Experience New Zealand’s legendary Otago Central Rail Trail on this self guided cycling trip following the gently graded 150km trail from Clyde to Middlemarch. The old Central Otago branch railway line has been specifically converted for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders - with no motor vehicles allowed - and cuts through largely inaccessible regions of the spectacular Central Otago highlands. You will pass through some amazing scenery whilst riding over viaducts, through tunnels and experiencing wonderful cuisine and meeting colourful local people. Adding to your Rail Trail experience is a guided tour through the historic gold mining township of Naseby where you will also try your hand at curling. With the option to upgrade to an electric bike, the Otago Rail Trail is suitable for cyclists of all abilities. This popular cycling tour culminates with a journey on one of the world's great train trips - the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway into Dunedin, or if you prefer you can swap the train for a transfer back to Queenstown or Clyde.
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.
Your adventure starts in Queenstown where you will be picked up by bus from your accommodation at 9.00am to travel to Trail Journeys' Clyde depot. Upon arrival you will be fitted with your bikes, briefed on your tour then start your cycling adventure. From Clyde you can cycle past vineyards and over an old wooden trestle bridge on the ride to Alexandra. For the more adventurous, there is the option of riding on the Clutha River Centennial Track to Alexandra which adds another 8km to your cycle ride. From Alexandra you bike to Chatto Creek where this is a good option to stop for lunch at the Chatto Creek Tavern (winner of the best country pub 2015). After lunch you cycle up Tiger Hill, an easy gradient of 1 in 50. From the top of Tiger Hill it is all downhill to Omakau. You will then head over to Ophir to your luxury accommodation. There are many historic buildings in Ophir and the following day it is worth visiting the Daniel O’Connell Suspension Bridge on your way back to meet the Railtrail.
From Ophir make your way back to Omakau where you will then cycle onto Lauder to begin one of the most spectacular sections of the trail, the Poolburn Gorge. This is home to the rare New Zealand Falcon. You will travel through two tunnels and cross the 37m high impressive Poolburn Viaduct. We suggest stopping at Lauder for lunch or grabbing something from the café there and taking it with you. There are plenty of places in this section to stop and enjoy the scenery while you eat. After the Poolburn Gorge you will travel through the Ida Valley and onto your accommodation this night in Oturehua. You will be picked up from your accommodation for your guided tour of Naseby and to go curling later in the afternoon.
After a slight uphill to the highest point on the trail, it is downhill to Wedderburn then onto Ranfurly, the Art Deco Capital of Otago. We suggest you stop here for either a coffee or lunch. From here you cross the Maniototo Plains on to Waipiata where you could have your lunch at the local Tavern. From Waipiata it is just another 11kms before you arrive at your accommodation this night at Kokonga.
Today’s highlight must be the lovely trail section between Daisybank and Hyde alongside the Taieri River which crosses the Capburn Bridge, Price’s Creek Viaduct and the last tunnel which is 152m long Travel. From there you will pass 3 former train stations and also the site of the Hyde Rail disaster where 21 lives were lost in 1943. Continue along to the end of the trail at Middlemarch. As the Rail Trail finishes at Middlemarch you need to drop your bikes off at our depot. You will be able to access showers here (charges applies). From here Trail Journeys will transfer you to Pukerangi to connect directly to the Taieri Gorge Tourist Train for a 2 hour rail experience through the rugged and unforgiving Taieri Gorge onto Dunedin. Transport back to Queenstown by bus can also be arranged if required instead of the train.
Trail Journeys (who operate this trip), in conjunction with Avanti NZ, have developed bikes specifically for New Zealand’s leisure cycle trails. Our bikes are custom built for the trails and for maximum comfort so you can relax knowing you have the best bike possible for your trip.
- Puncture resistant tyres: A revelation for our customers over the years. These tyres enable you to ride knowing the chances of getting a puncture are extremely low; we get less than 20 per season with thousands of bikes hired.
- Standard and Low Step frames: A low Step frames make it easier to mount and dismount the bike as you can step through the middle.
Within this design we have also created extra brake reliability and safety as water and dust cannot penetrate the cables causing sticking.
The standard frames are for those who like a more traditional looking bike and are comfortable swinging their leg over the back of the bike to mount or dismount.
- Our seats are an ergonomic shape to better fit the human anatomy. They are elastomer based to absorb more shock and they are wide and padded for your comfort.
- 27.5 inch wheels and a wider tyres to improve handling and reduce rolling resistance. This means you get more distance for each pedal stroke.
- Ergonomically designed handlebar grips for extra comfort you didn’t expect.
- Super reliable Shimano componentry - All the vital mechanical componentry, brakes, gear levers, derailleurs, chains and sprockets are made by arguably the world’s most popular and reliable brand, Shimano.
- We have retained the V Brake (Calliper brakes) configuration for extended wear, reliability and safety.
- All bikes come equipped with a strong lightweight rear carrier so you can take a few things in one of our carrier bags or a set of panniers (Saddle bags).
- Front suspension is fitted to all our bikes to compliment the comfort and safety aspects while riding the trail.
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
Per Person, Twin Share