follows back country roads through farmland and forestry plantations and offers expansive views of the three mountain ranges bordering the Tasman district (Richmond, Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes).
RIDING THE TRAIL
Starting in Wakefield, from the corner of Edward Street and State Highway 6, a wide concrete cycle path will take you south for 500 metres where it connects with Eighty-Eight Valley Road. Continue south on Eighty-Eight Valley Road and you will soon leave town behind and enter the countryside.
There is a T-intersection at the bottom of a fast downhill, approximately 16km from Wakefield. Turn left here on to Stock Road, which takes you over Reay Saddle (429m) and down to Golden Downs.
Stock Road becomes Kerr Hill Road, which climbs gently at first and then quite steeply to the summit of Kerr Hill (632m). This is the biggest climb of the ride and from here you will enjoy views extending west to Kahurangi National Park and south to Nelson Lakes National Park – then it’s a short downhill to Korere-Tophouse Road, only 18km to St Arnaud.
A detour is recommended approximately 7-8km before St Arnaud, to visit the Tophouse Historic Hotel. Built in the late 1880s, its two feet thick walls are made of solid mud or cob, a mixture of horsehair, cow manure and straw mixed with water and clay. Its strategic location between the Wairau, Motueka and Buller Valleys was a meeting point for drovers taking sheep through to the Canterbury Plains.
The hotel is about 700m from Korere-Tophouse Road and is well signposted. From Tophouse, if you’re planning to ride the Rainbow Trail and don’t need to stop for supplies in St Arnaud, continue up the gravel road to connect with State Highway 63. Turn left and the start of the Rainbow Trail is just 700m down the road.
If you’re heading to St Arnaud, continue along Korere-Tophouse Road to State Highway 63, turning right to coast down to St Arnaud for a well-deserved coffee and a refreshing swim in Lake Rotoiti.
Wakefield is 27km southwest of Nelson on State Highway 6. Tasman’s Great Taste Trail, part of the Nelson/Tasman Trails, passes through Wakefield, providing a pleasant cycling route into and out of Nelson.
St Arnaud, in the Upper Wairau Valley, is 131km from Picton (via Blenheim).
The Golden Downs Trail is an intermediate grade cycle route that can be ridden in one day. It traverses open roads with 100 kph speed limits and, riding north to south, it includes two significant hill climbs that require a reasonable level of fitness. South to north the route is predominantly downhill, providing an easier ride.
The Nelson/Tasman enjoys a moderate climate with few extremes of weather. However, commonsense should prevail, even for a day excursion – check the weather forecast before you head off and carry appropriate clothing with you.
SERVICES AND ACCOMMODATION
Wakefield has a cafe, takeaways and general store for food and supplies. Accommodation options include one hotel and three bed and breakfasts.
In St Arnaud there is a general store, motor camp, backpackers hostel and a range of holiday homes available to rent.
There are no shops in between, so go well-stocked with the food and drink you require for the day.
The Tophouse Historic Hotel (8km from St Arnaud) offers bed and breakfast or chalet accommodation and a restaurant. Fully licensed, it boasts the smallest bar in New Zealand. The hotel also serves devonshire teas, a specialty featuring tea, coffee and homemade scones. Tophouse has limited opening days and times, especially during the winter.
The only other accommodation en route is at Wairua Pass (at the corner of Tophouse Road and State Highway 63) where there is a bed and breakfast.
Mobile phone reception is limited outside Wakefield and St Arnaud.
The Golden Downs Trail can be ridden all year. There may occasionally be snow on the higher hills in the depths of winter, but it doesn’t settle for long.