The Central Otago Rail Trail
Central Otago is regarded as one of the harshest and most beautiful environments in New Zealand. A combination of hot summers, cold winters and low rainfall results in a dry, rocky and unforgiving countryside. Rolling hills are dusted with thyme, river valleys are lined with beautiful poplar trees, and the countryside is littered with the green pastures of New Zealand’s largest alpine sheep stations.
Gold mining boomed throughout the region in the late 1800’s, and a supporting railway line was built between Alexandra and Dunedin. Servicing the industry for 83 years, this line was finally decommissioned in 1990. When the trains shut down and the tracks were lifted, the perfect cycleway was uncovered, and it soon became New Zealand’s first ‘Great Ride’.
The 152 kilometre (94 miles), dual direction trail quickly became a must-do for Kiwis and international visitors alike. Along the way you’ll pass by old mining villages, meet an array of locals, and you’ll have front row seats to the most stunning high country stations. The trail can be ridden all year round, but if you travel in the autumn (March, April and May) you’ll be a witness to a spectacular colour display. As the poplar trees lose their leaves, they create a kaleidoscope of colour and on a background of riverbeds, rolling barren hills and green crops, the scene is set for incredible photography.
The trail is grade 1 (the easiest) and there aren’t too many steep climbs, although some inclines are quite long and it does help to have a ‘reasonable’ level of base fitness. If you have any concerns, just give us a call and we’ll chat about your options.
If you’re joining us on our ‘Weka’ cycle trip, we’ll bike the section of cycleway between Lauder and Ranfurly, and you'll be fully vehicle assisted along the way. Crossing numerous bridges and viaducts, winding our way along the smooth track past Raggedy Range and Rough Ridge, this section of trail is definitely one of the most visually stimulating sections of the New Zealand Cycleway. Tonight we'll kick back in the legendary Hawkdun Lodge (feel free to make the most of the hot tub to loosen up those legs) while we prepare for another epic day in the saddle, biking the Alps to Ocean cycleway!