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As diverse as Wānaka’s businesses are, there’s a defining thread: a steadfast commitment to sustainability and respect for celebrating whenua, the land we call home.

Set in the lush, rolling hills of Glendhu Bay, with Mt Aspiring National Park providing an epic backdrop, one of the businesses at the forefront of this movement is Bike Glendhu.    

We sat down with Bike Glendhu’s manager Charlie Cochrane, to chat through their company vision, regenerative tourism, and how this approach is driving their business to new heights. 

This is the Bike Glendhu story; one that, after years of researching, concepting and environmental impact-analysis, led to the consent of 50kms of incredible bike trails, and a solar powered central base complete with a wholefood cafe that the Wānaka community has embraced.  

Two mountain bikers sit at the top of Bike Glendhu in Wanaka

Where did it all start?

It all began in 2015, right here on the very land that Bike Glendhu sits. John Wilson – a health wellness aficionado and keen mountain biker – met John McRae, a forward thinking third generation farmer. The two quickly discovered a shared passion for the outdoors and all things sustainable and the vision to create Wānaka’s first purpose-built mountain bike park was born.

Three riders in the sun at Bike Glendhu

What is the vision?

Bike Glendhu’s vision came from a desire to see the land utilised in a respectful way, designing pedal-only mountain bike trails that complemented the natural topography of the Wānaka trails, while preserving the Kanuka, wetlands and rivers that characterised it.

Bike Glendhu’s mission is to utilise the land in a way that respects and preserves the natural environment while introducing locals and visitors to the thrilling beauty of Wānaka through an experience they’ll never forget.

Caroline Buchanan at Bike Glendhu

What’s an average day like for Charlie and the team?

Fast-pace applies to more than just the mountain biking at the park. Charlie spends his week building the vision, spending time with business planners, while also developing Glendhu’s sustainability initiatives and growth plan. 

This includes building the grassroots rider community in Wānaka, coaching, and shared initiatives with other bike parks, all while welcoming manuwhiri (visitors) and biking newcomers to this natural playground.

Glendhu’s original vision is one they keep firmly in their sights, with regenerative tourism central to their business ethos and day-to-day operations. 

‘’Right now, Bike Glendhu gives a percentage of profits to our planting promise”, says Charlie. “We’ve got a goal of planting 30,000 plants by 2025’’

Casey Brown plants a tree at Bike Glendhu

This is a goal that was set in 2019 and one they’re set to meet through a number of measures. From inviting people to donate, to planting experiences, and offering carbon-offsetting opportunities to other local businesses, Glendhu applies a hands-on, collaborative approach to all they do.

What does the future hold?

In addition to developing a wetland and expansive carbon-sink, Glendhu are also looking to grow their trail network. With 37km developed of the 50km consented, there are future plans to continue development with the biking community; building aspiration, excitement and a truly sought-after and unparalleled experience for bike enthusiasts of every ability.

Bike Glendhu, photo by Callum Wood

Sounds easy right?

Charlie admits that running Bike Glendhu isn’t always a smooth ride. Operating a progressive business, particularly one in a tourism industry that’s been hammered hard by the global pandemic is a bumpy path that’s best navigated, in Charlie’s view, by keeping your eyes on the prize. 

“When you get these setbacks, never stop believing in your vision, and why you’re doing it”, he says. “If you’re passionate about it like we are, you need to own it and focus on how rewarding the outcome will be. It knocks the hell out of you, but try to enjoy the journey and keep believing. When others feel and see that, you’ll have the support you need to dig deep and see it through.”

Casey Brown holds a tree at Bike Glendhu
Bikers having fun at Bike Glendhu

This undying drive and passion is key, and as the Glendhu story evolves a core focus is communicating this vision to those who visit and those yet to visit.  Focusing on the environment, giving back more than they take, an off-grid solar approach, and a commitment to place and people are the backbones of the Glendhu experience, and ones Charlie and the team hope to share. 

Bike Glendhu wishes to create a healthy, self-sustaining cycle, with newcomers and regulars getting on board with Glendhu’s vision, making a conscious choice to contribute, experiencing the park’s great riding and supporting a shared cause. With profits available to be funneled back into the sustainability measures driving the company’s vision as well as economic benefits for the Wānaka community, they’re on track to see the location thrive for generations to come.

Mountain biker riding at sunrise Bike Glendhu

Bike Glendhu is a great example of Wānaka’s pioneering businesses and their unique approach to operations via regenerative travel and tourism. Increasingly, game-changing organisations like Bike Glendhu are rethinking the business model, operating not as independent entities, but as extensions of the places and local communities within which they exist.

A bike rider

As Aotearoa borders are set to open this whanaungatanga to the world, a sense of belonging and responsibility inspired by collaboration, conservation and a culture of care is one we hope new visitors can experience in Wānaka and take with them, wherever they go. 

To experience this for yourself, and the pristine beauty that is Wānaka, Bike Glendhu is a great place to start. We’ll see you up there.