Otago 2017-12-09T14:41:35+00:00

Otago Central Rail Trail

A magnificent vast, rough and untouched landscape

‘Did you say you guys are from The Netherlands? That is the country where everybody loves to cycle, isn’t it?’ Ehr yes…. ‘Then you really have to give the Otago Central Rail Trail a go. You’ll love it!’ More than once we had this conversation when we were exploring New Zealand. 152 kilometers of bicycle lanes build upon an old railway line through stunning pristine scenery. No cars, just the odd tramper or horseman. Yes, our cycle hearts truly started beating faster when hearing about such a trail!

The Otago Central Rail Trail runs from Clyde to Middlemarch right through the heart of Central Otago, on New Zealand’s south island. A magnificent vast, rough and untouched landscape. No human interference, but nature as nature is supposed to be.

Ever changing landscape

Ever changing landscapes

The Otago Central Rail Trail is an easy, mainly flat route (grade 1), predominantly on wide gravel roads. The trail can be ridden whole year round. You will encounter a continuously changing landscape that will set your mind of wandering way back to the days of the Wild West. The trail follows rivers, takes you through deep canyons, past steep rock formations, traversing dark railway tunnels, heads over old viaducts and bridges and there always will be a magnificent view on the hills and the wide plains. We really enjoyed the vastness and desolation. But also the rich history out of the feverish gold mining days like abandoned mines, historical towns and neat old railway stations that you’ll encounter en route.

Organising
Browsing the internet lead us to Trail Journeys. Since 2003, they offer all you need to make the Otago Central Rail Trail a succes. They were the first to offer bicycle rental and closely involved in developing the trail. It took us one phone-call to arrange the whole package. Bikes, including helmets, odometer and panniers, accommodation and a shuttle to take us back to where we started from (it is a one-way trail). All for a very reasonable price*.

Historic town

Historic Town

Our cycle adventure starts in Clyde, an historical little town near a river gorge, surrounded by schist hills and big steep rocks. Schist is an auriferous stone that triggered the gold rush late 19th century. You’ll find it on various sites in Otago. The gold rush made Clyde a busy settlement, with well kept historical buildings being silent witnesses. Nowadays it is a cosy village where it is pleasantly sleeping, eating and relaxing.

From Clyde to Lauder
Our first stage takes us from Clyde to Lauder, an easy 54 kilometer of cycling. The sun is shining and the sky displays a deep blue. Awesome! On our way to Alexandra we make a stop to buy some energy-providing apricots. They grow here in massive numbers, just like plums and peaches. Alexandra is a booming town situated at the Clutha River. Being way to early for lunch, we decide to keep moving and follow the Manuherikia River through a stunning valley all the way to the smallest still operational post office of New Zealand, in Chatto Creek. It is still possible to mail your postcard here! Additional benefit: the Chatto Creek Tavern serves a delicious nutritious lunch, which will certainly come in handy when we’ll have to climb Tiger Hill!

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill turns out to be Kitten Hill, a knoll easily conquered. Just before we enter Omakau, famous for its red station, we decide to make a small detour via the Daniel O’Connel suspension bridge (1880). It leads us to the historic town of Ophir (we love all the exotic names!). Here we are in the heart of the gold fields and it shows! This place breaths history. It feels like you will stumble upon guys walking around with huge beards and holding a gold panning pan any minute. The town really only is one straight street, with stone buildings out of the gold days. Colourful facade signs display the purpose of the buildings. Like the Post & Telegraph Office dating way back to 1886. The oldest, still operational post office in New-Zealand. Unfortunately, we couldn’t mail our postcard, it closes at 12 noon.

Starry skies
Late afternoon our wheels roll into Lauder, where a cold beer already is awaiting us. It is a small village dedicated to the Otago Central Rail Trail. The former school and shop are now B&B’s. Lauder Hotel is a pleasant spot, authentic, with neat rooms and a cosy bar. A perfect place to have a cold one with the locals. The terrace serves us well for sitting back and enjoy the skies displaying a colourful show. First being a bright orange and a few moments later turning into a deep purple. A magnificently clear starry skie is now our reward. We could sit here for hours and hours to come, but tomorrow waits us another day of wonderful cycling. To bed!

Lauder to Ranfurly
Today will take us from Lauder to Ranfurly (a gorgeous 47 km bike ride). This stretch is the most spectacular of the trail and very noticeable. There are more cyclists on this part of the trail. We cross the famous Poolburn viaduct, a technical masterpiece. High above the Poolburn Gorge it offers a spectacular view over the deep ravine, the surrounding hills and the vast landscape. Good thing we kept our torches close at hand, cause we need it when we conquer two pitch-dark tunnels. Tunneler’s Camp is a place worth to visit. This little ghost-town dotted with a number of stone walls and chimneys show how the workmen used to live.

Old country pub

Old country pub

In Oturehua we treat ourselves to a cold beer at the Oturehua Railway Hotel, an authentic old country pub only still found around here. Make sure to pay the more than a hundred years old Gilchrist General Store a visit. Triggered by the smell of detergents, jars of sweets in every possible colour, sealing-high cupboards with all kinds of tins and containers and even an antique cash register, your mind will travel back in time by itself. Keen on a real historical experience? Make a stop at Hayes Engineering Works, just outside of Oturehua. It will give you a good idea of the resourcefulness, skills and the perseverance of the English pioneer family Hayes.

Hard labour
We keep on wondering how human hands, 150 years ago, build railway lines here, all the way from Cromwell to Dunedin. A harsh and tough life. Unbearable heat in summer and freezingly cold in winter. Removing huge rocks, digging tunnels, building viaducts and away from a warm home for months and months. Purpose: bring economic growth to Central Otago. In the end, the railway was surpassed by the automobile (and trucks). In 1980 the stretch from Cromwell to Clyde was removed and ten years later the Clyde to Middlemarch part suffered the same fate. Only the Middlemarch to Dunedin line is still operational. Offering a fantastic train ride through the spectacular Taieri Gorge.

Sleeping in a post office

Sleeping in a post office

Slowly we climb out of Ida Valley to the highest point of the trail in Wedderburn (618m). From this point we’ve got a marvellous view on the Ida Mountains. A prefect place for a picnic! Via the vast Maniototo plains we arrive at Ranfurly. A small village with a few cafes, a pub, museum and bookshop. We spend the night in the Old Post Office Backpackers, a cozy place, sleeping up to 20 people. At night, we cook together with the other guests in the communal kitchen. Our bellies filled with our home-cooked nutritious meal, we sit down at the cosy fire-place to share our cycle adventures and a bottle of very nice local wine.

Ranfurly to Middlemarch
Our final stretch! Hard to believe our fantastic cycle adventure is coming to an end. We cruise our last 60km through the Upper Taieri Gorge, between Daisybank and Hyde and follow the Taieri River which leads all the way to the sea. But that’s not how far we’re going. We stay in beautiful Wild West Country. Vast plains with beautiful skies. The cycle path is as straight as a line and together with a mean head wind, it’s a tough ending of our cycle tour. But, no time to pause, our shuttle back to Middlemarch is leaving right on time.

Tiered but happy
Tiered but very happy we arrive in Clyde at the end of the day. Our ride back to the starting point of our cycle trip is stunning. A real bonus! Otago Central Rail Trail exceeded our expectations. A great cycle adventure for young and old and people of all skills, with diverse landscapes, interesting history and very nice and hospitable people.

Did you know?

Did you know?

Did you know it al started with this trail? Otago Central Rail Trail is the first official rail trail in New Zealand. It became a huge success. Because of that, the New Zealand government set up the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network in 2010. The network supports the development of other trails in the country. And not without success, at this moment there are 22 trails! In 1993 DOC (Department Of Conservation) bought the old railway track from Clyde to Middlemarch for recreation. Together with Otago Central Rail Trust, local companies and lots of volunteers, they realised the Otago Central Rail Trail, New Zealand’s first off-road-cycle-way. The trail was opened in 2000 and draws yearly thousands of visitors.

Want to see more pictures? Check out the digital magazine we made about this trail.

Good to know

Good to know

Organisation:
We booked our trip with Trail Journeys (www.trailjourneys.co.nz) in Clyde and they helped us splendidly. But there are more tour operators who can help you to organise your cycle adventure. Just have a look at the trail website. You can also organise is yourself, there are lots of hotels, guesthouses and B&B’s along the trail.

Costs:
The price you pay depends on your wishes. You can sleep in basic accommodation or luxurious ones. It’s up to you! *We paid 720 NZ$ for two persons.

Scenic train:
a fun way to expand your adventure is a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin (www.dunedinrailway.co.nz) through the spectacular Taieri Gorge. Don’t worry, there are also shuttles back to Clyde from Dunedin!

Trail website: www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz
NZ Cycle Trail: www.nzcycletrail.co.nz

Got a question? Just drop us an email. Happy to help!

Otago Central Rail Trail

A magnificent vast, rough and untouched landscape

‘Did you say you guys are from The Netherlands? That is the country where everybody loves to cycle, isn’t it?’ Ehr yes…. ‘Then you really have to give the Otago Central Rail Trail a go. You’ll love it!’ More than once we had this conversation when we were exploring New Zealand. 152 kilometers of bicycle lanes build upon an old railway line through stunning pristine scenery. No cars, just the odd tramper or horseman. Yes, our cycle hearts truly started beating faster when hearing about such a trail!

The Otago Central Rail Trail runs from Clyde to Middlemarch right through the heart of Central Otago, on New Zealand’s south island. A magnificent vast, rough and untouched landscape. No human interference, but nature as nature is supposed to be.

Ever changing landscapes

The Otago Central Rail Trail is an easy, mainly flat route (grade 1), predominantly on wide gravel roads. The trail can be ridden whole year round. You will encounter a continuously changing landscape that will set your mind of wandering way back to the days of the Wild West. The trail follows rivers, takes you through deep canyons, past steep rock formations, traversing dark railway tunnels, heads over old viaducts and bridges and there always will be a magnificent view on the hills and the wide plains. We really enjoyed the vastness and desolation. But also the rich history out of the feverish gold mining days like abandoned mines, historical towns and neat old railway stations that you’ll encounter en route.

Organising
Browsing the internet lead us to Trail Journeys. Since 2003, they offer all you need to make the Otago Central Rail Trail a succes. They were the first to offer bicycle rental and closely involved in developing the trail. It took us one phone-call to arrange the whole package. Bikes, including helmets, odometer and panniers, accommodation and a shuttle to take us back to where we started from (it is a one-way trail). All for a very reasonable price*.

Historic Town

Our cycle adventure starts in Clyde, an historical little town near a river gorge, surrounded by schist hills and big steep rocks. Schist is an auriferous stone that triggered the gold rush late 19th century. You’ll find it on various sites in Otago. The gold rush made Clyde a busy settlement, with well kept historical buildings being silent witnesses. Nowadays it is a cosy village where it is pleasantly sleeping, eating and relaxing.

From Clyde to Lauder
Our first stage takes us from Clyde to Lauder, an easy 54 kilometer of cycling. The sun is shining and the sky displays a deep blue. Awesome! On our way to Alexandra we make a stop to buy some energy-providing apricots. They grow here in massive numbers, just like plums and peaches. Alexandra is a booming town situated at the Clutha River. Being way to early for lunch, we decide to keep moving and follow the Manuherikia River through a stunning valley all the way to the smallest still operational post office of New Zealand, in Chatto Creek. It is still possible to mail your postcard here! Additional benefit: the Chatto Creek Tavern serves a delicious nutritious lunch, which will certainly come in handy when we’ll have to climb Tiger Hill!

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill turns out to be Kitten Hill, a knoll easily conquered. Just before we enter Omakau, famous for its red station, we decide to make a small detour via the Daniel O’Connel suspension bridge (1880). It leads us to the historic town of Ophir (we love all the exotic names!). Here we are in the heart of the gold fields and it shows! This place breaths history. It feels like you will stumble upon guys walking around with huge beards and holding a gold panning pan any minute. The town really only is one straight street, with stone buildings out of the gold days. Colourful facade signs display the purpose of the buildings. Like the Post & Telegraph Office dating way back to 1886. The oldest, still operational post office in New-Zealand. Unfortunately, we couldn’t mail our postcard, it closes at 12 noon.

Starry skies
Late afternoon our wheels roll into Lauder, where a cold beer already is awaiting us. It is a small village dedicated to the Otago Central Rail Trail. The former school and shop are now B&B’s. Lauder Hotel is a pleasant spot, authentic, with neat rooms and a cosy bar. A perfect place to have a cold one with the locals. The terrace serves us well for sitting back and enjoy the skies displaying a colourful show. First being a bright orange and a few moments later turning into a deep purple. A magnificently clear starry skie is now our reward. We could sit here for hours and hours to come, but tomorrow waits us another day of wonderful cycling. To bed!

Lauder to Ranfurly
Today will take us from Lauder to Ranfurly (a gorgeous 47 km bike ride). This stretch is the most spectacular of the trail and very noticeable. There are more cyclists on this part of the trail. We cross the famous Poolburn viaduct, a technical masterpiece. High above the Poolburn Gorge it offers a spectacular view over the deep ravine, the surrounding hills and the vast landscape. Good thing we kept our torches close at hand, cause we need it when we conquer two pitch-dark tunnels. Tunneler’s Camp is a place worth to visit. This little ghost-town dotted with a number of stone walls and chimneys show how the workmen used to live.

Old country pub

In Oturehua we treat ourselves to a cold beer at the Oturehua Railway Hotel, an authentic old country pub only still found around here. Make sure to pay the more than a hundred years old Gilchrist General Store a visit. Triggered by the smell of detergents, jars of sweets in every possible colour, sealing-high cupboards with all kinds of tins and containers and even an antique cash register, your mind will travel back in time by itself. Keen on a real historical experience? Make a stop at Hayes Engineering Works, just outside of Oturehua. It will give you a good idea of the resourcefulness, skills and the perseverance of the English pioneer family Hayes.

Hard labour
We keep on wondering how human hands, 150 years ago, build railway lines here, all the way from Cromwell to Dunedin. A harsh and tough life. Unbearable heat in summer and freezingly cold in winter. Removing huge rocks, digging tunnels, building viaducts and away from a warm home for months and months. Purpose: bring economic growth to Central Otago. In the end, the railway was surpassed by the automobile (and trucks). In 1980 the stretch from Cromwell to Clyde was removed and ten years later the Clyde to Middlemarch part suffered the same fate. Only the Middlemarch to Dunedin line is still operational. Offering a fantastic train ride through the spectacular Taieri Gorge.

Sleeping in a post office

Slowly we climb out of Ida Valley to the highest point of the trail in Wedderburn (618m). From this point we’ve got a marvellous view on the Ida Mountains. A prefect place for a picnic! Via the vast Maniototo plains we arrive at Ranfurly. A small village with a few cafes, a pub, museum and bookshop. We spend the night in the Old Post Office Backpackers, a cozy place, sleeping up to 20 people. At night, we cook together with the other guests in the communal kitchen. Our bellies filled with our home-cooked nutritious meal, we sit down at the cosy fire-place to share our cycle adventures and a bottle of very nice local wine.

Ranfurly to Middlemarch
Our final stretch! Hard to believe our fantastic cycle adventure is coming to an end. We cruise our last 60km through the Upper Taieri Gorge, between Daisybank and Hyde and follow the Taieri River which leads all the way to the sea. But that’s not how far we’re going. We stay in beautiful Wild West Country. Vast plains with beautiful skies. The cycle path is as straight as a line and together with a mean head wind, it’s a tough ending of our cycle tour. But, no time to pause, our shuttle back to Middlemarch is leaving right on time.

Tiered but happy
Tiered but very happy we arrive in Clyde at the end of the day. Our ride back to the starting point of our cycle trip is stunning. A real bonus! Otago Central Rail Trail exceeded our expectations. A great cycle adventure for young and old and people of all skills, with diverse landscapes, interesting history and very nice and hospitable people.

Did you know?

Did you know it al started with this trail? Otago Central Rail Trail is the first official rail trail in New Zealand. It became a huge success. Because of that, the New Zealand government set up the New Zealand Cycle Trail Network in 2010. The network supports the development of other trails in the country. And not without success, at this moment there are 22 trails! In 1993 DOC (Department Of Conservation) bought the old railway track from Clyde to Middlemarch for recreation. Together with Otago Central Rail Trust, local companies and lots of volunteers, they realised the Otago Central Rail Trail, New Zealand’s first off-road-cycle-way. The trail was opened in 2000 and draws yearly thousands of visitors.

Want to see more pictures? Check out the digital magazine we made about this trail.

Good to know

Organisation:
We booked our trip with Trail Journeys (www.trailjourneys.co.nz) in Clyde and they helped us splendidly. But there are more tour operators who can help you to organise your cycle adventure. Just have a look at the trail website. You can also organise is yourself, there are lots of hotels, guesthouses and B&B’s along the trail.

Costs:
The price you pay depends on your wishes. You can sleep in basic accommodation or luxurious ones. It’s up to you! *We paid 720 NZ$ for two persons.

Scenic train:
a fun way to expand your adventure is a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Middlemarch to Dunedin (www.dunedinrailway.co.nz) through the spectacular Taieri Gorge. Don’t worry, there are also shuttles back to Clyde from Dunedin!

Trail website: www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz
NZ Cycle Trail: www.nzcycletrail.co.nz

Got a question? Just drop us an email. Happy to help!

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