Voted #2 'Must Do Adventure' in the the Lonely Planet's New Zealand guide book, this adventure will have you cycling back in time to New Zealand's rural past along a trail that has been specifically converted for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders - with no motor vehicles allowed! The trail follows the old Central Otago branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch, passing through many towns along the way. This trip is not just about the cycling but rather exploring the many small towns and abandoned gold diggings as well as meeting the locals. Along the way you can even try your hand at the ancient art of curling (bowls on ice). You can choose to start the trip in either Christchurch or Clyde and finish either back in Christchurch or Dunedin. The adventure culminates with us enjoying one of the world's great train trips on the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway into Dunedin. This adventure is fully supported leaving you with no concerns about accommodation or luggage.
To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the altitude, the number of pass crossings and the length of the trip. The Otago Rail Trail Classic is graded introductory. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and we suggest 30 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (either cycling or jogging) three times a week for the three months leading up to your trip. The main factor for the rail trail is that the cycling is on hard packed gravel - if you can get in some cycling on gravel before your tour it will make the experience a lot more fun.
Important: The night before your tour is to depart your guide will call your pre tour accommodation to advise what time (approx 7:15am) they will collect you the following morning. (Please make sure you have given us information as to where you are staying). If you are not around when your guide calls they will leave a message at reception – it's really important that you check with reception if you have not heard from your guide directly. If for any reason you have not heard from your guide by the morning of the tour please call us in the NZ office on 0800 00 11 66 (from within NZ).
Once at our depot, we conduct a quick check of your bike or we’ll fit you on one of our fleet of rental bikes. We then load the bike trailer and aim to depart by 8am. We’ll pick up lunch along the way in Geraldine before we start our cycle programme with a quiet ride alongside the Tekapo canal system with spectacular views of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps. Crossing over the Lindis Pass we descend down to Cromwell and travel alongside the scenic river gorge before arriving at the railhead at Clyde. The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore this old gold mining town or meander along some alternative cycle trails. In the evening we have our first group dinner.
Road Cycling: 22kms/14 miles
Today we commence the official Otago Central Rail Trail ride, leaving town across the flat rural countryside. From Chatto Creek the trail starts to rise before leveling off to Omakau where we stop for lunch. We then take a drive around the quaint township of Ophir and to the top of the Raggedy Range to get a bird’s eye view of the trail and the surrounding regions. After lunch the remaining 9kms flow under the wheels until we arrive at Lauder. Late afternoon we will take a drive to the historic gold mining village, St. Bathans, for a walk around the beautiful Blue Lake. This evening it is time for a relaxing beer and a game of pool at the local pub before dinner.
Rail Trail Ride: 44 kms/27 miles
Our cycle ride today takes us through the first two tunnels and two rail bridges on the trip. With the willow tree-edged gorge below the trail and welcoming pools beckoning we finally emerge into the scenic Idaburn valley. Here we stop for a visit to the Hayes Engineering works, where some of New Zealand's first industrial farm equipment was invented. The stop is also perfectly located to fuel up with a hearty lunch at their cafe before our afternoon ride.
One last short easy climb takes us to the highest point of the trail and the beginning of the downhill descent that take us to the art deco township of Ranfurly. We’ll have some free time in the afternoon to relax, stroll around Ranfurly or catch up on some washing. Around 4:30pm we drive out to Naseby, a small foresting township, just off the trail. Here we have the option of trying our skills at curling: bowls on ice. This is a lot of fun and is the only dedicated curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere. If curling doesn't appeal, a relaxing pint at the iconic Royal Hotel, or a walk around the village or in the forest plantation are alternatives. After these activities we head back to Ranfurly for dinner and overnight.
Rail Trail Ride: 47 kms/29 miles
It’s out of bed and back onto the bikes for our longest ride today, but it is some of the best riding on the trip. From Waipiata the trail follows the edge of the old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge. The trail crosses through further tunnels and bridges before a fast downhill to the old hotel at Hyde. From here a final 27kms takes us past the scene of the famous Hyde rail disaster of 1943 and then out onto the rolling plains slowly descending into Middlemarch. This is the end of the trail and time for a celebratory drink at a local cafe. However the day is not yet finished and we board the famous Taieri Express for a spectacular train ride through the gorge to Dunedin, the Edinburgh of New Zealand. Our dinner tonight is a group celebration to acknowledge the 150kms of Rail Trail riding.
Rail Trail Ride: 59 kms/37 miles
This morning after breakfast we say good bye to any passengers leaving us in Dunedin, and we visit Baldwin Street, reputedly the “steepest street in the world”, for a short but challenging early morning stroll. Then we set off on our drive northwards, stopping enroute to visit the Moeraki Boulders. Shortly afterwards we unload the bikes and enjoy a final quiet coastal ride, past farms that takes us into Oamaru. We can wander around the old Victorian Precinct where the historic buildings have been restored creating a fascinating opportunity to explore the past and relax at local cafes. After lunch we continue northwards and across the Canterbury Plains back to Christchurch, where we will deliver you to your chosen accommodation. Trip concludes on arrival at approx 6:00 pm.
Coastal Ride: 24-40kms/15-24 miles
MOUNTAIN BIKE (Additional Charge)
Our new fleet of Avanti Discovery hybrid mountain bikes combines the best characteristics of a hybrid bike and a mountain bike to give you a great ride and comfort on gravel cycle trails. This bike has a more upright riding style meaning you can still take in the amazing scenery you'll encounter along the way.
These bikes have 29" wheels, suspension forks and suspension seat posts to iron out the bumps and hydraulic disc brakes give responsive braking.
They are also available in a low rise, also known as a step though bike frame, please specify on your booking form.
ELECTRIC BIKE (Additional Charge)
Our Avanti Discovery low step e-Bike is perfect for cyclists that may require a little assistance on their travels. Pedalling our e-Bikes is easier on knees and joints than riding a traditional bike. They provide up to 80kms of pedal assistance before requiring recharging. Very simple to operate and they provide people with varying levels of cycling experience, health and fitness levels the opportunity to enjoy our cycling holidays.
For bicycle specifications please contact us for more details.
Bikes can be fitted with flat pedals, toes clips or MTB SPD pedals. A bicycle helmet will be included with your bike rental, along with a 15L saddle bag for personal items you might need in the day.
It was amazing. Alice and Sue were brilliant guides. The bikes, accommodation and food was top notch. The rail trip was the highlight!
Emma, Australia, 05 Jan 2018
Had a fantastic time. Really enjoyed the cycling adventure, the people I met and the places all experienced. The trip was well facilitated by Sue and Alice who did a superb job working constantly to ensure not just a smooth operation but a fun and interactive one. Cycling was at times more challenging than expected and other times very pleasurable and scenic. Food and accom mostly excellent except for accom in Dunedin. Recommend a massage on last day!
Trace, Melbourne, Australia
Awesome trip. The ride, scenery, food and accommodation outstanding. Sue and Alice are excellent guides who gave us a good insight into the area.
Sue and Neale, Australia, 05 Jan 2018
Fantastic guides able to groom the adventure to suit the needs of everyone without anyone feeling uncomfortable. Perfectly planned distances that allowed time for everyone to enjoy everything. Varied accommodation that was pleasant accompanied with great meals of varying styles. Overall, a great experience two older travellers with no biking experience would not hesitate to recommend!
George & Fiona, Canberra, Australia, 05 Jan 2018
The guides were outstanding and went above and beyond. No hesitation in recommending this trip to others.
Susan P, Australia, 23 Oct 2017
I'd been looking for a cycling holiday in the South Island and was impressed by the level of organisation offered by Adventure South. I'd never gone on holiday on my own before, so paid the single supplement as I didn't fancy sharing a room with a stranger! It was also a bit nerve-wracking pitching up on the first day. However, as it transpires, the group I went with was both diverse and extremely pleasant; a mix of single people, couples and even a father & son.The actual logistics of the trip are superbly organised, and I must mention Pip our guide, who was absolutely amazing and successfully fielded around a million questions over the course of the week. Accommodation is fantastic, a mix of modern and traditional and just quirky, and after a day in the saddle, you're ready to put away some calories. Sleep is never hard to come by either. The mileage was just right for me, around 40-60km each day, though I consider myself pretty fit and it might be challenging for someone not used to exercise. Having said that you can go at your own pace, whether that's gently pedalling along or treating it like the Tour de France as I did for some strange reason. Lots of amazing scenery, as you'd expect. and the sun was out so it was factor 50 all the way. Occasionally the trail becomes long and straight, which can be slightly monotonous. I'd recommend an iPod for such stretches, but it's a minor gripe on what was a brilliant trip in every respect. Hats off to the company and especially Pip, our amazing guide.
Phil Hickes, NZ
Just completed the Otago Rail Trail with Adventure South. Everything was great. The guide (Tim) proved to be very thoughtful with us and quite acquainted with the history of New Zealand. The food we ate in the small cities countryside of New Zealand are just delicious.
Being able to participate in an activity I thought was beyond me! Thanks to the confidence I felt having an E-bike. Having Sue as our guide. Countryside. Thoroughly enjoyed small group experience with like minded people.
Andrea Wittick, Australia
Love the whole trip, especially tunnels and viaducts. Adventure South has been great and we would not hesitate to travel with them again.
Rod Felton, Australia
Per Person, Twin Share
FAIRFAX TRAVELLER: Off the rails, on the trail