Cyclists on Otago Central Rail Trail. © Miles Holden

Otago Central Rail Trail: journey into an ever-changing heartland


The Otago Central Rail Trail is an achievement, an acknowledgement that it’s not just hardy souls and fitness nuts who like to hike the landscape.

And with this trail, it encourages bike riders, in particular, to pack up and pedal its amazing twists and turns. It’s 150km from Middlemarch to Clyde and, as you can imagine, at that length it takes in just about everything that’s stunning about Central Otago.

Big spaces, big-hearted people and wild, wide skies. Derelict and abandoned goldmining villages, random sightings and railway sidings, little towns with lovely pubs! The towns along the trail have really opened themselves up to the concept, and have developed facilities specifically for trail users. Companies have been established to help people using the trail, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the economic benefit brought to this remote region. Friendly folk will haul your luggage for you from various spots to various spots, and there’s no shortage of expertise to really make your journey come alive.

Yep, there are off-trail adventures aplenty, but those on the track will keep you more than occupied. There’s no traffic, so you can quietly negotiate the tunnels (bring a torch, and not just the one on your phone) and several amazing viaducts to cycle or stroll over.

The skies are limitless, the scenery staggering. And there are heaps of places to stop and stay so you yourself won’t be staggering at all. Fighting fit, in fact.

Finally, you’ll park up at Clyde, pretty as a picture, on the mighty Clutha River. As the Famous Five might have said after such an epic journey, ‘Well done, everyone.’ And you may be compelled to pipe up: ‘Especially Timmy!’

If you really want to be of the landscape, follow the rail trail.

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