The All you need to know about the Otago Central Rail Trail is like an ever-unfolding passage of discovery.
Its wide gravel path runs 150 kilometres along the former railway route between Middlemarch and Clyde. Typically, it takes cyclists 3–5 days to ride the whole trail, but there are a number of entry and exit points if you prefer a shorter ride.
The best time to go is from Spring to Autumn (October – May), however you can still cycle in Winter as long as you prepare for the sometimes harsh winter conditions. It is comfortable ride with no major hills making it perfect for recreational cyclists – lots of families make the trip.
Having said that, there is also plenty of scope for mountain bikers keen to test their fitness, and there are lots of opportunities to explore off-track. You do see walkers from time to time, and horse riding is permitted on some sections.
Even during the milder seasons, the route is subject to climatic extremes, so it pays to go prepared for all weathers and swings in temperatures. These same weather conditions have had a huge impact on the scenery, which is spectacular, with the trail taking you into places just not readily accessible by any other method.
Along the way you’ll see, cross or encounter vast mountainous, dry, rocky landscapes; ever-changing skies; spectacular river gorges; tunnels, viaducts; old stone and mud-brick dwellings; townships and warm-spirited locals.
The vastness of the environment can be humbling, but there’s also something nostalgic and romantic about travelling along a once bustling railway route.
However you look at, it’s an incredible ride.
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