Otago Rail Trail Classic

Otago Rail Trail Classic

Trip Highlights

Cycle over the stunning Poolburn Viaduct&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Lachlan Gardiner</i>
  • Cycle the dedicated cycle trails of NZ's original great ride
  • Take in the dramatic landscapes, valleys and gorges
  • Admire the hand-built viaducts and tunnels along the trail
  • Take a journey on the famous Taieri Gorge Railway
  • Explore the old gold mining township of Clyde
  • Experience the local 'southern hospitality' of Central Otago
  • Try your hand at 'curling' in Naseby (optional)

Trip Summary

Cycling from Lauder to Ranfurly in the Poolburn Gorge&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Lachlan Gardiner</i>

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.

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.


Early this morning you will be collected from a central Christchurch location around 07:30am and taken to our depot for a bike fitting and tour briefing. We will load the bike trailer and aim to depart soon after. 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. Cycling Distance: 22km / 14miles

Meals:  D

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: 44km / 27miles

Meals:  B,D

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: 47km / 29miles

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 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: 59km / 37miles

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. 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 drop you in the central city. The trip concludes on arrival at approx 6:00 pm. Coastal Ride: 24-40km / 15-24miles

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 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)
  • Water bottle (help us save the environment and bring your own bike drink bottle)
  • Optional activities (eg. Curling)
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

Bikes used for Adventure South Cycleways tours, Avanti Discovery MTB (top), low step version (middle) and e-Bike (bottom)

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 or Merida e-Bikes are 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.


Excellent. Great guides Sue and Howie. Sue took great care to look after each person's individual needs. Howie is a very good steady driver. Both very professional and totally reliable.

Deirdre C, 19 Jan 2019

We did the rail trail as a family (9 & 11 y.o kids) and all thoroughly enjoyed it. We were greeted by friendly staff (Sue & Howie) who guided us through a week of riding & other activities. They looked after us each step of the way, providing interesting facts, funny stories and all the support and snacks we could need when riding each day. The scenery on this trail is magnificent, there were so many photo opportunities! The trail is very well maintained and there are stops with information about the area along the way. There were so many highlights - the tunnels, bridges, wildflowers, braided rivers, fields and views that just went on and on. We loved it, and the team at Adventure South made the trip stress free and a really fun holiday experience.

Philippa M, Australia, 16 Jan 2019

Sue and Howie were absolutely fantastic guides, with no request to big or little. The tour group was very diverse in ages however we really bonded over the 5 days on the trip. The places we stayed at were all interesting and had personality, especially in Clyde in our historic hotel. We wanted to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and do a more active holiday. Also to see more of NZ and in a way most people don't see from a car or tour bus.The bikes were well maintained and great to ride. A reasonable level of fitness is required, and being comfortable with riding off road - practising on tarmac won't do.

Samuel D, Australia, 15 Jan 2019

The trip was excellent. The two guides, Sue and Howie, were friendly, professional and helpful at every stage. The equipment was in good condition and the whole trip passed without a problem. I would particularly like to praise the highly professional manner that Sue dealt with the obnoxious oaf who runs the hotel/café in Hyde who, with his wife, abused us for some imagined transgression. Sue was at all times calm and reasonable and I was very impressed by her.

Jack C, Australia, 15 Jan 2019

Great bikes great accommodation great guides

Nicola K, Australia, 12 Dec 2018

Thank you to Louise and Wanda for an amazing Otago Rail Trail cycling tour. We were well looked after, well informed and had a lot of fun with our cycling group. I will thoroughly recommend to my family and friends. The whole tour was amazing. Enjoyed the cycling, scenery, accommodation, food, snacks, quality of bikes and our guides. Just do it!!

Marie U, Christchurch, New Zealand, 27 May 2018

This was an amazing experience! The Otago Rail Trail through Adventure South NZ would be the only way I would ever want to experience and enjoy the country. Louise and Wanda are the most fantastic guides, they answered our relentless questions easily, positively and always providing the best information. They generally spoiled us rotten at every interaction and were fabulous 'hosts'.

Blythe M, Canada, 27 May 2018

I have no complaints about this trip. One of the greatest gifts in life is time - time in nature and time with others. The time spent with the group and our absolutely remarkable guides Wanda and Louise was remarkable. Thank you so much for a great journey Louise and Wanda. Your thoughtful touches and guidance along the way helped make this trip all the more special and memorable. The trip was the perfect balance of riding, enjoying the sites of the Otago area, great food, and company.

Amanda S, Canada, 27 May 2018

Warm, capable guides. Super professional but also great people-people. The organisation was impeccable and overall the experience was better than expected. Loved the company, the scenery, the cycling challenge and all the other interesting side bits. So many amazing autumn views.

Josie H, Hastings, New Zealand, 27 May 2018

I had a fantastic experience with Dave and Rachel. The trail itself was a great adventure but it wouldn't have been as lovely without the warmth and knowledge of our two guides. The accommodations were quaint and overall well maintained. Two thumbs up for this trip!

Harsha Roya, Singapore, 30 Mar 2018

Enjoyed a variety of accommodation or meeting real locals. Doing it with our fab guides Rachel and Dave definitely added to our enjoyment of the trip as did the rest of our group. Every detail was looked after. Would recommend when training to take into account the difference riding on gravel makes.

Rowena and Rob D, Melbourne, Australia, 30 Mar 2018

What a great trip! Awesome scenery. Cycling through it gives you time to appreciate it and a sense of achievement. Guides Dave and Rachel were knowledgeable and caring and lots of fun. Big thank you to them.

Phil Kennedy, NSW, Australia, 30 Mar 2018

I loved the fact that you weren't pressured into doing things you couldn't do. Our guides Rachel and Dave were there supporting and assisting when needed and were friendly and welcoming. By the end of the first day all of our group, including guides had developed a close friendship which improved the already incredible trip. The accommodation you stay in is amazing and comfortable and the food we had was great.

Sydney, Australia, Tim Kitchener (14), 30 Mar 2018

Fantastic trip. Great to do some cycling before the ORT to get used to bikes and riding long distances. Rachel and Dave looked after us well. Very encouraging for an inexperienced trail rider, it was a great track. The small group (8) meant that we all got to know each other during the ride and trip. Snacks were great as was local commentary. Sandra in the office was a great support choosing and preparing for the ride.

Jo Kitchener, Sydney, Australia, 30 Mar 2018

This trip was fantastic from start to finish. Being greeted with smiley faces right at the start of the tour and ending off with meeting some really cool friends! Well organised tour, accommodation was very comfortable, meals were tasty, our guides Rachel and Dave are very knowledgeable and very supportive on the tour. Highly reccomend!

, 30 Mar 2018

Very well organised instructions from the guides were always very clear and they managed our group well. All accommodation was of a high standard and the meals were great. The additional sightseeing added to the experience of the trip.

Ross and Robyn G, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 02 Mar 2018

Exceeded my expectations on all levels. I want to do another trip with Adventure South! Top food and accommodation, everything is seamlessly planned. I would recommend this to everyone.

Evelyn B, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 02 Mar 2018

Excellent trip, well planned and organised we were not expecting to be so well looked after. The food was tremendous.

, Auckland, NZ, 02 Mar 2018

Overall experience terrific. Guides and group members, along with itinerary was the key to success. Bus rides on 1st and last day a little long. Accommodations great. Food good with variety. Enjoyed 'side trip' activities. The Otago Rail Trail was the highlight. E-bikes were perfect. We would have survived but would have made the trip much less enjoyable. We've travelled with Adventure South in the past and wanted to try a bike trip we thought would be do-able.

Jenifer G, USA, 02 Mar 2018

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.

Artur L

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

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:5 Days
Starting Point:Christchurch
Grade:Introductory  Click for more information
Trip Code:ORT
Prices From:NZD$1695
Public Holiday Supplement:NZD$50 
New Year's Supplement:NZD$100 
Bike Rental:NZD$170 
E-Bike Rental:NZD$400 
Single Supplement - Limited to 2 per departure:NZD$450 


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FAIRFAX TRAVELLER: Off the rails, on the trail