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5 Day Otago Rail Trail Explorer Cycle Tour

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Cycling with the Otago Rail Trail Explorer Cycling Tour gives you an on the ground perspective of the rich Otago landscape. Not only are you doing exercise and breathing in the lovely fresh air as you cruise along the trails, but you will get to stop off and explore the towns along the way.

There’s a trip through the deep, rocky Kawerau Gorge with a stop for lunch encompassing winetasting and a virtual tour of Cromwell and Bannockburn winieries. Later that day you can investigate the old gold mining town of Clyde and learn some of its early history.

The cycling gets underway from the Clyde trail via Ranfurly to Omakau. With a ride of 37kms under your belt you can relax and enjoy the evenings activities and dinner.

In the next few days you will cycle 105kms through some lovely back country and you will visit a family run high country sheep station and ride the Taieri Gorge train and if you are up for it you can try your hand at curling ( a local winter favourite passtime).

You will experience genuine kiwi hospitality in a relaxed and friendly environment, and come away feeling as if you have had a holiday break befitting a cycling enthusiasts joy for the ride of life.


  • 6 days of fully supported cycling including the MacKenzie Canal enroute to Clyde extra time to relax and soak up the stunning scenery – 4 days actually on the trail! 
  • Explore Oamaru and its spectacular coastline by cycle enroute back to Christchurch optional trips to the historic gold mining village of St Bathans and the Blue Lake, plus lots more! 
  • Experience the great Taieri Gorge Train Ride 
  • No luggage to carry or accommodation worries 
  • Twin share accommodation in historic hotels and pubs try your hand at the curling (optional) in Naseby, the only indoor curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere 
  • Supply your own bike or rent from our quality fleet of front suspension hybrid bikes (cycle hire NZ$180/AU$145.00) 
  • A NZ$50/AU$40 surcharge will apply for tours during Easter, Christmas & New Year holidays where additional costs may be levied to meet statutory obligations. We will advise clients of any cost, prior to departure.

Other Information


  • We run these tours on demand and can offer options for groups ranging from two people upwards. Our standard guided Otago Rail Trail Explorer tour is 6 days long, starting from Queenstown and finishing in Dunedin, but we can make this a longer tour, or start & finish in Christchurch if required.



  • Please click on the Price and Dates tab





F.A.Q’s – Otago Rail Trail Cycle Tour

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.

Start in Queenstown or Christchurch to Clyde - Clyde to Omakau - Omakau to Ranfurly - Ranfurly to Hyde - Hyde to Middlemarch


Start in Queenstown or Christchurch to Clyde

Important: The night before your tour is to depart your guide will call your pre tour accommodation to advise what time they will collect you the following morning. (Please make sure you have given us information as to where you are staying). If you are not around when your guide calls they will leave a message at reception – its really important that you check with reception if you have not heard from your guide directly. If for any reason you have not heard from your guide by the morning of the tour please call us in the NZ office on 0800 00 11 66 (from within NZ).This itinerary is an example of the a 5 day tour. The tour can be extended to a 6 or 7 day tour on request.

We will collect you from your Queenstown lodgings mid morning & travel via the scenic Kawerau Gorge to Clyde. The Kawerau Gorge is noted for its excellent wineries and we will stop in for a winery lunch on the way. At the “Big Picture” < www.bigpicturewine.com > you will be greeted by the Wine Steward who will introduce you into the Aroma Room where an audio/visual wine tasting awaits. Taste the world-renowned Central Otago Pinot Noir as you are guided on a personal tour by your lodging hosts to several of the vineyards in the Cromwell basin and Bannockburn region. Early afternoon we arrive at the railhead at Clyde. The rest of the afternoon will be free to explore this old gold-mining 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.

Meals: L,D


Clyde to Omakau

The Rail Trail 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. After lunch your guide will transfer everyone through to the art-deco village of Ranfurly and your accommodation for the next two nights. 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 we will enjoy a relaxing bbq at the lodge before turning in for the night.

Rail Trail Ride: 37 kms/23 miles
Meals: B,D


Omakau to Ranfurly

The riding starts today as you travel to historic Clyde where you are fitted with your bikes. The cycle from Clyde is across scenic rural countryside surrounded by the beautiful Raggedy Range & Dunstan Range, to Chatto Creek where the trail starts to gently rise. We recommend a café stop in Omakau before continuing to Lauder where you will meet your hosts for the next two nights. A short drive to St. Bathans offers the opportunity for a walk around the beautiful blue lake before you drive into Naseby to your lodgings, the “Old Doctors Residence” in time for a home cooked evening meal. 

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


Ranfurly to Hyde

We start the day off the bikes with a short drive back to Wedderburn and a farm tour. It’s not your standard farm tour checking out sheep but a great insight into the running of a fifth generation high country family operation. Enough history to keep you interested and Devonshire tea at the homestead to finish with. After the local insight its back down to Ranfurly and onto the bikes. 

Continuing on through the heart of the Maniototo Plain we ride through to Hyde where you will meet your guide. We then load up the bikes continue through to Kokonga and our accommodation for the night. If time allows we will detour to vist MaCraes Gold Mine and enjoy the views from the spectacular Taieri Ridge.

Cycle Ranfurly to Hyde: – 33kms
Meals: (NI)


Hyde to Middlemarch

This morning we transfer back to Hyde and jump back onto the bikes. 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. Before boarding the train its time to say farewell to your guides as they leave and return to Christchurch. For those going onto to Dunedin we can help with accommodation options.

Cycle Hyde to Middlemarch: 28kms
Meals: (NI)

Tour Prices 2019

Single Supplement ( extra ) NZ$419


Departure Dates 2019 

Apr 2nd 2019 Christchurch C
Apr 13th 2019 Christchurch C


A: Available G: Guaranteed Departure  C: Closed

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