Otago Central Rail Trail2024-06-28T11:06:25+12:00

OTAGO CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL

Otago Central Rail Trail Map
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To ride the Otago Central Rail Trail

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Email: bookings@shebikeshebikes.co.nz

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Otago Central Rail Trail profile

If you are considering a cycling holiday or an Otago Rail Trail package then we can help.

The Otago Central Rail Trail, New Zealands Original Great Ride, the trail that started them all. It’s almost become a “rite of passage” for many people,  sitting in the top 10 of the AA’s 101 things to do in New Zealand and top 10 item on just about everyone’s “bucket list”.  Shebikeshebikes has been providing FREE itineraries, bike hire, transport services and accommodation for rail trailers since 2009 and we’d love to help you put together all the bits of the puzzle so you can turn those pedals and take away memories to last a lifetime.

The “Rail Trail” has been ridden by hundreds of thousands of people and is New Zealands most well known and probably best resourced trail. It ticks all the boxes for stunning landscapes, budget to luxury accommodation options, plenty of refreshment options and it’s accessible for a broad range of people from young children to retirees and you’ll find accessible accommodation options in most townships. Although the trail is known for its cycling, every year you’ll find people walking the trail as well.

Located in Central Otago the Rail Trail has international airports close to either end with Queenstown Airport only one hour from the Clyde end and Dunedin Airport only 50 mins from the Middlemarch end.

So, in a nutshell, the Otago Central Rail Trail

  • Is surrounded by a stunning landscape
  • Has a gradient that makes it accessible to most people (and E-Bikes are now allowed on the trail for those that require some “E-ssistance”)
  • Provides an active holiday or special occasion activity that can be shared by singles, couples, groups of friends, and families of all ages
  • Is open year round
  • Has lots of services and accommodation options along the length of the trail
Paul OBrien
Paul OBrien
2023-03-06
An amazing team at Shebikeshebikes First trip with Shebikeshebikes - The Lake Dunstan Trail.An excellent day all round - thankyou to your team for making the experience effortless.Booking was easy, transport was new and comfortable, and the trailer for our bikes was first class.The driver was friendly, helpful and informative.Your organisation was totally professional in every wayThanks for helping make our day.Cheers P and K
Heather C
Heather C
2023-02-19
Excellent service The service from shebikeshebikes was excellent at all stages (it will take a while to read through their comprehensive itineraries with various accommodation options and subsequent updated itineraries as things are booked or modified so do set time aside for that) and the trip flowed like silk throughout. We had a small bike issue from a twig through gears on day 2 which they fixed at their Omakua shop for us that night and we were ready to roll again first thing next morning. Would highly recommend Shebikeshebikes.
Kerrie H
Kerrie H
2023-02-05
Great rides, with a great bike company. We recently ride The Roxburgh Gorge, Clutha Gold and Lake Dunstan trails, and used shebikeshebikes to organise everything for us. From airport pickup and drop off to setting us up on our bikes, transferring our luggage daily, and letting us change our mountain bikes for e bikes for our last days Lake Dunstan ride, nothing was a problem. They are fantastic to deal with, and we recommend them highly to anyone riding the beautiful Otago trails.
kim
kim
2023-02-05
great location We used the shuttle service. Great service, friendly team and on time, made riding the Dunstan Trail an easy experience
missOrganized
missOrganized
2023-01-27
great cycling We originally booked our Otago Rail trail through she bikes he bikes prior to covid so had to re book several times and they were wonderfully accommodating and easy to deal with. All the staff seem to enjoy their work.Accommodation, bikes everything was perfect.
248RBC
248RBC
2023-01-23
Good friendly service Quality bikes delivered on time and accepted back when we rode up!The Dunstan Trail is superb. One to do!
Liz T
Liz T
2023-01-11
If you want the best advice and help available to get on track in Central Otago - these are the guys to go to. Central Otago is the most amazing place for biking and I have been lucky enough to have two trips there with the support and backup of Shebikeshebikes. From recommending itineraries to meet our needs and level of off road experience, to providing rentals and track transport , and going the extra mile and providing urgent bike maintenance we needed for our own bikes - at every point their service was outstanding. In addition they were amazing people to deal with - reminded me of how friendly and helpful and prepared to go the extra mile people are from the south. Very knowledgable about all the bike trails in the district, and happy to provide advice and information needed. have recommended them to several others who have confirmed their experience booking through this company was highly positive.
Mark H
Mark H
2023-01-09
Brilliant Adventure with Great Friends It was everything we had hoped for. Challenging on pedal, not E-bikes, and a day cycling in the rain didn't deter us. The lux package was brilliant and stop over accommodation 1st rate. Shebikeshebikes were fantastic. It worked really well from bag drops to our airport commute. I would do this again with them, maybe with a little battery assistance next time. If you are thinking about this, stop and just go and do it!Fabulous 4 days. Kokonga Lodge a highlight with a sensational roast lamb dinner and a stunning Schoolhouse Pinot or 2.We'll be back.
Calie
Calie
2023-01-08
Awesome Day out! Great day on the Lake Dunstan trail!Highly recommend using SBHB to experience amazing daytrip that we'll never forget!! They were open when others were not and provided great customer service. Met with enthusiasm and bike ready to roll. Quick test ride on E-bike before loading up and dropping us off. Views are amazing and ride not difficult especially given we don't ride a lot.Would use She Bikes He Bikes again for sure!!

Quick Facts

Self Guided Tours

We offer a fully customised, free itinerary service so you can get the most out your Otago Central Rail Trail adventure. You’ll find a range of starting options provided below to give you an idea about what might suit you and what an indicative cost might be. We’ll work with you to refine things and book the accommodation and transport to suit your requirements. The itinerary you’ll received is fully itemised so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for.

Teenager riding a bike on the Otago Central Rail Trail

Five days – Soaking it up

Shorten those days to provide time to relax and some off trail activities, or take a rest day in the middle and soak it up.

Four days – Deluxe – Smooth start

Make a smooth your transition into your trail adventure with a deluxe night in Clyde before you start. With an average of 38 km / day, and time to slot in an activity or two, your smooth start should put you in the groove with this popular four day journey.

Four days – Deluxe – In the groove

Enjoy Deluxe accommodation when you choose this option. With an average of 38 km / day, and time to slot in an activity or two, you’re in the groove with this popular four day journey.

Pushing a bike out of a tunnel on the Otago Cenral Rail Trail

Four days – In the groove

With an average of 38 km / day, and time to slot in an activity or two, you’re in the groove with this popular option.

riding a bike on the Otago Central Rail Trail near Tiger Hill

Three days – Getting it done

Short on time and want to “tick it off”, 152 km over three days might be the solution for you. You’ll need to be fit for this one.

Poolburn Viaduct on the Otago Central Rail Trail

Two day – Sprint

Fit, short on time or up for a challenge? This two day trip may be the option for you. Like we said, you’re going to need to be fit for this one.

Poolburn Gorge Tunnel

One day – Day trips

If you’re short on time, have some time to fill or simply want to “have a go” then we have a range of short trip options for you. Great fun!

Otago Central Rail Trail Accommodation

Fortunately, the Rail Trail boasts a variety of accommodation to meet most requirements. Accommodation is broken roughly into budget, mid range and luxury options. Some townships along the trail only provide a subset of this range and we can lay out the options for you.

Omakau Domain Camping Ground - Otago Central Rail Trail

Budget

Budget options aren’t available in every township, but we’ll advise on an itinerary structure to take advantage of them. Budget accommodation does not include breakfast and own bedding may be required or hired at an additional cost, bathroom facilities are shared and cooking facilities are available. Rates are based on twin share in most cases.

Camping ground tent site

from $15 / person / night

Camping ground cabin

from $30/ person / night

Backpackers

from $35 / person / night

Omakau Bedpost Post Office - Otago Central Rail Trail

Mid Range

Mid Range accommodation includes a mix of self contained accommodation, motels and B&B type accommodation and holiday houses. A continental breakfast is included and in some cases a full cooked breakfast may also be provided. Bathrooms range from shared to en-suited depending on the property. Rates are based on twin share in all cases.

Shared bathroom

Starting from $60 / person / night

Ensuite bathroom

from $70/ person / night

average is @$80 / person / night

Olivers of Clyde - Smoke house

Luxury

Experience the best that Central Otago has to offer. Although luxury accommodation is not available in every town we can help structure your itinerary to make it work for you and help you with any transport options. Luxury accommodation provides en-suited accommodation, continental breakfast in all cases and full breakfast in most. All pricing is provided on a room basis for double or twin occupancy.

En-suite room
from $245 / room / night

Click on the buttons below to view accommodation options in the various townships along the way.

CLYDE

ALEXANDRA

Alexandra

CHATTO CREEK

Chatto Creek

OMAKAU - OPHIR

Omakau - Ophir

LAUDER

Lauder

OTUREHUA

Oturehua

WEDDERBURN - NASEBY

Wedderburn - Naseby

RANFURLY - NASEBY

Ranfurly - Naseby

WAIPIATA

Waipiata

KOKONGA

Kokonga

TIROITI

Tiroiti

HYDE

MIDDLEMARCH

Middlemarch

Activities

On and around the Otago Central Rail Trail you’ll find some great activities to add that little bit extra.

Grapes

Wine Tour

A wine tour provides an excellent way to transition between Queenstown and Clyde. Central Otago is renowned for its Pinot Noir and you’ll find many other great varieties to taste.

From
$175 / person (minimum of two)

Clutha River Cruise - Otago Central Rail Trail

Clutha River Cruise

Take a cruise down the mighty Clutha / Mata-au and explore the gold mining heritage from yesteryear.

From
$95 / adult and $45 / child 

Clutha River Cruise - Roxburgh Gorge Trail

Clutha River Jet

Like the cruise but with the excitement of a jet boat! This tour takes you from Clyde through to the historic Doctors Point gold mine to explore the gold mining history.

From
$120 / adult and $65 / child

Hayes Engineering Works - Otago Central Rail Trail

Hayes Engineering Works

This Victorian workshop situated in Oturehua on the Rail Trail is a testament to Kiwi ingenuity. It was here that the Hayes wire strainer, used in wire fencing all over the world, was born. With a Cafe onsite you can combine some refreshments with some exploration. Look out for their

From
$12 / adult – primary school children are free

Stardust Gallery

Located in the Naseby, Stardust gallery profiles amazing photography from the region along with other artistic works from local artists. You’ll find them at 5 Earne street Naseby – 021 552 839.

Curling in Naseby - Otago Central Rail Trail

Curling

Have a blast curling on the Maniototo International Curling Rink in Naseby. Your 90 min session will include a lesson and a game

From
$35 / adult and $15 / child
Note that there may be an additional charge for transport depending on where you’re staying

St Bathans Blue Lake - Otago Central Rail Trail

St Bathans

Once upon a time some industrious gold miners turned a hill into a huge hole in the ground and hence the “Blue Lake” of St Bathans was born. You can take a tour out to view the lake and haunted Vulcan Hotel. You’ll also visit the small township of Cambrians, home to famed New Zealand artist Grahame Sydney. Tours depart from Oturehua, Wedderburn and Ranfurly, bookings are essential.

From
$75/ adult (larger group concessions available)

Hawkdun Range - Otago Central Rail Trail

High Country Tours

A great option if you’ve chosen to have a rest day on the trail. High country tours are available in 1/2, 3/4 and full day formats. Experience the majestic tussock lands and rugged beauty of the high country of the Mt Ida and Hawkdun Ranges.

From
$130/ adult (larger group concessions available)

Otago Central Rail Trail Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What is the most scenic part of the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T15:57:12+12:00

That’s a tricky question because the trail passes through a number of distinct landscapes and the view is different depending on the direction you are riding.

Many people consider the most scenic part of the Otago Central Rail Trail to be the Poolburn Gorge section. This area, located between Lauder and Oturehua, features two impressive tunnels and the stunning Poolburn Viaduct. The rugged, rocky landscapes combined with these engineering marvels make for a dramatic and unforgettable experience.

At the head Northern end of the Ida Valley you find the dramatic Hawkdun Range, captured in many forms by the famous New Zealand painter Grahame Sydney.

When you get through to Waipiata you’ll encounter the Taieri River and wetland areas and the landscape changes again.

Simply put, there is something dramatic along all of the trail.

Is the Otago Rail Trail hard?2024-06-26T15:54:20+12:00

That’s one of those questions that can be answered in two ways. The Otago Central Rail Trail is generally considered to be easy to moderate in difficulty. The trail has a gentle gradient, with no steep hills, making it accessible for cyclists of varying fitness levels, including families and casual riders.

The gravel path provides a reasonably smooth ride, but some sections can vary in their smoothness. The surface is most definitely hard, having been prepared to carry the weight of goods trains.

Overall, with proper preparation, bike selection and pacing, the trail is enjoyable and manageable for most people.

You can find out more here

Which direction is best for the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T16:00:12+12:00

The Otago Central Rail Trail can be ridden in either direction, but many people prefer starting from Clyde and ending in Middlemarch.

As the rail trail climbs to a “high point” near the middle, there is always an ascending and descending aspect to your journey. The prevailing wind is from the North West so riding in the West to East direction is generally more favorable should their be wind.

Additionally, starting in Clyde offers more accommodation and bike rental options, and ending in Middlemarch allows for a scenic finish with easy access to transport back to Clyde / Queenstown or onwards to Dunedin.

What do you wear on the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T16:02:14+12:00

When riding the Otago Central Rail Trail, it’s important to dress in layers so you can adapt to changing weather conditions. What you bring with you will depend on the season and you can read more about that here, but layering is the key in any weather.

Comfortable cycling shorts or padded pants are essential for long rides. Don’t forget to wear your helmet, gloves, and sunglasses for safety and comfort. Sturdy, closed-toe shoes are also recommended.

How many tunnels are there in the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T16:03:49+12:00

The Otago Central Rail Trail features three tunnels. These tunnels add a unique and exciting element to the ride, with the most famous ones being in the Poolburn Gorge section. Remember to bring a flashlight or bike light, as the tunnels can be quite dark inside, though letting your eyes adjust will get you through just fine. A torch is really handy so you can look at the work that went into constructing the tunnels

The longest tunnel is Poolburn No. 2 at 229 m

How far is the Otago Rail Trail from Queenstown?2024-06-26T14:43:55+12:00

The Otago Central Rail Trail starts in Clyde, which is approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Queenstown. The drive typically takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, making it easily accessible for those traveling from Queenstown. SheBikesHeBikes run daily transport services to and from Queenstown in season.

The Rail Trail is unique in the sense that it has trans Tasman airports at both ends e.g. Queenstown and Dunedin

Is the Otago Rail Trail suitable for kids?2024-06-26T14:44:09+12:00

Yes, the Otago Central Rail Trail is suitable for kids and one of it’s key features is that it provides a multigenerational riding opportunity for families.

Its gentle gradients and well-maintained trail make it accessible for riders of all ages. Families often enjoy the trail together, and there are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Just ensure that children have appropriate bikes and safety gear, and plan the daily distances according to their comfort and stamina. SheBikesHeBikes provide a range of child bike options including E-Bikes and various towing options. 

Are dogs allowed on the Central Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:44:18+12:00

Yes, dogs are allowed on some sections of the Otago Central Rail Trail, but they must be kept on a leash at all times. Make sure to clean up after your dog and be mindful of other trail users. It’s also important to bring enough water for your pet, as some sections of the trail can be quite remote.

How steep is the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:44:28+12:00

The Otago Central Rail Trail has a gentle gradient, averaging around 1-3% throughout its length, both up and own. The trail follows the old railway line, so the inclines are gradual and manageable  enough for a train, making it suitable for cyclists of all fitness levels.

The highest point near Wedderburn is just 618 meters (2,028 feet) above sea level with Clyde at 165 m at one end and Middlemarch at 210 m.

If you’re concerned about gradient or fitness then ride the trail on an E-Bike

Can you do the Otago Rail Trail in winter?2024-06-26T14:44:36+12:00

Yes, you can ride the Otago Central Rail Trail in winter. The trail is open year-round, and winter offers a unique and beautiful experience with snow-capped mountains and crisp, clear air. However, be prepared for cold temperatures, potential frost, and shorter daylight hours. You’ll need to dress warmly in layers, ensure your bike is suitable for winter conditions, and check the weather forecast before setting out.

Our recommendation is that you undertake day trips during the winter as most service providers on the trail close to take a break or because there simply aren’t enough cyclists to warrant being open. The other consideration is the weather, it can get very cold with snow to the ground which potentially impedes progress or requires a diversion onto the road. 

If snow capped mountains are your thing, them come in early September as the snow will still be there but the days are warmer and end to end services are reopening. 

What to take on the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:45:09+12:00

When riding the Otago Central Rail Trail, it’s important to pack appropriately for a comfortable and safe journey. We’ll provide you with a gear list as part of our itinerary process that details what you need for the season that you’re riding. 

However in general terms you’ll need the following:

  • Enough layers to cope with the expected temperatures while you’re riding
  • A good waterproof shell layer
  • Padded bike shorts are recommended, even if you’re wearing them under something else. They provide a “seamless” interface between your skin and your saddle
  • Bike gloves. Not critical but can improve your overall comfort
  • Clothing for the evenings. You’re not riding your bike the whole time so it’s nice to change into something else for dinner. You don’t need anything flash as it’s all relatively casual round here. 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • A water bottle (or two in the summer)
  • Cell phone and cell phone charger. Mainly for the camera aspect that your phone provides
  • The general toiletries’ you’d pack on any trip
  • A first aid kit for your group is advisable along with some pain relief. Injuries are rare on the trail but accidents just happen.
  • Snack food for the day
How much does it cost to hire a bike for the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:45:18+12:00

The cost of hiring a bike for the Otago Rail Trail with Shebikeshebikes varies depending on the type of bike and you can view our current rates here

Due to the wide audience we provide a mix of regular bikes and E-Bikes in sizes to suit children and adults. For really little children there are various towing options. 

How long does it take to cycle the Otago Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:45:36+12:00

Cycling the Otago Rail Trail typically takes between 3 to 5 days, depending on your pace and how many stops you make along the way. The trail is 152 kilometers long and is designed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, allowing cyclists to take in the scenery and local attractions. Most riders plan their journey to cover around 30-50 kilometers per day, which makes for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. You’ll find a mix of cyclists on E-Bikes and regular bikes. 

Along with the breathtaking landscape, you’ll find that you’ll engage in many conversations with fellow travelers that you normally wouldn’t have as you cycling along beside one another. The end result is a sense of achievement and some shared memories to last a lifetime. 

How do I get from Middlemarch to Dunedin?2024-06-26T14:45:28+12:00

In season, SheBikesHeBikes provide a Middlemarch to Dunedin shuttle service to Dunedin Airport or the City. It’s important to book in advance and there is a two person minimum. Departure is currently at 2pm with arrival at the Airport by 3pm and the city 20 mins after that.

Unfortunately the Taieri Gorge excursion train is no longer operating

What is the Otago Central Rail Trail?2024-06-26T14:45:49+12:00

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a 152-kilometer-long cycle and walking trail in New Zealand, following the former route of the Otago Central Railway. It offers a scenic journey through the Central Otago region, featuring historical sites, stunning landscapes, and small rural towns.

Most cyclists will complete the trail in 4 days (3 nights). The great thing about the Rail Trail is that you’re never far from a cafe or bar.

SheBikesHeBikes provide a full range of products and services to make riding the trail as simple as making a phone call or sending an email.

What are the best sections of the Otago Central Rail Trail to cycle?2024-06-26T14:45:58+12:00

The most popular section of the Otago Rail Trail is undoubtedly the Poolburn Gorge (Auripo) with up to 40,000 cyclists passing through there in a season (keep in mind that some of them might have been counted twice as they ride and out and back route). With two tunnels, the highest viaduct on the Rail Trail, a stunning landscape and proximity to Omakau, Clyde and Queenstown, it’s a popular section. 

The second most popular section is the Daisy Bank section between Waipiata and Hyde. Meandering along above the Taieri river it presents a different landscape to the rest of the trail. Like the Poolburn Gorge, it has a tunnel. Unfortunately it’s a little further away from services towns and bike hire providers. 

Clyde to Alexandra is also a popular section, though funnily enough, it’s not riding on the Rail Trail but rather on the River Track beside the Clutha (Matau) river. 

Are there bike rental services available on the Otago Central Rail Trail?2024-06-26T10:58:51+12:00

Yes, there are bike rental services available on the Otago Central Rail Trail and SheBikesHeBikes is one of them. We can provide a range of bikes for hire, including standard mountain bikes, e-bikes, and kids’ bikes. Bicycle rentals include a helmet, puncture repair kit, pump etc.

For more information about what we can provide go here

What is the best time of year to cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail?2024-06-26T10:55:27+12:00

Although the Otago Central Rail Trail can be cycled year round, the best time to come is when all services (cafe’s, accommodations, transport and bicycle hire providers) are open and operating.

The general rail trail season is from September through until May. Then it simply comes down to what works for you and what you want to see eg

Spring – it’s a time of new growth in Central Otago with a greener environment and lots of new livestock (lambs and calves) in the paddocks. Expect a cooler morning with a warm days.

Summer – it’s generally warm all the time with temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees. It’s a great time to ride because the you don’t have to think much about layering of clothing and the evenings are light until 10pm or later.

Autumn – Central Otago is renowned for its autumn colours and it’s the high season on the trail. Expect cooler / frosty mornings and warm days in the early 20’s. One thing to note is that with climate change, the autumn colours really span from mid April to mid May now.

What kind of accommodation is available along the Otago Central Rail Trail?2024-06-26T10:55:36+12:00

Accommodation along the trail spans from budget to Luxury and everything else in between.

What you won’t find here is mega hotels / motels, rather you’ll be staying in unique accommodation that has been custom built or repurposed to provide for rail trailers. For example, the Omakau Bedpost is the old Omakau Post Office converted into accommodation.

Don’t forget that there are also off trail locations like Ophir and Naseby where you can stay and experience their quaintness, history and partake in activities like curling, luge riding etc.

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