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Had Frodo Been a Motorcyclist

Updated: May 18, 2022

Hobbit home with round door
New Zealand is one of the most amazing motorcycle destinations in the world: photo credit Bryan Pannell

Who doesn’t get soft knees at the very sight of New Zealand’s insanely stunning nature?

A place that its creators have designed so shamelessly well? Blessed with deserted twisting roads embedded in a fairytale-like landscape … surely, they must have thought of us, motorcyclists, when they went to work!

When I started my motorcycle journey in New Zealand, it didn’t take long to realize the healing powers of this beautiful, highly therapeutic combination. Full throttle, wind straight up the face, right in the heart of a land that strikingly resembles Middle Earth.

Had Frodo been a motorcyclist, New Zealand would have been his playground.

Actually, there’s nothing much to be said about New Zealand that isn’t obvious. To many, it’s a destination full of longing, with colors, natural marvels, and pure outdoors virtually exploding. And of course, its zillion sheep that have lived here since time immemorial it seems; adorning postcards, books, and travel guides correctly conveying an impression of a leisurely baaing rurality.

A flock of sheep in New Zealand
Sheep are New Zealand’s no 1 icon; photo by maonakub on Canva

Little has changed in this regard to this day. In fact, nothing.

It doesn’t really matter in which part of the country you start your motorcycle journey. However, there’s a kiwi-internal rivalry between the North and the South Island, which is not apparent to most outsiders. Because phenomenal affidavits of a most refined nature exist on both sides of the Cook Strait, as does the heartwarming hospitality of its unusual people. A wonderful mélange that does not only make motorcyclists immediately feel at home.

Though New Zealand is a small country, motorcycling is a big thing. The locals usually remain calm and exhibit a profound tolerance for the riders’ wild passion, strangely enough. Somehow motorcycle riding belongs to Mother New Zealand — as do her sheep. The kiwis’ also exhibit their empathy for motorcycling on large signboards flanking the roadsides patiently. “Respect every ride” is one such reminder — admittedly, it’s aptly worded for both two- and four-wheelers.

Those who pick up a roadmap may initially be disillusioned.

The tarmac network does indeed appear manageable. Almost claustrophobically small. That many of these roads lead through a jaw-dropping landscape, on the other hand, is fortunately unavoidable.

A women motorcyclist riding into a deserted valley in New Zealand
New Zealand offers great off-road riding on deserted roads; photo by Bryan Pannell

With the right motorcycle, there’s also a myriad of twisty gravel back roads to pick from. They take you right into the most interior, less-traveled regions of New Zealand. Many are in the hands of headstrong locals running gigantic stations but usually permit farmgate riders to pass through. Places where every battered soul can genuinely take siege and simply be — if you don’t mind sheep and a stiff breeze.

And out there, you can’t help but suspect a hobbit or Gollum pop around the very next corner.

There are still many spots out there without cell coverage, which is a bonus. However, it will instantly reduce your navigation and route planning to a scratched note on a piece of paper. Or you leave it up to chance and hope to bump into a weathered local to show you the trail. Surprisingly, they often show up, even in the deepest of barrens.

New Zealand is a largely empty country apart from the 1.5 metropolitan cities it tries to show off with. What all of this means for motorcycling in New Zealand is simple:

A woman motorcycling in the mountaineous Rainbow Valley in New Zealand
New Zealand offers great off-road rides on deserted roads; photo by Bryan Pannell

There’s a lot of open space, pure outdoors with predominantly deserted roads in a highly secure and spotless environment. No (serious) wildlife to come after you, no perpetrators. Instead, you find birds that can’t fly, penguins crossing roads, and yummy pies at nearly every street corner — that’s if you love a meaty fill.

All of this makes New Zealand undoubtedly one of the most attractive motorcycle destinations imaginable around the globe. And because it’s so tiny, you can cover most of it in one day:

  • lush rolling hills

  • dry alpine highlands

  • virgin rainforests

  • barren tussock countryside

  • surreal turquoise lakes (that actually look fake) and

  • ragged coastal vista.

Perfect for those who want to ride off uninhibited or are simply looking for a rewarding entry to motorcycle touring. Into the distant lush green infinity of New Zealand. And if you’re fortunate, you may even spot Frodo and his buddies riding around. Because nothing seems impossible in this majestic jewel land at the bottom of the world.

Thank you for reading; I hope you find a reason to return!

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