The Otago Central Rail Trail is New Zealand’s original Great Ride follows and is an old railway line through beautiful, big-sky country dotted with a series of sweet wee towns and welcoming locals.
The trail that inspired the creation of NgāHaerenga Great Rides of New Zealand(opens in new window), the Otago Central Rail Trail offers a classic blend of scenic splendour, fascinating history, friendly towns, and delicious local cuisineand wines.Cyclists should allow at least four days for the full journey, staying overnight in accommodation with the historic and welcoming atmosphere that Central Otago is known for. There are also endless shorter options for day-trippers taking in many of the rail trail’s signature vistas, heritage sites and attractions.
The full trail can be cycled over several days, in either direction, with support from plenty of lodges and cafes, shuttles and cycle tour operators who know the trail well. Luggage transfers are a valuable service to use.
The Otago Central Rail Trail can also be split into shorter sections of various lengths taking in rocky gorges, various railway relics, and small towns with huge historic value such as Alexandra, Ophir, Omakau,Oturehua and Middlemarch. Mostly flat and smooth, there’s plenty of time for family groups and riders wishing to just sit back and take it easy.
The Otago Central Rail Trail can readily be added to your Queenstown or Wānaka holiday, both of which offer more easy cycling within 90 minutes’ drive.
Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails Official Website
A detailed description of this Great Ride, including maps and more information, can be found here.
The main trailheads are Clyde and Middlemarch, but rides can be started from the settlements along the way, most of which have cafes, accommodation and other services.
The trail is well signposted, but riders should carry a map and a mobile phone (although coverage might only be available in some places). Toilets are located along the trail.
Central Otago’s temperatures are extreme – hot and dry in summer and icy in winter – but, so long as you’re prepared, this is a trail that can be cycled at any time of year, each season coloured with a striking colours and scenery.