5 Central Otago cycle trails to tick off your list

Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Central Otago | David Wall
Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Central Otago | David Wall

Whether you're looking to bike solo, as a family or as a group, Central Otago has an incredible range of cycling tracks and trails for all abilities.

Stunning landscapes, over 350km of dedicated cycle trails, friendly locals, world-class wineries, spectacular heritage sites, art galleries, boutique accommodation and plenty of great restaurants and pubs all combine to create this special destination.
 

Central Otago Trails |  <i>Trail Journeys</i>
 

From the Otago Central Rail Trail to the Roxburgh Gorge, Clutha Gold, River Trail and Lake Dunstan Trail, there's plenty of kms to tick off on your bike while you're in the region.

 

1. Otago Central Rail Trail
 

Cycle over the grand Poolburn Viaduct |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>
 
The 'Rail Trail' is one of the most well known cycle trails in New Zealand and is high up on many Kiwi's bucket lists.
 
As NZ's original great ride, and the trail that inspired the Nga Haerenga Cycle Trail network, the 150km Otago Central Rail Trail follows a historic railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. Its wide compacted gravel path has a gentle 1 to 50 gradient, and is vehicle-free, making it ideal for introductory cyclists and families.
 
The historic trail snakes its way through ever-changing dry, rocky landscapes with spectacular river gorges, tunnels and viaducts.

Along the way you'll discover thriving rural townships, preserved gold mining settlements, as well as numerous activities such as curling in Naseby, 4WD tours, a trip to St Bathans and much more.

View our self-guided Otago Central Rail trail packages and services here.
 
Otago Central Rail Trail |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Pass through historic railway tunnels |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> The sport of Curling in Naseby |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>
 

2. Clutha Gold Cycle Trail


Admiring the waters of the Mata Au River |  <i>James Jubb, Tourism Central Otago</i>
Packed full of gold mining history, the 73km Clutha Gold Trail follows gentle riverside pathways along the Clutha Mata-au river from Lake Roxburgh Dam to Lawrence. A similar grade to the Otago Central Rail Trail, this introductory trail is suited for a wide range of abilities and is the perfect addition to your Central Otago holiday.
 

Four small townships along the trail provide a welcome place to stop, each with a unique story. Along the way, you'll spot river banks dotted with the ruins of miners huts, while lush farming valleys lead to the historic Roxburgh Branch Railway Line, including the 440m long Big Hill Tunnel.

The small town of Lawrence is worth exploring with 50 protected buildings, second hand shops and a good pub. Riders can also explore Pinders Pond, Horseshoe Bend Bridge and the Lonely Graves at Millers Flat from Roxburgh onwards.

View our self-guided Clutha Gold cycle trail packages and services here.


 

3. Roxburgh Gorge Trail


Clutha River Jet boat

At 21km, the trail makes its way from Alexandra to to Lake Roxburgh Dam with an added 13km jet boat transfer on the Clutha Mata-au River in between.
 
The 45-minute boat transfer is a fantastic way to delve deeper into the gorge’s history. From the boat, you'll see the extensive sluicings at Doctors Point, the site of the 14 Mile electric powered dredge and its generator plant, and many other historic sites. The jet boat can transfer your bikes too, which makes planning a lot easier.
 
The trail can be cycled all year round but it really comes to life during Spring and April with the hillsides covered in purple wild Thyme in Spring and the golden colours of Autumn providing a striking golden contrast against the rocky landscapes in Autumn.
 
View our self-guided Roxburgh Gorge cycle trail packages and services here.
 
 
Roxburgh Gorge |  <i>Lisa Jones</i> Cycling high above Lake Roxburgh |  <i>bennettandslater.co.nz</i> Secluded Roxburgh Gorge |  <i>James Jubb</i>
 

3. Lake Dunstan Trail

 
Hugo Bridge on the Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Lisa Jones</i>
 

The new trail on the block, the Lake Dunstan Trail weaves its way along the shores of Lake Dunstan from Smith’s Way to Cromwell’s Heritage Precinct. It then heads through Bannockburn’s wine country and into the remote Cromwell Gorge before finishing in the quaint township of Clyde.

Graded introductory to moderate, this breathtaking trail is the perfect length for a day ride, or you can take it slow over two days and spend time exploring Cromwell and local vineyards. 

A floating coffee boat located along the Cromwell Gorge section is a welcome fuelling station before the first big climb.  

 
View our self-guided Lake Dunstan Trail packages and services here.
   
Clip on trail on the Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Lisa Jones</i> Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i> Lake Dunstan Trail |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>
 
 
 

5. Alexandra to Clyde River Track (Millennium Trail) 

Trees turning for Autumn on the river track |  <i>James Jubb</i>
 

Popular with locals, this sheltered trail follows the true right of the Clutha Mata-au River, joining Clyde and Alexandra. Mainly single-track with some small undulations and boardwalks, it’s a great alternative to the first section of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

This trail is also a great way to join the Lake Dunstan Trail with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail without needing to transport your bikes in between. You'll find the start/finish of this trail at the Alexandra Bridge and Clyde's Earnscleugh Bridge.

Other Central Otago cycling trails:

  • Alexandra Airport Trail (9km, Alexandra)
  • Bannockburn Sluicings (3.5km, Bannockburn)
  • Boot Hill Trails (Alexandra)
  • Butchers Point Track (8km Alexandra)
  • Cairnmuir Track (25.5km, Clyde)
  • Carricktown and Young Australian (30km, Bannockburn)
  • Flat Top Hill Trails (10km, Alexandra)
  • Hawksburn Road (25km, Clyde)
  • Naseby Forest Mountain Bike Trails (52km, Naseby)
  • Oteake Conservation Area (68km, St Bathans)
  • Thomsons Gorge Road (30km, Omakau)
     

If you haven't ridden all 5 yet, we hope you add these trails to your bucket list, or come back to enjoy them again. 

Talk to us about our self-guided cycling packages in Central Otago, as well as bike hire (including e-bikes), luggage transfers and transport.
 

 

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