They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle. Perhaps it’s true, because after a few ever-so-slightly wobbly moments, I was off…to ride part of the 150km of New Zealand’s Otago Central Rail Trail. And I wasn’t the only one in the pack who’d had a few years out of the saddle either…and we all finished our big day out safe and sound (if a bit sore in some cases).
If the thought of pedalling about 150km over a few days sounds daunting, take heart…this is a beautiful place where you can do it at your own pace, withe the added bonus that because it’s an old rail trail it’s mostly flat terrain (trains don’t do hills either!).
And while time was the major factor in my not doing the whole 150km (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), I do know people who have done the lot – and raved about it!
And I understand why they raved. The Otago Central Rail Trail takes you through some of the loveliest parts of the South Island, with stops for pub lunches, good coffee…and a comfortable bed at night.
The trail follows the old Central Otago branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch, and is the most popular of all the New Zealand cycle trails. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s crowded. On a day’s ride my group of about 10 was soon scattered according to our individual ability and speed. Or on how often we stopped to take photographs. For me, that was quite often! And we only met a few other cyclists along the way.
For those who want to do the whole trail, there’s great accommodation along the way. We stayed in cottages on Wedderburn Station (a sheep farm) the night before our cycling adventure, and ate at the Wedderburn Pub, which is conveniently at the end of the driveway.
From some of the higher points along the rail trail there are views across farmland, dotted with white sheep and criss-crossed with small roads, backed by hazy blue mountains. This is the middle section of the rail trail, and has some wonderful spots to stop when you are not cycling through cool tunnels or over impressive bridges like the Poolburn Viaduct, which spans 108 metres and is 37 metres high.
After about 23km, we finished up at the Stationside Cafe at Lauder, for seriously good coffee and some healthy snacks. After all, we’d earned it! Here are a few pictures to show you how lovely it was…
You can hire a bike and do the Otago Central Rail Trail independently, or take advantage of one of several tour companies that offer all equipment and guides and will organise the whole thing for you.
New Zealand cycling specialists Adventure South are encouraging Australians to cross the ditch this autumn by offering free bike hire – a saving of up to $145 – on all March departures (booked during February) along the trail. The five-day Classic itinerary costs $1035 per person, while the six-day Explorer itinerary costs $1350 – absolutely money well spent.
Both tours include professional cycling guides, accommodation, all breakfasts and dinners, private coach transport, helmets and cycle bags, all national park fees as well as a ticket on the wonderful scenic Taieri Gorge Railway to Dunedin.
A Glass Half Full cycled the Otago Central Rail Trail as a guest of Tourism New Zealand.