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Cycling, scenery and more along the Otago Central Rail Trail

If you are looking for the picturesque cycling holiday of a lifetime - look no further than the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Central Otago Rail Trail

Once upon a time, the Otago region, and much of the rest of the country, was a flourishing, gold-laden area that encouraged a large influx of workers to emigrate to New Zealand towards the end of the 1800s. Due to this increasing number of people, a railway was constructed between the city of Dunedin that led inland towards the emerging townships. Over time, the gold craze dwindled and so did the railway line, leading to its eventual closure and the lifting of its tracks.

Nowadays the railway is open to the public as a fantastic cycling, walking and sightseeing track that leads from small-town Clyde, an hour's drive from Queenstown Airport, across 150 kilometres of breathtaking Otago countryside to Middlemarch, near Dunedin.

The beginning

When you drive to Clyde from Queenstown and hire a bike with a company like Trail Journeys, you can begin the track next to the old Clyde Station site, just across the road from peaceful Clyde itself. Starting here takes you on a meandering journey past some of Central's famous orchards and vineyards behind the busy little hub of Alexandra and beyond to historical Chatto Creek.

Moving on

From Chatto Creek you'll move towards Omakau, named after a local Maori chief, and then on to Lauder. Orchards turn into a dramatic schist rock landscape, used in the filming of Lord of the Rings, and take you past more fantastic picnic spots, historic towns and information boards.

Towards the end

Lauder to Middlemarch is 108 kilometres long and winds through the stunning Ida Valley, passes you through the 45 Degrees South Latitude line twice (which is clearly marked) and past the historic memorial site of Otago's worst rail disaster.

With plenty of places to stop, eat and sleep, the rail trail is an exciting, though very accessible, activity to suit any budding cyclists.