With easy riding, inspiring riverside scenery, flinty history and genuine hospitality, the Clutha Gold Trail is a journey of discovery.
Easily combined with the Roxburgh Gorge and Otago Central Rail Trails, this memorable journey follows the mighty Clutha Mata-au River between the rural towns of Roxburgh and Lawrence. It’s a journey brimming with distinct landscapes and attractions as well as a colourful history spanning Māori moa hunting to gold rushes and hydropower generation.
Cruisy terrain means eager riders can complete this trail in one day, but breaking the journey allows more time to uncover the river’s secrets. Interesting accommodation, homespun hospitality and convenient transport (including luggage transfers) make an overnight stop not only easy but an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of this pretty southern landscape, either on the bike or on foot if preferred.
The Clutha Gold Trail begins where the Roxburgh Gorge Trail ends, at the Roxburgh Hydro Dam. Its story is retold in one of many excellent interpretation panels along the way that illuminate the area’s fascinating natural history as well as tales of the 1860s gold rushes, railway construction, and more.
The trail follows the gentle bends of the glacier-blue Clutha Mata-au, backdropped by the bald peaks of the Old Man Range. It’s not far to the sweet town of Roxburgh, famous for fruit orchards and Jimmy’s Pie Shop – a satisfying stop for hungry cyclists.
The trail continues past Pinders Pond (a popular local swimming spot) to Millers Flat, once a stop on the branch railway line to Dunedin, closed in 1968. The trail follows the old line through pretty countryside to Beaumont and on to Lawrence, passing such sights as a drowning gold dredge, historic Horseshoe Bend Bridge, and the Lonely Graves that commemorate the kindness of strangers.
The wobble through Spooky Big Hill Tunnel signals the start of the final sweep down to Lawrence, Otago’s first gold rush town. A pleasant stroll can be enjoyed through its streets, where country cafes wait to lure in visiting cyclists.
View trail map here.
This grade 1 ride is one of the easiest New Zealand Cycle Trails, with a smooth, wide surface and almost entirely flat gradient. It is well signposted and frequently passes small settlements and farms dotted along country roads.
Riders should nevertheless be self-sufficient, carrying a map, sufficient water and food, and a basic tool kit. There are toilets dotted at convenient points.
The trail can be ridden at any time of year, with luscious fruit a summer highlight, along with vibrant green scenes in springtime and rich golds in autumn. Central Otago’s temperatures are extreme – hot and dry in summer, icy in winter. Regardless of season, it is vital to check the forecast and take appropriate clothing.
Bike It Now and Trail Journeys offer bike hire, transport and luggage transfers for rides throughout the region. Not a Rail Trail offers similar services along with guided rides. All three can tailor an itinerary combining the best of Central Otago’s trails, including transport from Christchurch and Queenstown, so visitors can make the most of their time in the saddle.
Roxburgh and Lawrence are the main bases for the trail, although there are many more options in the surrounding countryside and in Alexandra, a handy location for all the Central Otago cycle trails. Accommodation providers partnered with the trail are listed on the New Zealand Cycle Trail website. Other popular bases within two hours’ drive include Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell and Clyde.