The Central Otago Rail Trail

Tom Ricketts - Content provided by House of Travel

Last updated 05:00 01/07/2013
Otago - landscape
House of Travel

REIGNING SUPREME: Cycling trails are booming in popularity and popping up all over New Zealand.

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Cycling trails are booming in popularity and popping up all over New Zealand these days, but one still reigns supreme... The Central Otago Rail Trail.

Running from the small town of Clyde to Middlemarch, the trail is 150 kilometres and usually done over three to five days.

There is a full range of accommodations available in the various towns along the way and this writer chose to stay at the local pubs in a sort of 'Ale Trail'.

Night one is in the wonderful town of Clyde and our accommodation for the night is the Dunstan House. This old hotel is reminiscent of a Wild West saloon with its grand central staircase and wonderful veranda along the street.

A large advertisement on the wall even promotes 'Good Stabling'.  The property was originally the town's first pub and just next door you'll find the town's current pub which still serves up fish and chips, burgers and hotdogs at prices I remember as a kid, prices no longer found at corner shop in any big city.

Day one cycling takes you east along the Clyde River to Alexandra, the largest town in the area. The trail then leads through golden farmland towards the hills.

It's relatively easy riding to Chatto Creek and your first lunch stop. The local pub is just off the trail and serves up generous meals as you've no doubt worked up an appetite. This afternoon's ride will bring you to Omakau, your stop for the night.

The Commercial Hotel has a roaring fireplace, friendly staff, more huge meals and of course, plenty of cold beer on tap. Just out back you'll find a couple of old stone sheds, the very same sheds used in the Speight's TV ads.

Day two cycling is the most scenic. The countryside is straight out of a Graeme Sydney painting and there's no shortage of photo opportunities.

Today you ride though old train tunnels, across huge viaducts and through long stone cuttings. When it's about lunchtime, stop at the Railway Hotel in Oturehua or grab some supplies from across the road at Gilchrists, the oldest general store in New Zealand.

This afternoon's ride takes you up the steepest part of the trail, the aptly named Rough Ride. After making it over the top, it's all downhill past Wedderburn (of Graeme Sydney fame) to Ranfurly for the night.

The art deco Ranfurly Hotel is your typical small town pub with large meals, friendly staff and the all important cold beers.

Day three of cycling and you'll no doubt be feeling the burn by now. Thankfully though, today is pretty much all downhill.

There are more tunnels, viaducts and wonderful Central Otago scenery to be seen. Eventually you arrive at the end of the trail in Middlemarch.

The local pub here only has shared accommodation so tonight is the perfect place to upgrade to a hotel with a spa and spend the evening soaking in the wonderful views and congratulating yourself on a job well done.

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