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5 Day Otago Rail Trail Cycle Tour

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In the latest edition of the Lonely Planets New Zealand guide book the Otago Rail Trail Cycle Tour has been voted #2 “Must Do Adventure’! Thats some serious recommendation right there. You will take a step back in time as you traverse the old rail track from Clyde to Middlemarch, now converted specifically for bike, foot and horse traffic only.

This track will take you past lots of small country towns that we will take time to hop off the bikes and do a little visitng and meeting the locals to add flavour to your ride. There’s really not much better than piquing your curiosity for Otagos far flung gold mining, wine making and farming history.

You will get to try a favourite local sport of curling (bowls on ice), take a trip on the famous Taieri Gorge train, play some pool at a local pub, visit the famous “Fluers” restuarant and the weirdly round Moeraki Boulders at the Moeraki village on the way to Oamaru.

There are tunnels, rail bridges, hill climbs, riding alongside a gorge and past the spot of the 1943 Hyde Rail Disaster.

For those wanting adventure, hospitaility, great scenery and comraderie you wont go wrong on the tour, with everything provided, so you can bring your energy and love for the ride with you on what will prove to be an exhilirating trip through some vibrant, rustic and highly convivial Otago countryside.


What’s included

  • All breakfasts (excluding day 1) and 4 dinners 
  • Taieri Gorge train trip 
  • Accommodation as detailed based on a twin share basis with shared bathroom facilities 
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation 
  • New Zealand Good and Service Tax (GST) 
  • Otago Central Rail Trail passport which contributes funds to the Rail Trail Trust

Other Information


  • 5 days of fully supported cycle riding start from Christchurch or Clyde (Queenstown option available, NZ$25pp)


  • Please click on the Price and Dates tab

No luggage to carry or accommodation worries supply your own bike or rent from our quality fleet of hybrid bicycles with suspension and front bags (Cycle hire – NZ$ $130.00) 
twin share accommodation in small hotels and lodges with single supplements available. 
4 days of cycling on the 150 kms of Rail Trail relax and enjoy the 2 hour ‘not to be missed’ train ride through the lower Taieri Gorge with its spectacular viaducts and bridges and tunnels, enjoy lunches en route in small local cafes and historic hotels. Enjoy our final celebrationary dinner and awards in Dunedin – the Scotland of the south explore Oamaru and its spectacular coastline by cycle en route back to Christchurch 

Accommodation Upgrade: A limited number of fully ensuited rooms are available at an extra cost. Depending on availability the price will range from NZ $175 to $355.00 per room.

F.A.Q’s – Otago Rail Trail Cycle Tour 

The Otago Central Rail Trail is 150km (93miles) of riding. On our Classic tour we spend 3 days actually cycling on the trail and on the Explorer 4 days on the trail. The first and last day of each tour is getting to and from Christchurch.  However we break up each day with some extra cycling.  On the way to Clyde we get in a ride along the stunning Tekapo canals with spectaular views of Mt Cook and the Southern Alps.  On the way back from Dunedin to Christchurch we cycle on the quiet coastal road to the historic quarter of Oamaru – flanked by farms on one side and the ocean on the other. The Otago Central Railway was originally constructed to transport supplies to and from the Goldrush. The line began development near Dunedin in 1879 and reached Middlemarch in 1891. The stretch that is now the Otago Central Rail Trail from Clyde to Middlemarch took another 16 years before it’s completion in 1907. In the end there was a total of 97 bridges and 13 tunnels. In the late 1980’s the railway line was used less and less as road transportation became more popular. It wasn’t until 1994 that the Department of Conservation redeveloped the trail for cyclists, walkers and horse riders. The track was re-graveled and 68 bridges were redecked.
What is the cycling terrain like?
The cycling terrain is classified as ‘easy’, however occasionally we have people find it bumpier then expected. The rail trail itself is hard packed gravel; our bikes have front suspension to make the riding more comfortable.
Are there any hills?
As the Rail Trail follows an old railway line there aren’t any big hills on the trail. Any incline is gradual with the maximum gradient being 2%.
How fit do I need to be?
This is an active holiday so you need to be fit and in good health. Fitness is difficult to define. However as a general rule you should be able to comfortably cycle for up to 3 – 4 hours a day, on some uneven ground and with some uphill. If you don’t do a lot of physical activity we would recommend you set yourself a programme starting with short cycles of say half an hour a day and gradually building up to 3 – 4 longer cycles each week, including some uphill. The secret is to start slowly, and increase your exercise gradually. Just remember the fitter you are the more enjoyable your trip will be. With the Rail Trail the one part of the body that generally hurts the most first is the bottom! If you haven’t been on a bike for a while it can take your bottom a few days just to get in the rhythm of being on a bike on a gravel road so the more practice you can get in at home the more fun you will find the riding!
Is there an age limit?
There’s no age limit on the trail! If you’re willing to give it a go then we’d love to have you along. If you have young kids who you’d like to bring along let us know and we can discuss options.
How many in the group?
We have a minimum of 4 and maximum of 14 on our standard tours. If you have a group that would like to come on the trail, let us know and we can always look at customising an itinerary especially for your group.
How does the tour start and finish?
On the first day of the tour we pick you up from a central Christchurch accommodation provider. We generally pick up around 7am. Once we’ve collected all clients we bring everyone back to our depot in Waltham for a bike fitting. After the bike fitting it’s on the road as we head out of Christchurch! 
Can I start the tour from Queenstown or Clyde?
If you would prefer to start the tour with us from Queenstown/Clyde we are happy to help arrange a shuttle for you. The cost of the shuttle is NZ$30, if you are bringing your own bike on the shuttle it is an extra NZ$10. The shuttle departs Queenstown at 3pm arriving into Clyde around 4:30pm. 
What time do we finish in Christchurch?
At the end of the tour we aim to be back into Christchruch around 6:00 – 6:30 pm. We then drop you off at a central accommodation provider of your choice. If you want to catch a domestic flight home on the last day we would recommend booking a flight for after 7.00pm. We can then drop you off at the airport as we return to town.
Can I finish the tour in Dunedin?
If you would like to finish the tour in Dunedin that’s not a problem, just let us know so we can inform your guide. It is also possible to leave the tour at any point along the coast travelling back from Dunedin to Christchurch, just let us know.
What sort of bikes do you use and how much is bike rental?
Bike rental for the Rail trail is NZ$150 pp for the Classic tour (NZ$180 pp for the Otago Rail Trail Explorer). However you are welcome to bring your own bike.  If you bring your own bike please ensure it is well maintained & that you carry spare tubes/pump etc. (A light cable lock is also handy.) If you are using our bikes we need your height details at the time of booking which allows us to fit your bike to you correctly.
We use a 27 speed hybrid cycle with high quality componentary & comfortable saddles. There is the option of either a ‘standard’ trek hybrid or you can also have a low stem, step through bike.
Do your bikes have carrier bags & water bottles?
As part of our cycle safety policy our bikes have side flags which create more cycle space on the road and bright rear reflectors. We believe in “Be Safe – Be Seen”.  Note – we supply helmets, saddles & pedals on our bicycles but you may wish to bring your own for your personal preference. Our bikes also have front and rear bike bags if you wish to use them. Each bike will also have a water bottle – these are refillable bottles and can be taken with you at the end of your tour. We use them to help cut down the 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste per year that sales of bottled water generates in New Zealand.
Are meals included?
When you are on a cycling trip meals are of great importance. Basically don’t come if you want to lose weight! Our guides love to show off the variety of New Zealand foods and in the course of your trip you will get plenty of it! We dine at friendly restaurants each evening enjoying Central Otago’s hearty meals. On all of our cycling tours the support van will have a continual supply of water, fresh fruit and snacks.   On the Rail Trail Classic tour four breakfasts and four dinners are included. On the Rail Trail Explorer five breakfasts and five dinners are included. Lunches are not included and can be purchased along the trail.
Do you cater for special dietary needs?
On booking we do ask about dietary needs so this is your chance to tell us about your food intake.  Vegetarians and lactose intolerant diets are easily accommodated. Probably our biggest complaint has been that despite the exercise our clients have still put on weight. Wine, soft drinks, mineral water and other alcoholic beverages are not included in the cost of the tour. At dinner you will be responsible for your own drinks. A coffee or tea after the dinner is included for those that would like one.
Whats the accommodation like?
On the Rail Trail we stay at historic pubs, hotels and even an old school house! On the first two nights of the Rail Trail Classic tour, the rooms have shared facilities. On the last two nights of the tour everyone has their own ensuite. (last three for the Rail Trail Explorer tour).
Can I upgrade to an ensuited room for every night?
If you would like ensuited rooms every night of the tour, please just let us know and we will check availability and cost. It is generally no more then NZ$130 per twin/double/single to have ensuited rooms for the first two nights of the tour. 
Trips are organised and priced on a twin/double share basis.  Single supplement accommodation is available at an extra price, NZ $325 for Rail Trail Classic and NZ $419 for Rail Trail Explorer. If you book as a single and request a room mate we will arrange for you to share with a person of the same sex. If we cannot match you up with another person on the tour, you will get a room to yourself at no extra cost. Please note: although every endeavor is made to stay at the accommodation detailed in the itinerary, due to seasonal shortages occasionally, we need to use other accommodation of a similar standard.

Christchurch to Clyde - Clyde to Lauder - Lauder to Ranfurly - Ranfurly to Dunedin - Dunedin to Christchurch


Christchurch to Clyde

We will come and pick you up from your pre tour accommodation in Christchurch and bring you back to the Adventure South depot in Addington at 7.00am. A quick check of your bike – or a fitting of one of our fleet of rental bikes will precede the loading of the bike trailer that will see us departing by 8.00am. After a quick lunch stop in Tekapo we start our cycle program with a quiet ride alongside a canal system with spectacular views of Mt Cook & the Southern Alps. Crossing over the Lindis Pass we descend down to Cromwell and travel alongside the scenic river gorge before we arrive at our historic accommodation in Clyde. The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore this old goldmining town or there are other cycling options that your guide can advise you on. The evening will then be finished off with our first group dinner. 

Road Cycling:
24kms/15 miles 


Clyde to Lauder

The real riding starts today as we leave town across the flat rural countryside. From Chatto Creek the trail starts to rise before leveling off to Omakau where we stop for lunch. We the take a drive around the quaint township of Ophir and to the top of the Raggedy Range to get a real bird’s eye view of the trail and the path that it takes. After lunch the remaining 9km flow under the wheels until we arrive at Lauder. Late afternoon we will take a drive to the historic gold mining village, St. Bathans for a walk around the beautiful blue lake. This evening it is time for a relaxing beer and a game of pool at the local pub before dinner. 

(B, D)
Rail Trail Ride: 44 kms/27 miles


Lauder to Ranfurly

On this day we ride through the first two tunnels and two rail bridges on the trip. With the willow tree edged gorge below the trail and the welcoming pools beckoning we finally emerge into the scenic Idaburn valley. One last short easy climb takes us to the summit of the trail and the beginning of the downhill descent that will take us first to the art deco township of Ranfurly. We ride into our accommodation before wandering downtown for lunch at a local café. You’ll have some free time in the afternoon to relax, stroll around Ranfurly or catch up on some washing! Around 4:30pm we drive out to Naseby – a small foresting township, just off the trail – here people have the option of either joining us in playing curling; if you can imagine bowls on ice then you are on the right track – a lot of fun and its at the only dedicated curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere. If curling isn’t your thing then a relaxing pint at the iconic Royal Hotel is another option as is a walk around town or in the forest plantation. After the afternoons activities we all head to the Royal Hotel for a hearty meal before driving back to Ranfurly and our accommodation for the night. 

(B, D)
Rail Trail Ride:
48 kms/29 miles 


Ranfurly to Dunedin

Its out of bed and back onto the bikes for our longest ride today but it is some of the best riding of the trip. From Waipiata the trail follows the edge of the old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge. The trail crosses through further tunnels and bridges before a fast downhill to the lovely café at the old hotel at Hyde. From here a final 27kms takes us past the scene of the famous Hyde rail disaster of 1943 and then out onto the rolling plains slowly descending into Middlemarch. This is the end of the trail and time for a celebratory drink at the Kissing Gate Cafe. However the day is not yet finished and if time allows we will visit the local “Stone Sheep Yards” before boarding the famous Taieri Express for a spectacular ride through the gorge described as one of the worlds great train journeys. We travel into Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the South. Our dinner tonight is in the form of a group celebration at a classic Italian restaurant to acknowledge the 150kms of Rail Trail riding. 

(B, D) 
Rail Trail Ride:
– 59 kms/37 miles

Taieri Express – A trip not to be missed!
Taieri Express, PukerangiThe 58kms of rail travel into Dunedin is rated as one of the world’s great rail trips. The 2-hour route traverses the Taieri gorge travelling across high iron viaducts and tunnels. All trains feature heritage carriages and you may have a viewing carriage on your trip, which provides even better panoramas. The train arrives at the historic Dunedin railway station at 6.30pm in time for a transfer to our accommodation


Dunedin to Christchurch

The riding is still not finished as we head north to Oamaru, leaving behind those who wish to finish in Dunedin. Via the beautiful coastal roads we get to visit the famous Fluers café at picturesque Moreaki Village & the Moeraki Boulders before turning onto the final quiet 24km coastal ride along the cliff tops and farms that take us into Oamaru. Here in the old warehouse quarter the early buildings are being restored creating a fascinating opportunity to explore the past as you relax at a local cafe. Back on the road again we continue across the Canterbury Plains and finally reach Christchurch where we will deliver you to your chosen accommodation at the trip end. 

Coastal Rides: 24-40 kms/15-24 miles 

Tour Prices 2019/20



Options & Supplements 

Single Supplement ( extra ) NZ$325
Cycle Hire NZ$155
Curling (approx NZ$22)
HS - Public Holiday Supplement (Additional cost applies, please ask for details)


Departure Dates 2015

23 Mar - 27 Mar 1 G
12 Apr - 16 Apr G
12 Oct - 16 Oct A
23 Nov - 27 Nov G
07 Dec - 11 Dec A
30 Dec - 03 Jan A


Departure Dates 2016

01 Feb - 05 Feb A
15 Feb - 19 Feb A
15 Mar - 19 Mar A
12 Apr - 16 Apr A

A: Available G: Guaranteed Departure  C: Closed

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