Thank you to our guest author: Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family
Getting outdoors with kids is so rewarding. Not only do they love it, it's great for their bodies, minds and it makes them sleep really well.
If your kids are new to biking, then I can highly recommend balance bikes. Both our boys have ridden balance bikes since about 18 months old and transitioned straight to pedal bikes at 3 ½ years old. When you start with a balance bike, there is no need for training wheels. Kids have already established their balance, so once they figure out “starting” the bike and pedalling, they are away. Both boys took less than 20 minutes to figure it out. It was one of those “heart explode” moments, so get your cameras ready.
Based in Canterbury, there are a ton of awesome places to bike. It’s one of easiest free things to do with your kids in Christchurch and Canterbury, so go check out some of our favourite spots.
1. Bottle Lake Forest, Christchurch
Bottle Lake Forest has a huge range of trails for all ages. Some forest tracks are flat and others have hills and are a little more technical. The family loop track is about 7km, a great distance for newer riders. Or join more trails together for a longer ride, even out to the beach perhaps?
But did you know that there is a great pump track at the park entrance? Young kids will find some great little hills to play on and older kids can use their BMX bikes to get some air.
There is also an awesome repurposed play area with giant tractor tyres. It's not a typical playground but those who like to climb and explore like my kids really love it.
Location: Bottle Lake Forest, Waitikiri Drive, Christchurch
2. Hanmer Springs, Hanmer Forest Park
Hanmer Springs is an amazing place to go mountain biking. I am highly jealous of those that live there, however a day trip or weekend away is totally doable too.
If you haven’t mountain biked in Hanmer with kids before, then know that there are a range of trails. Start on the beginner trails first. Some are almost predominantly flat and have some small hills that serve as an introduction to “real mountain biking”. The longest beginner trail is about 6km. If the kids get tired, you can also have a stop along the Fairy Door Walk and open all the cute wee fairy doors and see if they can find anything magical.
Intermediate and Advanced Tracks are in the Hanmer Forest Park and kids and adults always come off these reeling. They are more technical up to crazy scary, so there will be plenty to keep your adventure lovers happy here.
For more information about Mountain Biking with Kids in Hanmer Springs, click here
3. Lake Tekapo
We are big fans of taking our bikes with us when we are away and one of the most beautiful places to bike, is along the lakefront at Lake Tekapo. We highly recommend this for kids on balance bikes while the adults walk. You can easily bike from the Church of the Good Shepherd down to Tekapo Springs Hot Pools and back for a 5km bike.
This would be more suitable for toddlers and preschoolers as this is a walking track/sidewalk. But it is a great way to get out for a walk somewhere absolutely stunning without having to carry the kids (woop woop)
Location: Start at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Pioneer Drive, Tekapo.
4. Ashburton Lakes, Mid Canterbury
If you haven’t been up to the Ashburton Lakes area, you are seriously missing out. Not only are there some good short walks and lakes to explore, you can mountain bike here without worrying about too much traffic.
You can bike along the gravel roads here without too much traffic or take a track such as Lake Emily to Lake Camp with a few stream crossings, or complete the 10km Lake Clearwater circuit. The Clearwater circuit has a few narrower parts you could just walk the little ones bikes (you know those single tyre tracks but are hard for little ones that can’t drive straight) Otherwise they are pretty open gravel and dirt tracks that the kids should enjoy.
For more about the family fun at the Ashburton Lakes, click here
Location: Lake Clearwater is the central point, located on Hakatere Potts Road, 35 minutes inland from Mt Somers.
5. Methven Skills Park, Mid Canterbury
The Methven Skills Park is an awesome community project in the Methven Township. There are skills sections along a wooden boardwalk, a huge drop in hill (where yet you do get a lot of air, young kids beware) and a lot of track for kids to ride.
A geared bike is best for this and teenagers will enjoy this track, however we have taken our preschoolers and they have done sections of this too. I think its a great track for the whole family and definitely work a drive out here if this isn’t your backyard.
Location: Methven Skills Park, Down the driveway next to 14 Methven-Chertsey Road out the back of Methven Primary School (if you satellite view it on googlemaps you can see it, otherwise its not signposted)
6. The Willows, West Melton, Selwyn District
The Willows is a somewhat unknown wee gem in the Selwyn District. The Willows Park is located at the end of Thomsons Road in West Melton and has a bike and walking track right beside the river.
The bike track is a 4km loop track. The track has two distinct parts. The first part is a narrower track with more bumps and ups and downs, whereas the second part of the track is flatter and through the forest. Our kids usually complete two loops and then we go and throw stones in the river and have a picnic.
Location: The Willows, end of Thomsons Road, West Melton
7. Christchurch Adventure Park, Christchurch
Christchurch Adventure Park is a great place for older kids to mountain bike. You can buy a pass to take the chair lift to the top of a hill and mountain bike downhill to the bottom. These trails are not suitable for younger kids, but don’t write this place off yet.
There is a free pump track near the entrance to the park. This skills track is great for younger kids to learn on, or for them to play while you wait for the older kids to practice their downhill skills.
Location: Christchurch Adventure Park, end of Worsleys Road, Cracroft, Christchurch
8. Kyle Park BMX Track. Hornby, Christchurch
The BMX Track at Kyle Park in Hornby is another track that is great for older kids. At a minimum, adventurous 5 year olds or those with geared bikes could ride. Kids on balance bikes won’t have the momentum to make it up the hills and there are some really steep drops.
Younger kids could bike on the flat path through Kyle Park or play on the grass if you were taking your older kids.
Location: Kyle Park, Waterloo Road, Hornby
Top Tips for extending the kids endurance on trails
- Work your way up to longer tracks
- Leave yourself plenty of time and have patience
- Have an incentive along the way to bike to (e.g. the beach, a playground, a picnic/snack break at a certain spot)
- Bring a first aid kit or at least plasters in case they fall off
- Bring appropriate clothing such a gloves in the winter (little hands get freezing) or jackets
- Let them do the fun stuff such as ride through the mud and puddles. Everything is washable. Just wear waterproof clothing such as Therm waterproof jackets and pants.
About the Author: Jennifer is based in Canterbury and is passionate about helping other families enjoying the outdoors and being active. She created Backyard Travel Family, a resource for other families exploring New Zealand, after becoming frustrated about not having enough information about the suitability of tracks and adventures, specific to kids.
She has three children 6,4 and 2 and is currently planning some multi day adventures with the family.
You can find out more about kid friendly walks and fun activities on her website Backyard Travel Family