The Mountains to Sea Trail, the fifth Great Ride to be fully-completed under Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail, will celebrate its grand opening with a three-day hikoi ride this Thursday.
The 317-kilometre Mountains to Sea Nga Ara Tuhono takes cyclists on a journey ride from the slopes of Mount Ruapehu and through the Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks. The trail includes the iconic Bridge to Nowhere and a half-hour jet boat ride on the Whanganui River.
New Zealand Cycle Trail Project Manager John Dunn says the trail stands as a showcase of New Zealand's diverse landscapes.
"Mountains to Sea can truly claim to be one of the epic Great Rides. From witnessing the snowy peaks of Mt Ruapehu, abandoned settlements rich in cultural heritage, and the tranquillity of the Whanganui River, this multi-day adventure sums up the stunningly diverse scenery that cyclists can take in.
"As cycle tourism continues to grow, I know Mountains to Sea will be an asset the local communities will truly cherish. Already, ski shops that would once close for summer are now staying opening year-round to offer bike hire and cater for the burgeoning demand from cyclists."
"Jet boat operators are reporting equally strong growth. One company has seen cycle tourists almost double in the past year. To cater for the growing demand the company has hired four new staff and ordered a purpose-built jet boat, specifically designed to carry bikes."
Visit Ruapehu General Manager Mike Smith says estimates show the Mountains to Sea Trail has already generated up to 20 full-time equivalent jobs and $1 million in increased visitor spending.
"With the trail fully open, we can now realise the full benefits of our investment. Early estimates show that in three years' time the trail could create between 50 and 100 jobs and attract between 30,000 and 50,000 additional visitor nights. That's a potential $10 million in new income for the district.
"We're already focused on further trail developments, with a community-based project to build a new trail from National Park Village to Horopito. This would link National Park Village to Ohakune and be a stunning addition to the trail network. We're also excited about the opening of The Timber Trail next spring, bringing Taumarunui into the bike tourism business as well."
The Mountains to Sea Trail is a partnership project between the New Zealand Cycle Trail project, the Department of Conservation, Whanganui iwi, the Ruapehu District Council and Wanganui District Council.
A three day cycle journey (hikoi) travelling the entire length of the Mountains to Sea Nga Ara Tuhono will take place on the Thursday, 26 April through to Saturday, 28 April.
The hikoi will allow the cycle trail partners, iwi and the local communities to showcase their sections of trail and the benefits to local businesses and the local and regional economy.
A blessing and opening event will be held in Ohakune at the start of the hikoi. Another event will be held in Whanganui at the end.
Details are available on the Visit Ruapehu website: http://www.visitruapehu.co.nz/new-zealand/mountains-to-sea-cycle-trail-hikoi/
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