Great start to 2015, exploring one of the most beautiful parts of the country by bike. The Central Otago Rail Trail is a 3-4 day, 150km relatively easy ride from Clyde to Middlemarch (usual direction of travel).
It’s the best known cycle way in the country, with infrastructure to match. There are quite a few things to sort out for it. For very little additional cost (and lots of time saved) I’d recommend using someone like shebikeshebikes. A very reasonable price (about $450 for the whole thing) covered the trip from Queenstown to Dunedin by bus, bike and train, including accommodation.
Day 1 Clyde to Lauder
Clyde is beautiful historic town alongside the wonderfully turquoise River Clyde. Unfortunately the track doesn’t start in the town but five minutes cycle away in a car park.
Rather than start along a rather uninvitingly straight and uninteresting cycle way I decided to take a look around Clyde, head up to the impressive hydroelectric dam, and then join the 150th Anniversary River Trail to Alexandra. This is longer but far much scenic, and more interesting to ride (if slightly trickier than the rest of the rail trail).
Entered Alexandra in style across an impressive bridge, and took in the sights of the Shakey Bridge and a slightly random giant clock up on the hillside. From there I joined the rail trail proper and made it to Chatto Creek for a much need late lunch. Beautiful spot with good food, an experience repeated throughout the trip at every lunch and dinner stop.
On route to Lauder I took a detour to Ophir, home to an historic post office, with unfortunately very limited opening hours preventing me from seeing inside.
First time I’ve slept in a sport shed, at Lauder School and Cottages Bed and Breakfast, much more comfortable than it sounds. Dinner was literally across the road at the Lauder Hotel.
Day 2 Lauder to Waipiata
Best day for scenery, with beautiful mountains in the distance, and includes a few cool tunnels. Stopped at the interesting Hayes Engineering Works and mildly diverting Golden Progress Mine. Nice lunch at Wedderburn Tavern, and ended the day in Waipiata, probably my favourite place on the rail trail. Watched the sunset from Tussock Lodge and enjoyed dinner Waipiata Country Hotel, centre of another very small community of permanent residents through which thousands of cyclists pass every year.
Day 3 Waipiata to Middlemarch
Final stretch and shortest day on the rail trail, with no major stops before making it to Middlemarch by mid morning, attempting to avoid the highs of 37C recorded by the afternoon. Some odd cloud formations! Final 5km on a perfectly flat and straight piece of rail trail into Middlemarch was little tough, but got to relax on the Taieri Gorge railway through to Dunedin.