Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold Cycle

Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold Cycle

Trip Highlights

Clutha River at Cromwell&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Peter Walton</i>
  • Cycle all 150km of the iconic Otago Central Rail Trail
  • Take a journey on the stunning Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin
  • Cycle alongside the idyllic Clutha River on purpose built cycle trails
  • Experience a scenic jet boat transfer down the Roxburgh Gorge
  • Visit the historic gold mining town of St Bathan's
  • Enjoy a local wine tasting at a Central Otago Winery
  • Try your hand at curling in Naseby (optional)

Trip Summary

The jetboat transfers on the Clutha River are a highlight on the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Ross MacKay</i>

This cycling journey combines one of the South Island's most popular cycling experiences, the Otago Central Rail Trail, with a stunning ride along the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail as well as time on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, for a comprehensive exploration of the beautiful Otago region. Begin pedalling on the 150km vehicle-free Otago Central Rail Trail, a specially converted trail along the old Central Otago branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch, to discover the many small towns and abandoned gold diggings scattered along the trail as well as opportunities to meet some intriguing locals. Take a break from the bikes and board the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway into Dunedin, one of the world's great train trips before returning to the saddle with rides on the Clutha Gold and Roxburgh Gorge Cycle Trails, starting near Gabriel's Gully, the historic sight of the first gold strike in Central Otago. Enjoy riding the purpose built cycle way, past farmland and fruit orchards, following the beautiful turquoise waters of the mighty Clutha River. Take a scenic jet boat ride on a section of the Roxburgh Gorge, before finishing with a celebratory wine tasting in one of the many award winning vineyards the Central Otago region has to offer.

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 and Clutha Trails 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 guide will collect the group from a central city location around 8:00am and we will have a tour briefing. We will then set off with a scenic drive through to Clyde alongside the scenic river gorge. After we fit you to your bike it’s time to head out on our first ride on the Otago Central Rail Trail. You’ll cycle through flat rural countryside, passing through Alexandra and Chatto Creek before arriving in Omakau for lunch. After a drive around the quaint township of Ophir we continue to the top of the Raggedy Range to get a bird’s eye view of the trail and to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The remaining 9kms will simply flow under the wheels as we make our way to Lauder. In the late afternoon we’ll transfer by our mini-bus to the historic gold mining village, St. Bathans, for a walk around the beautiful Blue Lake. In the evening there is time for a relaxing drink and a game of pool at the local pub before dinner. Cycling Distance: 44km / 27miles

Meals:  D

Our second day of riding on the Otago Central Rail Trail will take you through historic tunnels and over rail bridges, built to connect Dunedin with Central Otago during the gold rush. With the willow tree-edged gorge below the trail and welcoming pools beckoning you will finally emerge into the scenic Idaburn valley, where we re-fuel with a hearty lunch at the cafe before our afternoon ride. The trail continues after lunch to its highest point 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 and explore Ranfurly. Around 4:30pm we drive out to Naseby, a small foresting township, just off the trail, where you have the option to test your skills at curling: bowls on ice (own expense). This is a lot of fun and the Naseby facility 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. It’s then back to Ranfurly for dinner and overnight. Cycling Distance: 47km / 29miles

Meals:  B,D

Today will serve up our longest ride on the Otago Central Rail Trail, but it is also 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 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 well deserved celebratory drink at a local cafe. The day is not finished just yet though. One of the highlights of our trip is a trip on board the famous Taieri Express for a spectacular train ride through the gorge to Dunedin, the ‘Edinburgh of New Zealand’. Tonight, we toast the group for completing the 150kms ride on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Cycling Distance: 60km / 37miles

Meals:  B,D

The sensational cycling through the Otago region continues today with our first ride on the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail. We begin with a transfer to Lawrence, where we have the chance to explore this small historical and charming village, then hit the bikes for a gentle incline up to Big Tunnel Hill and its namesake, the 434m tunnel. After being rewarded with a gentle downhill into the small township of Beaumont, we’ll reach the swift turquoise waters of the Clutha Mata-au River, NZ's second longest river. After another 20kms of beautiful riverside cycling we arrive at the small farming town of Millers Flat. Here we load up the bikes and drive through to Lake Roxburgh Village and our lodge accommodation for the night. Cycling Distance: 44km / 27.5miles

Meals:  B,D

From the lodge we drive the short distance back to Millers Flat where we start our final days riding on the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail. Today’s ride sees us squeezing past Dumbarton Rock, which once stretched all the way across the river, before riding past the network of orchards and rural farmland alongside the Clutha River back to Lake Roxburgh Village. We continue our journey onto Roxburgh Dam, the oldest Hydro Dam in the South Island, from where we connect with the final section of our ride, known as the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. The Roxburgh Gorge is a stunning landscape of steep hillsides strewn with giant boulders leading down to a willow-lined river and lake. Our final ride is split up with a scenic jet boat ride on the Clutha River before arriving in the town of Alexandra, where you can enjoy an afternoon wine tasting to celebrate the conclusion of your ride before travelling back to Queenstown. Trip concludes on arrival in Queenstown around 5.30-6:00pm when we will drop you off at a central city location. Cycling Distance: 51km /32miles

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 4 breakfasts, 4 dinners
  • 4 nights hotel/motel accommodation on twin share basis, mostly ensuite bathroom facilities
  • Professional 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 Central Rail Trail passport
  • Scenic Jet boat ride on the Clutha River
  • Water and snacks while cycling
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation

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, Wine Tasting)
  • 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.


My experience with Adventure South on the Otago Rail Trail and Clutha Gold cycle was excellent. The guides (Sue and Alex), my fellow riders, and the trails including accommodation were exemplary. The Otago Rail Trail is famous and I always wanted to do it. I had the opportunity in November - and to couple it with the Clutha Gold cycle which was beautiful and very interesting, not least the power boat. I chose the Adventure South tour based simply on the website - the information was thorough with detailed descriptions of all legs of the tour. Ensure that you have some baseline fitness and strength to do 40 - 50 km rides each day, even if the gradient is low and gradual.

Margaret K, 10 Dec 2018

Great trip, bikes, support vehicle and crew fantastic. The rail trails were fun, scenery and extra trips on train and jet boat were brilliant. Food and accommodation perfect. Many highlights but Roxburgh trail was very exciting. Consider Adventure South for your cycle tours in NZ, you will not be disappointed, highly professional with timely communication at all stages of your holiday.

Janet K, Australia, 25 Nov 2018

Great time, plenty of riding even though the weather wasn't all the best. Lovely choice of accommodation. Enjoyed it all. Good tracks, scenery, autumn colours. Great guides.

Ian and Anne M, Whitianga, New Zealand, 12 Apr 2018

Great ride and guides. Engaged the Clutha Trail more than the Otago couldn't complete the Clutha Trail was concerned about the weather, terrain but some of our group did it and now I wish I had done it. Accommodation and Cafe's chosen were great. Thoroughly recommend this tour.

Jenny D, Melbourne, Australia, 12 Apr 2018

Well organised. Good guides. Good company and good accommodation and meals.

Clive P, Melbourne, Australia, 12 Apr 2018

Tracks improved as the days progressed. Roxburgh gorge was excellent. Always wanted to to Otago and Clutha Gold and Roxburgh gorge were an excellent bonus.

, 12 Apr 2018

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:5 Days
Starting Point:Queenstown
Finishing Point:Queenstown
Grade:Introductory to Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:QCG
Prices From:NZD$1995
Bike Rental:NZD$170 
E-Bike Rental:NZD$400 
Single Supplement - Limited to 2 per departure:NZD$535 


otago rail trail itineraries