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Burt Munro Challenge - February 2019

After booking our trip to New Zealand for February 2019, we discovered that the Burt Munro Challenge Motorcycle Rally was happening the first week of our trip. We rapidly re-planned our itinerary!  We were flying in to Auckland in the North Island but Invercargill is right at the bottom of the South Island - so we booked internal flights to Invercargill and rescheduled the car hire.

We flew from Manchester on Sunday 3rd February. After a 10 hour flight to Houston (Texas), 4 hours on the ground, then another 15 hours in the air to Auckland, an overnight stay near the airport, then two internal flights Auckland to Christchurch, Christchurch to Invercargill, eventually we found ourselves booking into the most famous motorcycle rally in the Southern Hemisphere on Wednesday evening 6th February.

The rally site is a rugby club so there is plenty of room to camp. It proved to be an amazing location, just a short walk from Oreti Beach - that's the Oreti Beach which Burt Munro tested his motorcycles on. The Speedway and Dragstrip were to either side of the campsite and within walking distance. The onsite facilities were rough and ready but clean, with hot showers, good food, and free tea and coffee all weekend. There were some cracking cover bands to entertain us in the evenings.

There was a full programme of racing starting on Thursday with the hill-climb and ending on Sunday with the street racing. The hill-climb was at Bluff, about a twenty-five minute ride away with an incredibly steep hill with interesting bends and a long straight offering an exciting route with loads of roadside space for spectators. Invercargill where the street racing was staged, on an industrial estate, was about ten minutes from the rally site. There was fierce competition with all the racing, with all classes from veteran to modern accommodated for. The highlight for me was the beach racing on Friday morning, with demo runs from the streamliner that was used in the film, "The World’s Fastest Indian," piloted by Burt Munro's nephew Lee Munro. Also Polaris were running the modern Indian Scout, which is attempting to break records.

Invercargill itself has lots to offer: museums, bars, entertainment, parks, shopping, cafe's etc. and with most supporting the rally. Its biggest attraction has to be Hayes Hardware store. This is where Burt's record breaking bikes and memorabilia are housed, incredibly it's free to walk in and browse, take photos and chat. You can also buy a chainsaw or some nails if you wish! Norman Hayes was a good friend and sponsor of Burt. He bought Burt's bikes and bits from him after Burt suffered a stroke a year before his death, so the collection is extensive and meaningful. There are also lots of other bikes, cars and memorabilia in the store to look at. One visit wasn't enough so we visited several times during our stay.

Burt Munro
Burt Munro Burt Munro
Burt Munro Burt Munro
Burt MunroBurt Munro
Burt Munro Burt Munro


Two other big attractions in Invercargill for petrol heads are Richardson's Transport World museum, on the edge of town, and Motorcycle Mecca - a museum in the town centre. We bought the special offer pass for the rally week that gave us unlimited entry to both. The transport museum is probably the biggest I have ever been in, and houses everything transport,

from cycles to earth-moving vehicles. You can't absorb it all in one visit. The Motorcycle Mecca is just that, a mecca of motorcycles and anything related, and both have great themed cafe's to replenish you whilst taking it all in.

We were very fortunate weatherwise on our visit to New Zealand, we only experienced a couple of bouts of rain the whole of February, and enjoyed mainly sunny days. The roads on South Island are mostly traffic free, and very easy to navigate, North Island is a little busier, especially around Auckland, but still nothing compared to the UK!

The Packard Museum, near Whangarei, on North Island is also worth a visit, obviously lots of Packard cars, but there's a whole floor of motorcycles with some tasty Indians to observe.

If you ever get the chance, just do it. New Zealand has heaps to offer - never mind the Lord of the Rings films settings (we visited Rivendell and went to a banquet at Hobbiton, but that's another story!) - it has fantastic coastal and mountain pass motorcycling roads. It is motorcyclist friendly and the diverse scenery is world-class.

 Keith & Alison Riley



Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
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