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Trail sign Couple cycling on the Otago Rail Trail Family day out Aerial view of trail Cycle by vineyards family in tunnel
Because not everybody wants the same holiday....
Because not everybody wants the same holiday....

4 day self guided
Otago Rail Trail cycling trip

  • Overview
  • Itinerary

Cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail is one of the classic active experiences in New Zealand.

The Otago Central Branch line was originally used to transport supplies to and from the Gold Fields and then later to transport goods and livestock. By the late 1980s the line was being used less and less it was decided that it would be developed into a trail that would be suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. In 1993 the Department of Conservation (DOC) bought the corridor for a recreational reserve.

The Otago Central Rail Trail Trust was formed in 1994 to partner the Department, helping raise funds to initially open the Trail. The Rail Trail officially opened fully in 2000 and the teamwork between the Trust and DOC has continued. The Trail then become part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network in 2012 and is the original ‘Great Ride’ of the Nga Haerenga project.

The Otago Central Rail Trail now runs between Clyde and Middlemarch and is New Zealand's most popular cycle trail, and it’s easy to see why. It is steeped in history and the vehicle free trail snakes its way through stunning scenery. There are also numerous activities to enjoy along the way including a river cruise in Alexandra, curling in Naseby, 4WD tours and much more.

If you are looking at a self guided cycling trip along the entire Otago Central Rail Trail, which is open year round, then this the most popular option is 4 days.

Day trips for those with less time are also popular options.

The wide, compacted gravel trail has a maximum 1 to 50 gradients, making it an ideal ride for introductory cyclists or families.

Starting at the township of Clyde, located just 1 hour drive from Queenstown or Middlemarch located 1 hour drive from Dunedin.

Flying into Queenstown and out of Dunedin is a popular option for people wishing to cycle the Otago Rail Trail.

Family friendly.

Get the kids active and explore Central Otago on the Rail Trail. This trail is vehicle free and with its easy gradient is a perfect for a family cycling holiday. All the gear to kit you out - from baby seats to trailers and tagalongs to the latest children’s mountain bikes.

Family friendly accommodation can be organised along the trail as well as some interesting side trips.

Daily transport services can also provide alternatives for your family as well as assurance that there is a back-up service if need be.

Trip highlights

  • Cycle the full 152km of New Zealand’s first rail trail and original Great Ride
  • Venture through tunnels and across viaducts
  • Appreciate dramatic landscapes and distinctive Central Otago climate
  • Explore the many small townships both on and off the trail and experience ‘southern hospitality’
  • Learn a thing or two the information filled Gangers Sheds and old station sites

Explore by bike, at your own pace, some of the most scenic landscapes in New Zealand's South Island on our independent tour. The Otago Central Rail Trail follows the old railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. The trail is vehicle-free, has an easy gradient, and takes you through amazing scenery, through tunnels and over viaducts. Along the way, there are many historic hotels to visit, wonderful cuisine to experience and the chance to meet characterful local folk.

Please note that this package is available in the opposite direction.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Clyde to Omakau: Cycle 36 km.

Your day starts at our Clyde Depot at the start of the trail. Here you will be fitted on your bikes, briefed about your tour before beginning the ride to Omakau. Between Clyde and Alexandra, the trail takes you past vineyards and over an old wooden trestle bridge. Or, for the more adventurous, there is the option of riding on the River Track to Alexandra. This track is not technical but does require more confidence and concentration, and adds another 8km to your ride. It is, however, definitely worth it. From Alexandra, the trail heads out to Chatto Creek where the tavern serves an excellent lunch and is a recommended stop before Tiger Hill. The gradient is steady but easy, and then it is downhill to your overnight accommodation in Omakau. If you have time, we suggest riding the 5km loop to Ophir. This is an interesting settlement with historic wooden and stone buildings from the gold-mining era and a small, but iconic suspension bridge. There is also good food and coffee to be found in Ophir.

Meals

No meals included today.


Day 2 - Omakau to Wedderburn: Cycle 44 km.

Beyond Lauder is the start of one of the most spectacular sections of the trail. The Poolburn Gorge, home to the rare New Zealand falcon, features tunnels and viaducts in a secluded rocky setting. The gorge then opens out to the vast expanse of the Ida Valley, made famous by the paintings of Graham Sydney. Oturehua is an interesting settlement with the old Gilchrist’s Store and the Oturehua Tavern. Other nearby attractions include the historic Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead, as well as the remains of the Golden Progress Mine, just north of the town. The trail then takes you over the highest point, and down to your accommodation at Wedderburn. For your evening meal, the Wedderburn Tavern is just a short walk from your accommodation.

Meals

Breakfast is included today.


Day 3 - Wedderburn to Hyde: Cycle 44 km.

From Wedderburn, the trail is mostly downhill to Ranfurly, the Art Deco capital of Otago. Consider stopping here for morning tea and visit the I-Site in the old railway station and learn more about the history of the rail. Cross the Maniototo Plains to lunch at the Waipiata Tavern. The afternoon’s highlights are between Daisybank and Hyde where the trail runs alongside the Taieri River over the Capburn and Prices Creek Bridges and through the last tunnel before arriving at your accommodation in Hyde.

Meals

Breakfast is included today.


Day 4 - Hyde to Middlemarch: Cycle 29 km.

The trail from Hyde passes the site of the 1943 Hyde railway disaster and on down through the wide-open spaces of the Strath Taieri Valley and alongside the impressive Rock and Pillar Range. The ride is downhill to the end of the trail at our Middlemarch Depot where you return your bike and equipment and consider purchasing a memento of your trip. If there is time, have a shower, before your onward transport back to Clyde at 2:30pm.

Meals

Breakfast is included today.


Inclusions

  • Cycle equipment: trail bicycle, helmet, repair kit and odometer.
  • 3 nights accommodation based on economy twin share - option to upgrade to standard or luxury
  • 3 breakfasts
  • Daily luggage transfer - weight limit of 15kg
  • Personalised itinerary and map
  • Transport Middlemarch to Clyde. (Transport to/from Queenstown/Dunedin or other transport can be added)
  • E-bikes (optional upgrade)
  • Panniers (optional extra)
  • Emergency trail support

Accommodation

Economy Level
Basic but comfortable accommodation in the form of Holiday Parks, backpackers or cabins. Private rooms with shared kitchen, lounge and bathroom facilities. May also include farmstay or rural homestay type accommodation.

Standard Level
Cottages, motel and lodge type accommodation with private rooms and social living space. Mostly ensuite or private bathrooms depending on the nature and availability of accommodations.

Luxury Level
Accommodation with charm, character and special comforts for you to indulge in at the end of each cycling day. Great hospitality and local knowledge from hosts.

Bike options

Rail Trail Comfort Bikes - Standard
Our trail bikes are ideal for the Otago Central Rail Trail and other similar gravel trails. They feature an upright riding position, front suspension and a gel seat for maximum comfort. With their Australasian-designed Avanti frames and proven Shimano and Tektro componentry, these bikes ensure the best possible riding experience.

Rail Trail Comfort Bikes - Low step
Our low-step trail bikes are ideal for the Otago Central Rail Trail and other similar gravel trails. They feature an upright riding position, front suspension, swept back handlebars and a gel seat for maximum comfort, and a low-step frame to make getting on and off easy. With their Australasian-designed Avanti frames and proven Shimano and Tektro componentry, these bikes ensure the best possible riding experience.

Electric Bike
E-bikes have made cycle touring possible and pleasurable for a wide range of people. They are simple to operate, and eliminate much of the cycling strain from legs and knees. Our European-designed E-bikes are built with comfort and ease of operation in mind, and feature unisex frames, 29” wheels, front suspension and proven Bosch electronics.

Please email us to enquire further about this trip.

DesigNZ on Travel
85 Phillips Drive
Oropi Downs
Tauranga
New Zealand
Phone: +64 (07) 577 1434
email: info@designzontravel.co.nz

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