Otago Central Rail Trail © DunedinNZ

Tohu Whenua: Otago Central Rail Trail

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Big spaces, big-hearted people and wild, wide skies. Those are just some of the features that define Aotearoa’s original Great Ride, the Otago Central Rail Trail.

The cycle trail extends 152 kilometres between Middlemarch and Clyde, following a historic railway route that linked inland goldfields and pastoral towns with the city of Dunedin up until the 1990s. 

The trail is steeped in heritage and takes in just about everything that’s stunning in Central Otago: ever-changing mountains, dry rocky landscapes, productive farmland, spectacular river gorges, tunnels (pack a proper torch!), viaducts, thriving townships, old stone and mudbrick dwellings and preserved gold mining settlements – shaped and seasoned by the harsh, continental climatic extremes unique to the region. Detours and side trips abound – to dams, gold mining relics, the country’s only international curling rink and other cycle trails.

Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to meet pioneer-spirited locals famous for their warm rural hospitality.

Take a break in any of the traditional country towns to sip a beer at the pub, enjoy café home baking or shop in a general store. Accommodation options include farm-stays, hotels and cottages.  

The Otago Central Rail Trail is open all year round and is all off-road with a gentle gradient, great surface and no traffic. It can be followed in either direction. The entire trail takes approximately three to five days to complete by bike but you can obviously choose to do as short or as long a stretch as suits your plans. Mountain bikes can be hired in Dunedin, Middlemarch, Alexandra and Clyde. Any of the area’s i-SITEs can provide detailed information. 

Due to its incredible history the The Otago Central Rail Trail is recognised as a Tohu Whenua, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s best heritage experiences. The trail is proudly managed by the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai in partnership with the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust.

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