Otago Central Rail Trail
The Otago Central Branch line was originally used to transport supplies to and from the Gold Fields and then later to transport goods and livestock. By the late 1980s the line was being used less and less it was decided that it would be developed into a trail that would be suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. In 1993 the Department of Conservation (DOC) bought the corridor for a recreational reserve.
The Otago Central Rail Trail Trust was formed in 1994 to partner the Department, helping raise funds to initially open the Trail. The Rail Trail officially opened fully in 2000 and the teamwork between the Trust and DOC has continued. The Trail then become part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail network in 2012.
The Otago Central Rail Trail now runs between Clyde and Middlemarch and is New Zealand's most popular cycle trail. It is steeped in history and as well as stunning scenery there are also activities you can participate in along the way including a river cruise in Alexandra, curling in Naseby, 4WD tours and much more. If you are looking at cycling the whole trail then the most popular option is between 3-5 days depending on how far you wish to cycle each day and the activities you may like to include in your trip. Day trips and guided tours are also popular options.
The township of Clyde is located just 1 hour drive from Queenstown and Middlemarch is located 1 hour drive from Dunedin. If you are planning on flying then arriving into Queenstown and out of Dunedin is a popular option for people wishing to cycle the trail.The Taieri Gorge Train still operates most days from Dunedin to Middlemarch or Pukerangi (just outside of Middlemarch) and return and is a great way to relax and reflect on your trip once you have finished cycling in Middlemarch.The trail itself is open year round. There are also various towns and food and accommodation options along the way.
Otago Central Rail Trail Voted NZ's Favourite Ride 2016
On a competition run through bike wise, the Otago Central Rail Trail came out on top by a huge margin as the best cycle trail.
The competition was fierce, but New Zealanders have decided their favourite place to cycle and it is…drumroll please… the Otago Central Rail Trail! Almost 10,000 votes were cast during February and the ‘original great ride’ came out on top.
Doubling down, the Otago Central Rail Trail also took out the category win for NZ’s favourite ‘Nga Haeranga’ ride this year.