Things to do along the Otago Rail Trail
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To complement your Otago Central Rail Trail cycling trip there are a variety of additional side-trips and activities you can include to make your NZ cycling holiday even more memorable.
If you are interested in adding any of these activities to your booking, or would like more information, please contact our office as we are happy to help.
Our Top Five Otago Rail Trail Activities are:
- Clutha River Cruise
Explore the mighty Clutha River and Roxburgh Gorge on a spectacular boat trip from Alexandra to Doctors Point. Enjoy the unique opportunity to view this isolated part the Central Otago region of New Zealand and soak up the rich gold mining history this area has to offer. Your informative Guide will highlight points of interest along the way. The trip includes morning/afternoon tea, coffee and soft drinks. These tours are approximately 2.5 hours and depart at 2pm daily from October to April.
- Local Wine Tour
The South Island's Central Otago is known for its amazing wine (especially Pinot Noir) so what better way to start off your cycling holiday than with a Guided Wine Tour. Sample some of the incredible and award-winning wines from our region while you relax and immerse yourself in the stunning scenery Central Otago is famous for.
This tour includes pick up and drop off at your accommodation in either Clyde or Alexandra and a 3-hour Guided Tour to three different wineries in the Clyde/Alexandra/Earnscleugh area with tastings included. Download Local Wine Tour information
- St Bathans and the Blue Lake Tour
Immerse yourself in the history and scenery of St Bathans, the Blue Lake and Cambrian (the home of famous New Zealand artist Grahame Sydney). This informative two-hour Guided Tour showcases the gold mining history of this area. Visit the “haunted” Vulcan Hotel for a drink. Pick and drop off is available from your accommodation in Omakau, Lauder, Wedderburn or Ranfurly.
- Curling in Naseby
Curling is a lot easier than you might think and great fun! The Naseby Curling Indoor Rink that can cater for groups of all sizes. Great for a laugh with friends or as a family activity, this is a very popular option to include in your Otago Rail Trail acycling trip. We can also arrange transport to and from Naseby as part of your booking.
- Hayes Engineering Tour
Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead in Oturehua is a great place to visit as part of your Otago Rail Trail trip to experience a bit of history. See the machinery operating in the well-preserved 1890’s workshop and take a tour of the 1920’s restored homestead. Ernest Hayes developed and marketed a range of products at Hayes Engineering Works such as wire strainers, cattle stops and pulley blocks.
We also have new Highland Motorsport Park Activities available to add to your trip.
River Track Maps: As an alternative to the 8km stretch between Clyde and Alexandra on the Otago Central Rail Trail why not try the River Track. At 16kms it is double the distance but follows the Clutha River from Clyde to Alexandra with great opportunities for photos.
Click here to view the maps
Clyde Museums: In the small town of Clyde there are 3 museums which open during summer only.
- The Clyde Museum is located opposite the Post Office Café in Blyth Street and is open from 2pm – 4pm Tuesday – Sunday or by arrangement.
- The Herb Factory is located at the end of Fraser Street (near the Railway Station) and is open 2pm – 4pm Tuesday – Sunday
- The Station Museum is located at the old Clyde Railway Station and is open from 2pm – 4pm
Clyde Lookout: If you cycle to the end of the main street in Clyde and up to the lookout this will give you a great view of the Clyde Dam along with the Clyde and Earnscleugh area. There are many local wineries such as Hintons, Shaky Bridge, Two Paddocks (Sam Neills vineyards), Three Miners, Old Como Villa, Black Ridge where you can sample their tipples.
Alex – an - dra
- Clyde Railhead - Alexandra 8km by the Railtrail
- Clyde Railhead - Alexandra 16km by River Trail
Clutha River Cruises: An awesome way to see Central Otago scenery from the Clutha River. Starting from Alexandra and stopping at Doctors Point Gold Mine for light refreshments. Guided Tours are approximately 2.5 hours and departs 11am and 2pm daily. Bookings are essential and minimum 2 pax required.
Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery: Located at Pioneer Park in the centre of town. It is full of information and local history. Open Monday – Sunday 10am – 4pm.
Molyneux Aquatic Centre: Alexandra's swimming pool is open Monday – Friday from 6am – 7.30pm and Saturday 9am – 6pm and Sunday 10am – 6pm. It offers both indoor and outdoor facilities as well as a spa pool and lane pool.
Gallow - way | Chat - oh Creek
- Alexandra to Galloway – 7 km
- Galloway to Chatto Creek – 10 km
Galloway: In the old Galloway station building you'll find a petrified wood display and nearby is the Lower Manorburn Dam where locals can go skating if it's cold enough in the winter. Toilets are available at the Galloway station site.
Chatto Creek: You'll find some options for a dip into the river as you near Chatto Creek. Stop for some refreshment at the Chatto Creek Hotel where you'll find the old Chatto Creek Post Office. You will be able to fill your water at the Chatto Creek Tavern. The old Chatto Creek Station site is on the Omakau side of the Tavern, across the main road on the Rail Trail where toilets are available.
Oh - ma - cow
- Chatto Creek to Omakau – 12 km
Swimming location: There are many great swimming holes in Omakau although we suggest asking a local's advice before heading off. There is also a swimming pool at the Omakau School.
Golf: There is a 9 hole golf course in Omakau on Alton Street.
Not far from the Omakau station site you'll see the Omakau Cemetery where you'll find head stones which tell some great stories from the gold rush times.
Oaf - ah
- Omakau to Ophir - 2 km
Ophir township: If you are passing through Omakau why not take the 4km round trip to visit the historic gold mining town of Ophir. It is worth a visit if you have the time and has many Historic Places Trust protected buildings including the Post Office Building.
To get to Ophir township: Turn right off the main road in Omakau and cycle across the bridge for about 2km and Ophir is on your right before you head up the hill. From here you can continue cycling to the intersection with the main road and turn right back into Omakau. You will pass over the Daniel O'Connell suspension bridge. Note that this last stretch puts you onto the main highway so it may not be suitable for young children and you may be better heading back to Omakau the way that you've come.
Daniel O'Connell Suspension Bridge: Located near Ophir and opened in 1880 this is one of the few remaining suspensions bridges left in Central Otago.
Law - da
- Ophir to Lauder - 9km
- Omakau to Lauder - 7km
Lauder Station Side café: For barista coffee and the Lauder Hotel.
Refill your water bottles: The next water stop is in Oturehua, 22.5 km away. Water is available for sale from the Station Side café in season. There is a DOC toilet on the Auripo side of Lauder not far from where the trail crosses the main road.
Between Lauder and Oturehua: You'll pass through the Poolburn Gorge which many describe as the most spectacular section of the Trail. The gorge is also home to the rare New Zealand falcon (Karearea).
St Bathans: About 25km off the trail from Lauder. Guided tours are available to this destination. You will visit the quaint settlement of Cambrian and talk to Bob DeBerry, one of the local characters. Visit the famous Vulcan Hotel close by the Blue Lake.
O - tur - re - hu - a
- Lauder to Oturehua - 22.5km
As you reach the place where the trail crosses the main road, look up to your right onto the rise and you'll see the place where the Brass Monkey Motor Bike rally is held in June each year. Thousands of motorcyclists from all over the country and further afield congregate here under canvas to talk about bikes and take part in the festivities.
When you cross the main highway you'll see a very large pond area. This is the Idaburn Dam where the national Bonspiel (curling competition) is held if the ice is thick enough in winter. Here, teams vie for New Zealand's oldest national sporting trophy.
Hayes Engineering works: birth place of the world-famous Hayes wire strainer and the cattle stop. $15 per adult for a guided tour. This is a NZ Historic Places Trust site and well worth a visit. You'll find it beside the trail as you approach Oturehua.
Gilchrist's General Store: NZ's longest operating general store and a museum in its own right.
In Oturehua there is a public toilet on the front left hand side of the community hall on the main street which you'll find on the left hand side of Gilchrist's Store. Refreshments are available at Oturehua Tavern (barista coffee), Ida Valley Kitchen (barista coffee), Hayes Engineering Works Café (barista coffee) and Gilchrist's Store.
Wed - er - burn
- Oturehua to Wedderburn - 12km
Golden Progress Mine: As you cycle out of Oturehua on the trail, you'll see the sign post to the old mine site. It's a short 10 minute walk up to the old shaft crowned with its large timber poppet head. You'll also find some of the old boilers on site and remains of various buildings. Please note that the site is closed during the lambing season so please respect the “no entry” sign if it is out.
You'll pass across the 45th parallel twice through this section and these are denoted by concrete markers.
You'll pass the highest point on the Otago Rail Trail at 618 metres just before you cycle downhill to Wedderburn.
The Red Shed in Wedderburn has a great display of information about the rail trail along with a DVD about the trail that you won't find anywhere else. Get a photo of the very famous Green Shed in Wedderburn as painted by Grahame Sydney
There are no DOC toilets through this section but you will find a toilet on the side of the Red Barn information centre. Refreshments available at Wedderburn Tavern (barista coffee) or the honesty box items available from the Red Barn. You'll find water available at the Red Barn information centre at the Wedderburn Lodge and Cottages.
Nays - bee
- Wedderburn to Naseby - 14km by road
Range of activities: Including curling, farm tours, 4wd drive tours, discovering old gold towns, mountain biking and more.
Naseby Indoor Curling Rink: Curling is a little bit like bowls on ice and very entertaining for all ages. Book in for 1 – 1.5 hours and give this sport a try.
Rental cars: If you are interested in traveling to Naseby to have a look around and try curling then rental cars are available at Wedderburn or we can arrange transport by shuttle (charges apply). If you are staying at Naseby some accommodation providers will provide free pick up from Wedderburn as part of their service.
Mountain Biking: Very popular in this town. A series of forestry trails range in difficulty from beginner to extreme. A very popular 12 hour mountain bike race is held here every year.
Swimming: At the Dam over the hot summer days is very popular with the many campers and visitors to the area.
Ran - fur - lee
- Wedderburn to Ranfurly - 11km
The Art Deco Capital of Central Otago: The Ranfurly Information Centre has a fascinating display of rail history and is located in the old Ranfurly Railway Station. Take some time to view the Art Deco buildings in Ranfurly. Stock up on any snacks you need in Ranfurly as the next general store is in Middlemarch.
Refreshments: E-Central Café (barista coffee), Ewes and Moos Café, Dunc'n Inn, Ranfurly Lion Hotel and Ranfurly Dairy. Refill your bottles at the public toilets in Ranfurly or purchase from one of the local 4 Square supermarkets.
Why - pea - ah - ta
- Ranfurly to Waipiata - 7.5km
Rock and Pillar Range: As you cycle towards Waipiata, look up onto the side of the Rock and Pillar Range on your right and see the old tuberculosis sanatorium which once ran from this site many years ago.
Swimming: If you'd like to get to the Taieri River for a swim and to view the historic “Green” Bridge then cycle down Main St and follow the signs directing you to Peters Farm Lodge. About 2km out of town you'll find the bridge and the Taieri River.
There are currently no public toilets in Waipiata but you will find a DOC toilet on the trail 2kms out of Waipiata on the Kokonga side.
- Waipiata to Hyde - 22 km
On the way to Hyde: You will pass through Kokonga, Daisybank and Tiroiti. These places have very little in facilities but a good activity in the summer (or when the weather is warm), is swimming and many places on the Taieri River are safe for children as well.
At Hyde: There is the opportunity for refreshments at the Otago Central Hotel. This restored hotel is a great place for lunch if you are traveling all the way to or from Middlemarch. The hotel also has accommodation so if you are staying the night, be prepared for a great dinner. There are no other facilities at Hyde for food so please be aware of this.
Middle - march
- Hyde to Middlemarch - 29km
The Middlemarch Arches: Beside the railway line as you cycle off the trail and onto Tawe street. This series of arches was built from 10 tonnes of stone.
Strath Taieri Historical Museum: You'll find the museum on Aberafon Street and it's considered to be one of Middlemarch's best kept secrets. Open seven days a week 12pm to 3.00pm until April. Entry: $2 per person.
Sutton Salt Lake: If the weather is good and you're feeling fit then go and see the Sutton Salt lake, NZ's only inland salt lake (Get details from the staff at Trail Journeys depot). Note that it is a 10 km ride there and back.
There are toilets along this section at Rock and Pillar (14km from Hyde) and Ngapuna (7km from Rock and Pillar) and then none until you reach the Middlemarch township (7km from Ngapuna) where you'll find public toilets at the old railway station site, Trail Journeys and at the community hall on the main highway through Middlemarch
Showers available at Trail Journeys depot in Middlemarch. This facility is open to all Rail Trail customers and a small charge is levied to cover heating and water charges. Towels are available to hire.
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