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Tuatara 

The Tuatara is an adventure bikepacking route that takes in central and coastal Southland while also exploring some Otago vistas. Many small towns are visited, gravel back roads explored and no doubt plenty of southern hospitality experienced.

 

The Tuatara has evolved over time to now include three course options. The 1000 is around 1070km and the Tuatara Iti is around 500km long, with the Little Iti being 300km and a great introduction to bikepacking. 

To read more about the Tuatara 1000 - Trent Hiles recapped his 2022 adventure here

Traditionally, an unofficial 'Grand Depart' has taken place on the last Saturday in February. 

In future the Tuatara will function as a "Grand Finish" - following the #bigfinishlineparty rules - #dontbelate

The next Tuatara gathering will take place in 2026.

Route Information 

The GPX files can be found below for the 1000, and the Little Iti, the Iti files are coming soon.

As the Tuatara route is entirely made up of public access land, the course can be ridden at any time of year.

The course is designed as a gravel bike brevet, however it has been completed on However we do recommend a late Summer time for potentially more settled weather. 

Please note, if riding either the Iti or Little Iti you will need a Clutha Gold Trail pass

NB: Always keep an ear out for logging trucks, dairy tankers and other agricultural vehicles! 

Tuatara History

You will have heard of the Tour of Southland, introducing the Tuatara 1000. The alternative tour providing another way to explore the deep south. 

 

The TOS started in 1956 and is a staple sporting event for every school child lining the sides of the road to cheer on the tour as it passed. It is this foundation and a desire to share the magic of the south with more people that has led to the creation of the Tuatara. 

 

The route was created with the following in mind, Is there a gravel option? take it, Can we visit the coast? go on, Can we avoid the main road? Please, If we go down this dead end road, will it be worth it? For sure. 

 

Therefore the course visits the coast line often, passing through rolling farm land and sub alpine tussock country. The Tuatara ensures you will be challenged and delighted at what the deep south has to offer. At times there are large distances between supply points with not many people around - that just happens to be the way things work down here.

 

This route has many many hills, lots of loose deep gravel, large distances between supplies and challenging sections just to keep your adventure interesting. While the total elevation gain isn't huge, don't be tricked into thinking it will be easy. Instead of 1000m climbs, this ride just has 1000 climbs. 

The Southland weather will keep you on your toes, (if you can feel them). Don't be fooled by the dates into thinking it is still Summer, there isn't much between Antarctica and the route.   

 

The inaugural Tuatara 1000 started on the last weekend in February 2021, 66 bikepacking cyclists set off from the Band rotunda in the center of Queens Park Invercargill. The route is intended to be completed within 8.5 days following the standard Great Kiwi Gravel ride agreements.

 

For the 2022 edition, 93 riders started their loops in both directions from Gore. 2022 also saw the inclusion of the Iti (little) course for the first time.  

2024 once again saw the return of the Grand Depart to Gore with 74 riders taking to three course distances. 

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