Queenstown Otago Rail Trail

Queenstown Otago Rail Trail

Trip Highlights

Otago Central Rail Trail&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Lachlan Gardiner</i>
  • Explore the stunning Queenstown & Arrow River cycle trails
  • Cycle all 150km of the iconic Otago Central Rail Trail
  • Admire the craftsmanship of hand-built viaducts and tunnels
  • Take a breathtaking journey on the famous Taieri Gorge Railway
  • Enjoy a delicious wine tasting at a Central Otago vineyard
  • Cycle along the Pacific coast on quiet backroads
  • Try your hand at curling in Naseby (optional)

Trip Summary

Rider crossing the Edgar bridge on the Queenstown Trails&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Queenstown Trails & Jim Pollard</i>

Combine two of the South Island's most popular cycling experiences, the adventure capital of Queenstown and the famous Otago Rail Trail. The cycling begins with a beautiful ride from Arrowtown to the Kawarau 'Bungy' Bridge on the newly established Queenstown Trails before pedalling the country's most famous cycle path, the 150km vehicle free Otago Rail Trail, a specially converted trail along the old Central Otago branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. You'll discover the many small towns and abandoned gold diggings scattered along the trail as well as meeting some intriguing locals before hopping off the bikes to board the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway into Dunedin, one of the world's great train trips. For those that thrive on adventure and activity during their holidays Queenstown will be a highlight in itself and we encourage you to talk to us about extending your stay here to make the most of the many activities on 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 Queenstown Otago Rail Trail 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 Queenstown location around 8:00am and we will have a tour briefing and then a bike fitting. Then it's time to explore the Queenstown trails. We'll cycle from the historic township of Arrowtown through to rugged Gibbston Valley, passing the famous Kawarau Gorge bungy bridge. We will then drive to Cromwell for lunch before arriving at the railhead at Clyde. The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore this old gold mining town or ride along some alternative cycle trails. In the evening we will enjoy sampling some local boutique wines at a vineyard in Clyde before heading to our first group dinner. Cycling Distance: 16km / 10 miles. Optional 15km / 9 mile ride in the afternoon

Meals:  D

Today we commence the official Otago Central Rail Trail ride, as we leave town across 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 region. 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. 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 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 he village or in the forest plantation are alternatives. After the afternoons 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 to Christchurch, where we will drop you off in the central city. The trip concludes on arrival at approx 6:00 pm. Coastal Ride: 24km / 15miles

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 Central Rail Trail passport
  • Wine tasting at a Central Otago vineyard
  • 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.


A perfect holiday balancing some healthy effort, great company and tons of interesting local destinations. Food and accom suited perfectly. Easy ride with great scenery and destinations so don't hesitate. Take your time and enjoy.

Gerald D, Australia, 03 Feb 2019

Loved this ride from Queenstown across the southern part of the South Island. The daily cycling distances were totally manageable, the scenery was spectacular and the food and lodgings were great. Our guide, Chantal, was always at the right place at the right time to provide a snack, a warm drink or just an encouraging word.

Elinor Jean R, Ottawa, Canada, 18 Jan 2019

This was awesome trip, we had the most extreme weather conditions but our guides worked behind the scenes re-organising and rescheduling so we could still had a week of adventure. Have been wanting to ride the Rail Trail for years but working out the logistics was in the too hard basket so when I saw a guided and fully organised trip advertised I was sold.

Michelle S, Auckland, 05 Dec 2018

Well organised, good accomodation and food, guides were able to adapt the program to needs of the group. The trip exceeded our expectations

Helen O, 05 Dec 2018

Varied experience, excellent guides, wonderful weather, challenging conditions. Possibly have more times when the riding group came together to view the magnificent scenery, or have something explained to the group.

Margaret K, Australia, 21 Nov 2018

Excellent trip. Very well organised and ran very smoothly. Fantastic food, amazing guides and great cycling! Bring warm clothes & prepare for any weather!

The Stapletons, Austraia, 13 Apr 2018

I really enjoyed the riding and the scenery. The tour guides were very friendly and informative & clearly had our safety as priority. I read a blog post about how beautiful the Otago Central Rail Trail was in Autumn. As I love riding, it was a no brainer to do this trip.

, 13 Apr 2018

Everything on the trip was great. Nothing was too much trouble for the guides. Accommodation and food excellent. Guides managed the tour well and then we had excellent knowledge to share with the riders. Good value for money. The highlight of the trip was seeing snow on the mountains and the train trip.

Laurie and Kate Smith, Australia, 13 Apr 2018

Value for money was excellent. The bikes, accommodation, food for the guides were excellent. Nothing was a problem and we weren't rushed at any stage.

Reg and Louise S, Australia, 13 Apr 2018

The guides Sean and Jo were amazing. They were wonderful ambassadors for your company - respectful, hardworking, patient, knowledgeable and fun. The scenery was awesome, accommodation and food excellent.

, Sydney, Australia, 16 Mar 2018

Overall terrific experience that may have converted me to regular cycling holidays. Loved the scenery, the satisfaction of being physically fatigued at the end of the day. Happy down to earth guides and friendly hosts at B&Bs. Bike (e-bike) comfortable. If not a regular rider, do some spin classes or borrow a bike for some trial runs beforehand.

Sue B, Melbourne, Australia, 16 Feb 2018

Ange and Lisa were excellent and very friendly, helpful and caring. The scheduling was well timed and never felt under pressure. The accommodation and meals were much better than expected. The experience was everything we hoped for and more. We were very lucky with the perfect weather. Awesome trip!

Healther and Andrew C, Australia, 16 Feb 2018

Wonderful, with plenty of variety/options along the way. The guides made it comfortable for us to enjoy and attention to detail was 2nd to none. Recommend that the ladies bikes have drink holders attached to the frame.

Sam and Carmel P, Yass, Australia, 16 Feb 2018

I loved being outside and doing something energetic for my holiday. I'm already thinking of what's next! Don't be afraid to request an e-bike.

Kym Y, Melbourne, Australia, 16 Feb 2018

Everything was wonderful. The guides were endlessly patient, often repeating instructions to those who missed out (or were talking). The trip was so scenic. Loved the accommodation and food choices -so unique, specific to NZ and great value.

Sue V, Sydney, Australia, 19 Jan 2018

Great: organisation, great communication, flexibility, guides, fellow travelers, sense of achievement, completed each leg and the changing countryside. Not so great: Long stretches in the heat - impossible to control.

J & J G, Australia, 19 Jan 2018

This was my first bike riding trip, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I found Adventure South to be a very professional and well organised group. As well as offering individual consideration to all riders, the guides knowledge of the area was amazing. Nothing was too much trouble and Sue and Hayleigh went above and beyond to ensure our group had the best possible experience. I would certainly recommend this trip for other bike riders.

Anna Z, Australia, 19 Jan 2018

This trip was well planned and well paced. Beautiful scenery, good food and great guides. The optional ride this first afternoon (Clyde to Alexandra along the river) was a great recommendation- not to be missed. Some of the Rail Trail was a bit rougher than I expected- loose gravel - but that is the nature of Rail Trails.The guides met all my needs and then some. Instructions and information was always clear and helpful. The itinerary met the needs of our group. The distances and details seemed appropriate. We were looking for a supported trip and the website information indicated this trip met our criteria. We wanted Trails not roads with cars. We had a particularly hot week. I would have packed a wash cloth or wipes. Ride before you come so your butt is ready.

Marilyn, USA, 08 Dec 2017

Great guides, beautiful scenery, great cycling!

Julie, Brisbane, Australia, 08 Dec 2017

Our guides were excellent! I loved the cycling but also greatly enjoyed the additional side trips as well. I wouldn't change a thing about this trip.

Gina, USA, 08 Dec 2017

Wonderful trip overall. The guides were simply the best!

Angelle Snyder, Idaho, USA, 08 Dec 2017

Well organised with interesting cycle options on day one and five. Felt early on that we could do more distance but by the end was pleased that the pace was very good across the five days. Guides were clearly very experienced and gave clear instructions. The accommodation was of a high standard and I particularly enjoyed the Dunston Guest House in Clyde. Evening meals very good and breakfast more than adequate. I appreciated the eggs on day three. It is a great journey to do and the fully guided option was the way to go with lots of side trips to things off the trail. A fantastic experience. My only suggestion for improvement would be provision of chilled water in the hotter months.

Glen, Canberra, Australia, 08 Dec 2017

Great trip and appreciated the extra non-cycle add-ons such as the curling and trip to the blue lake. Makes you appreciate the country we live in - and the people we met along the way. Enjoyed the ride on the last day and the ever changing countryside. Just do it!!

Ann S, Whangarei, NZ, 08 Dec 2017

Friendly, efficient hardworking guides led us on journey through amazing land. Comfortable accommodations, delicious meals. Wish we had more time to spend in Dunedin and oamaru. Hotel hosts were great, restaurants too. Oversized desserts at Clyde were delish but way too much, felt bad leaving so much. Vegetables much appreciated! Hard to find salads. Ryan very personable, Ange too, and good management of our limited time when it felt a bit rushed. Pack light. Stop and enjoy the sights and people. Don't rush.

Sherry, USA, 08 Dec 2017

Great activity for escaping the northern winter. The route is interesting and not at all steep. Guides are engaged and really try hard to help the clients have a great trip. A+. Adventure South NZ has accurate write up. The weather is the big variable So come prepared for wet or dry, cold or hot, and what you don't need for the day goes in the support vehicle.

Stan, 08 Dec 2017

Had a fantastic week and would highly recommend this to anyone- even with bad knees the guides supported me through.

Jane M, Australia, 20 Nov 2017

This has everything - great cycling (fantastic bikes), wonderful scenery, history, great food, great comfort, fun

Faye Lovell, Australia

Good support, well organised. Would have liked more time in Oamaru. Tunnels, bridge, mountains, fun. Felt treated as a person, not just a customer. - Wonderful to see some heritage parts of New Zealand.

Sue Fyfe, Australia

The people, the snacks. Everything was perfect.

Tania Paris, Australia

Simply the best cycling holiday i've ever done. Thank you guys!

Tara Pinochi, Australia

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:5 Days
Starting Point:Queenstown
Grade:Introductory  Click for more information
Trip Code:ORQ
Prices From:NZD$1795
Public Holiday Supplement:NZD$50 
Bike Rental:NZD$170 
E-Bike Rental:NZD$400 
Single Supplement - Limited to 2 per departure:NZD$450 


otago rail trail itineraries