New Zealand Cycling and Hiking Adventures

Otago Rail Trail Classic

Otago Rail Trail Classic

Trip Highlights

150km of cycle heaven
  • Cycle the historic Otago Rail Trail with the experts
  • Enjoy spectacular views of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps
  • Explore the old gold mining town of Clyde
  • Cycle through tunnels and over rail bridges
  • Try your hand at 'curling' - bowls on ice!
  • Take a journey on the famous Taieri Gorge Train

Trip Summary

The heritage of the old railway line has been preserved with many bridges and viaducts remaining

Voted #2 'Must Do Adventure' in the most recent edition of 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.

Trip Grading

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 there are other cycling options that your guide can advise you on. In the evening we have our first group dinner. Road Cycling: 22kms/14 miles

Meals:  D

The Rail Trail riding starts today as we leave 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 path that it takes. 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

Meals:  B,D

Today we ride through the first two tunnels and two rail bridges on the trip. With the willow tree edged gorge below the trail and the 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 your afternoon ride. One last short easy climb takes us to the summit of the trail and the beginning of the downhill descent that take us to the art deco township of Ranfurly. You’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 you have the option of joining us in playing curling; if you can imagine bowls on ice then you are on the right track – it's a lot of fun and is at the only dedicated curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere. If curling isn’t your thing then you can still come out to Naseby with us and enjoy a relaxing pint at the iconic Royal Hotel, walk around town or in the forest plantation. After the afternoons activities we head back to Ranfurly for dinner and our nights accommodation. Rail Trail Ride: 47 kms/29 miles

Meals:  B,D

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 the ‘Kissing Gate Café’. However the day is not yet finished and if time allows we will visit the local “Stone Sheep Yards” before boarding the famous Taieri Express for a spectacular ride through the gorge described as one of the world's great train journeys. The journey is included in your tour cost. We travel into Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the south. Our dinner tonight is in the form of a group celebration at a classic Italian restaurant to acknowledge the 150kms of Rail Trail riding. Rail Trail Ride: 59 kms/37 miles

Meals:  B,D

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. Here we unload the bikes and enjoy our final quiet coastal ride, along the cliff tops and 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 a local cafe. We reload the bikes onto the vehicle and continue our journey northwards across the Canterbury Plains 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

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 4 breakfasts, 4 dinners
  • 4 nights hotel/motel accommodation on twin share basis, mostly ensuite bathroom facilities
  • Professional qualified driver/guide
  • 2 professional guides/drivers on trips with 8 or more people
  • Private vehicle transport (except for Taieri Gorge train)
  • Taieri Gorge Train trip to Dunedin
  • Otago Rail Trail passport
  • Water bottle, water and snacks while cycling
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • All beverages, other than breakfast
  • Bike hire (including helmet)
  • Optional activities (eg. Curling)
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

Trek Hybrid Bikes available for hire for Rail Trail, Low Step Hybrid Bike (middle), Avanti Discovery Low e-Bike (bottom)

HYBRID BIKE (Additional Charge)

Our Trek hybrid bikes blend the best characteristics of both road and mountain bikes into a comfortable bike ideal for riding on both sealed roads and gravel cycle trails.

The hybrid design allows you to sit upright in a position that provides the best control of the bike with well-placed centre of gravity and in a posture that reduces strain on the rider's neck and back. Also meaning you can take in the amazing scenery you'll see along the way.

We have low rise, also known as step though bike frames, as well as standard frame styles.


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 SPD pedals. A bicycle helmet and drink bottle will be included with your bike rental, along with a 15L saddle bag for personal items you might need in the day.

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:5 Days
Starting Point:Christchurch
Grade:Introductory  Click for more information
Trip Code:ORT
Prices From:NZD$1495
Public Holiday Supplement:NZD$50 
Bike Rental:NZD$170 
Single Supplement 2016/17:NZD$360 
Single Supplement 2017/18:NZD$385 


FAIRFAX TRAVELLER: Off the rails, on the trail 

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Since 1992, Adventure South NZ has operated an exciting range of guided cycling, hiking and multi-activity holidays right across New Zealand – and the world - to suit all levels of fitness. We are part of the World Expeditions Travel Group.

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