Relax and take in the rural lifestyle of the Maniototo region as you cycle 150km on the Otago Central Rail Trail through beautiful ‘big sky’ country, Central Otago’s ‘timeless land’, on the iconic and original NZ cycle trail.
The Otago Central Rail Trail tour passes through many small communities, some dating back to the 1860s, allowing you to experience a huge amount of history of one of NZ’s special places, and one that will exceed your expectations time and again. Our RELAXED tour features an extra day at Wedderburn to simply slow down and enjoy the rural lifestyle, relaxing and watching the morning light change from your cottage balcony, and seeing a bit more of the Maniototo area. Many of the 4th/5th generation farming families still live locally and enjoy conversing with those cycling the Otago cycle trail. Enjoy exploring the original stone pubs and meet the locals famous for their ‘Southern hospitality’.
The Otago Central Rail Trail rates as among the easiest of all the cycle trails in New Zealand, and is a good trail to start with if you are new to cycling. Being a disused railway corridor originally built for steam trains, the 150km Otago cycle trail’s gradient is a very gentle incline and as such the Otago Central Rail Trail is rated easy to negotiate with no steep hills or obstacles.
Our support vehicle is available at all times throughout the cycle tour. Come prepared for all conditions and prepare to be blown away by the raw but stunningly beautiful Central Otago. Refer to our Level of Difficulty gradings for more information.
Otago Central Rail Trail Tour RELAXED Tour Highlights
- Cycle the 150km Otago Central Rail Trail through ‘big sky’ country
- Feel the warmth of the famous ‘southern hospitality’
- Explore the historic gold mining town of St Bathans
- Meet the Duncan family and visit their high country farm
- Try your hand at the ancient sport of curling in Naseby
- Visit Clachanburn Gardens, a magnificent Garden of National Significance
- Complete your journey in style on the Taieri Gorge Train
Day 1 Christchurch/Queenstown/Dunedin – Clyde
The Otago Central Rail Trail cycle tour gets underway as we depart Christchurch for the scenic drive south through the Mackenzie Country to Central Otago via the inland route that passes by Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki, and finally over the Lindis Pass to Clyde. Alternatively there is the option of meeting the tour in Clyde in the afternoon from Queenstown or Dunedin, which we can organise for you. Settle into our accommodation in the charming historic precinct of Clyde, and eat out at a local restaurant.
Cycle Distance: 0km
Day 2 Clyde – Ophir
Begin the Otago Central Rail Trail, cycling from Clyde to Ophir (40km). Highlights of today’s ride include the wooden trestle Muttontown Viaduct, the Old Tucker Hill gold diggings, lunch in the historic Chatto Creek Tavern, views of the Dunstan Mountains and Raggedy Range, spotting brown trout in the Manuherikia River, and staying at the charming historic town of Ophir at Blacks Hotel. Snuggle up to the fire at Blacks Hotel and enjoy a night of great food and a warm atmosphere. In the afternoon we make a side trip in our support vehicle to the historic gold-mining town of St Bathan’s, with a mandatory stop at the Vulcan Hotel!
Cycle Distance: 40km
Day 3 Ophir – Wedderburn
Cycle from Ophir to Wedderburn on the Otago bike trail (43km). The highlights of today’s bike ride on the Otago cycle trail include the engineering marvel that is the Poolburn Gorge Viaduct and tunnels, and the vast wide open Ida Valley (made famous by the painter Grahame Sydney), the Idaburn dam (famous for its winter curling), a visit to Hayes Engineering Works at Oturehua, and the wee town of Wedderburn at the top of the rail trail. We stay in cosy cottages on a working farm with stunning views of the Hawkdun and Kakanui Ranges for the next two nights. This afternoon there is an opportunity to meet and enjoy afternoon tea with our hosts, the Duncan family – 5th generation farmers, and tour their high country station and learn about the farming lifestyle. Eat out at the Wedderburn Tavern.
Cycle Distance: 43km
Day 4 Wedderburn
Have a relaxing start to the day with coffee and breakfast on the veranda of your cottage. Watch the morning light colour the sounding tussock and hills. Today is a rest day off the trail to explore some of the other points of interest in the Maniototo area. We visit Clachanburn Gardens, a Garden of National Significance, and enjoy a guided tour of the garden. Later in the afternoon we visit Naseby, 2000ft above worry level, where you can try your hand at the ancient sport of curling on an indoor purpose built ice facility. Enjoy a succulent meal of local ‘bio-farmed’ Provenance lamb at the Ancient Briton in Naseby before returning to Wedderburn.
Cycle Distance: 0km
Day 5 Wedderburn – Waipiata
Enjoy a leisurely ride from Wedderburn to Hyde (46km) today on the Otago cycle trail. Highlights of today’s bike ride include crossing the Maniototo Plains, visiting the rural art deco town of Ranfurly, following the Taieri River as it snakes around the Rock and Pillar Range, and crossing the unaltered stone bridge over Cap Burn, the 32m high Price’s Creek Viaduct and 152m long tunnel, to Hyde. We stay the night in Waipiata township at Tussock Lodge & the Waipiata Country Hotel and have a celebratory meal in the Waipiata Country Hotel.
Cycle Distance: 46km
Day 6 Waipiata – Christchurch/Dunedin/Queenstown
Bike from Hyde to the end of the Otago Central Rail Trail at Middlemarch (27km). The highlights of the final days cycle ride include views of the Rock and Pillar and Taieri Ranges, the Hyde Railway Disaster memorial, and dropping down into the Strath Taieri Plain, an area used in the filming of the Hobbit Trilogies. In the afternoon we make our way back to Christchurch arriving at around 6pm. Alternatively opt to end your journey in Dunedin in true style by taking the historic Taieri Gorge Railway to Dunedin, or catch a shuttle back to Clyde or Queenstown.
Cycle Distance: 27km
22 Jun 2020
10 Aug 2020
21 Sep 2020
5 Oct 2020
2 Nov 2020
30 Nov 2020
14 Dec 2020
11 Jan 2021
22 Feb 2021
15 Mar 2021
26 Apr 2021
What’s included in the tour package?
- 5 nights twinshare accommodation
- 5 evening meals; 4 lunches; 5 breakfasts (indicated by B/L/D in the itinerary)
- fruit, snacks & morning teas on the trail
- the services of a tour leader who provides vehicle support & information
- cycle repair support
- side trips to St Bathans
- Naseby visit and curling session
- visit to Clachanburn Gardens
- Duncan Family farm tour at Wedderburn
- all transport from/to Christchurch
- Goods & Services Tax of 15%
Not included in the tour package:
- lunch on Days 1/6
- wine; beer; espresso coffees
- single accommodation supplement ($350)
- bike hire ($190) or e-bike hire ($450)
- optional visit to Hayes Engineering ($15)*
- optional round of golf ($10)
- Taieri Gorge Train to Dunedin ($81-102 approx)
- transfers to Queenstown/Dunedin to Clyde on Day 1 ($35/$20)
- transfers from Middlemarch to Clyde/Queenstown on Day 6 ($55/$115)* – check available times
* During the months of May – September the Hayes Engineering may not be open
Otago Central Rail Trail – Official Partner
PureTrails New Zealand’s is proud to be an Official Partner of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Membership fees contribute to the marketing and promotion of the trail and allows for development of the trail.
Our Guiding Team
Customer Service/Tour Leader (Founder and Managing Director)
Hilary is at the helm of 'mission control', and is often the person who answers your call or email, although is now spending more time out and about on tours. After travelling the world for several years and working in tourism on her big 'OE', Hilary came home and fell in love with NZ once again and in particular, the South Island. With a love of the outdoors and marketing background she teamed up with her mother to form 'PureTrails'. Hilary enjoys photography, cycling, walking, gardening, and being a mum to Josie & Sullivan.
Tour Leader (since 2019 and previously 2006 - 2013)
Sue has recently rejoined the PureTrails team having guided many walking and cycling trips for PureTrails between 2006 - 2013. Now fully retired from the family farm on the Canterbury Plains, Sue is kept busy by two active grandkids. Sue along with husband Brian enjoy exploring the many South Island cycle trails with a large contingent of friends each year. Sue looks forward to hosting trips on the Otago Rail Trail once again.