Tasmans Great Taste trail is an easy grade 2 cycle network, looping the Tasman townships on the outskirts of Nelson. Consisting of over 150 km of dedicated pathways that join numerous small towns as well as vineyards, historic sites and beautiful rural landscapes. With so many sights and attractions along its course, it’s easy to tailor your route to suit your fitness, interests and time available.
Although the full trail is considered a loop, the pure length of it often means that riders can’t ride it all in one go and need to make a choice of route. As such, the trail consists of two popular branches - commonly referred to as the coastal section which runs from Nelson to Kaiteriteri (via Rabbit Island and Motueka), and the inland section which runs from Richmond (via Wakefield) through the inland foothills and Motueka Valley to Riwaka.
Not game enough to tackle the full 150km+ circuit, we opted for a shorter in/out route via the inland section from Nelson to Spooners Tunnel and back (roughly 100km).
Starting at about lunch time on one of the hottest days of summer, we headed out from the Evo Nelson shop after checking tyre pressures and grabbing last minute bits of kit. The first section from Nelson follows the old railway reserve and is mostly paved all the way to Richmond. It made for a speedy exit from town as we cruised off holding 25-30km/hr pace comfortably.
Once you pass Richmond, this is where the gravel begins and you start to leave civilization behind. The gradient is flat, the gravel is smooth and the rural landscape is beautiful. Nothing but quiet country paths for 20km+ until you reach the historic township of Wakefield, a bustling community which makes for the perfect spot to refill water bottles and take in some calories. We made it a quick stop, refueled and continued on our way southwest towards Spooners.
The section from from Wakefield to Spooners was probably our favorite, as it navigates through the Wai-Iti Valley and into the hills. The expanse of the Gordon and Richmond ranges start to open up and you realise there are some big mountains just on the outskirts of Nelson! Finally, after the longest “climb” on the trail (8km of moderate gradient), we reached what we came to see, Spooners Tunnel.
Spooners tunnel being the prize attraction of this section, at 1,353 m long it’s New Zealand’s longest decommissioned rail tunnel. Originally built in the 1890’s, the tunnel was hand dug and was a crucial connection between Nelson and Glenhope until it was closed in 1955. It was reopened a few years back for walkers and cyclists and is a popular attraction in the area.
After a few hours in the scorching summer sun, entering the tunnel was a nice relief as the mercury plummeted to a much more comfortable temperature. Pitch black and eerily silent, a trip through the tunnel can make for an unnerving experience and one you wouldn’t want to attempt without a front light.
After a short rest, some average chat and yet another drink of water, we were back on our way. Having reached the halfway mark we were both starting to feel the effects of hours in the sun and beginning to feel a bit cooked. As we made our way back along the valley, the cool temperature of the tunnel was a distant memory and our Garmins started to read temperatures in the mid 30s! We started thinking about ice cream and with food on the brain, we set a solid pace back to Wakefield.
We entered Wakefield covered in sweat and dust, perhaps a little haggard looking, and made a beeline for the sign saying “Real Fruit Ice Cream”. At this point we’d been in the sun for the best part of 4 hours so it felt well earned to sit in the shade with a delicious treat.
We took our time to relax - refilled our water, finished our ice creams and reluctantly got up off the ground to finish the trip back to Nelson. Only 30km of relatively easy trail back to town, but already starting think about what the next big gravel mission will be...
Durand is the eCommerce leader at Evo Cycles, heading up the website team for the business. He has been in the outdoor industry for the past decade and riding bikes for about the same amount of time. A keen mountain biker, trail runner and hiker, Durand moved to Nelson with his young family in late 2019 to have better access to the outdoors.
Mathew, AKA Big Nige, has been underperforming on the bike since the very beginning. Nige is the number two in the Evo Nelson showroom, assistant crew leader under Wade himself. If Nige isn't talking bikes or riding bikes, you'll find him watching other people play Euro Truck Simulator on Youtube.
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