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“Well worth the ride” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Otago Central Rail Trail

Otago Central Rail Trail
New Zealand
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Ranked #2 of 114 Attractions in Otago Region
Type: Biking Trails, Trails, Outdoors
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Attraction details
Owner description: The Otago Central Rail Trail - New Zealand's original slow trail.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Activities for young children, Lockers / storage
Oamaru, New Zealand
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
5 attraction reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Well worth the ride”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 7, 2013 via mobile

We recently completed the 150km ride from Clyde to Middlemarch (along with 10km of deviations!). Totally fantastic and I would recommend everyone to do this ride. Admittedly we had the best weather ever and only rode for 4 hours a day, stopping for lattes along the way.

The scenery was breath taking in places and the trail was amazingly maintained and very easy to ride.

Places you must stop and visit - Pitches Store in Ophir, the pub in Lauder (however don't try to move the outdoor glass table - needless to say they are one table short after our visit!!) - awesome publican here, the Ida Valley Kitchen Cafe in Oturehua, Hawkdun Lodge Motel in Ranfurly - are all worth a mention. Fantastic service.

The trail itself is an easy ride and riders of all abilities can ride it.

You can chose to ride it in one day (as did an 82 year old man just recently), or over 2 1/2 days like us with riding just 4 hours a day, or some take longer.

Go on... Do it today:)

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373 reviews from our community

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English first
Queenstown, New Zealand
Top Contributor
136 reviews 136 reviews
33 attraction reviews
Reviews in 33 cities Reviews in 33 cities
56 helpful votes 56 helpful votes
“A Four Day Blast”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 23, 2013

Set out on your bike on a beautiful Otago day and you will have one of the best/ easiest cycle ride of your life. We took the route from Clyde to Middlemarch (you can do it either way) and the ride, scenery, restaurants and hotels were all excellent. You can be a complete novice and you can do this. You can be an experienced cycler and you will have a great time!

Visited March 2012
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Auckland, New Zealand
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
“A Cycling Gem”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 22, 2013

For us, this was an ideal 3-day vacation. It's not a difficult trail to cycle and if it's done over three days, you have ample time to stop for pictures, snacks and a few drinks along the way. Stunning scenery and you learn some of the history of the area as well. Would definitely recommend going in the Cycle to Middlemarch direction as we did since you will likely have the prevailing winds at your back.

Watch our for the Taieri Pet winds though! Over 100km/h on our final day, quite an experience riding in those conditions

Visited January 2013
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Christchurch, New Zealand
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“Great ride ... in some parts”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2013

We had a transport with Rail Journeys from Clyde to Auripo and then we were cycling back to Clyde. Part from Auripo to Chatto Creek was very pleasant and view were amazing. For me personally those two tunnels are AMAZING ;-) Really enjoyed riding through them + all those bridges - WOW. From Chatto Creek to Clyde it's getting more and more boring every single meter you ride.

Visited January 2013
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Wellington
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
“Fantastic ride but cooperation amongst facilities appears to be lacking”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2013

We completed the Otago Central Rail Trail over this Christmas period & thoroughly enjoyed the actual riding; the stamping of the 'passports' a real highlight for our young child.

The gradient was so subtle it was barely noticeable despite carrying plenty of gear in panniers & the cross wind in some of the exposed areas was still relatively mild compared to the gales we generally come up against in Wellington. We did notice however, that it had picked up considerably when we were shuttling back to Clyde from Middlemarch.

As seasoned cyclists & New Zealanders who are reasonably familiar with the area we organised the trip ourselves with no problems & used our own bikes.

The accommodation we stayed in (Lauder School, Komako Peonies & Rose Cottage) was lovely & the pub food at Chatto Creek, Omakau Commercial Hotel & Oturehua Pub was fantastic albeit a little overpriced.

The side trips are well worth it - St Bathans, Naseby, Ophir provide great activities and/or photo opportunities. We found that with the exception of Ophir, these are best left until you have completed the trail (then you can just go back in your own vehicle fresh rather than say, having a rest day & hiring one etc with the knowledge you still have 70km or so to go!)

While we loved doing this trail & plan to do it again, we did notice a few things lacking that could potential become major issues re the trail's longevity & that might have more of an impact on recreational cyclists and/or tourists or people unfamiliar with the area.

These are:

1) Two many chiefs and not enough indians: the whole trail seems to be geared towards trail planners so information that these operators have does not always appear to be shared with the Official Otago Central Railway Trust. This includes information pertaining to some pubs that may not always be open - those who book with the planning operators get given little notes whereas those who are doing the trail independantly have the pleasure of finding out on the spot (unless you read the reviews on here first so know which hoteliers you need to give a wide birth).

This really needs to be improved as any capable self-respecting seasoned NZ cyclist will generally want to book the trail themselves - with the exception perhaps of those doing it in large groups (which now seems to be more the exception since most seem to be small family groups or pairs of cyclists).

2) There is a number of inconsistencies with the DOC signs - for example one side of Daisybank said 4km to Hyde yet when we crossed the road (as it got slightly closer to Hyde) it said 5km to go. We also noticed that there seemed to be a bit of variation in the kms detailed on the DOC signs vs the Otago Central Railway Trust & rail planning sites & the official book.

3) The gradient in the book differs to the passport - that is, there seems to be a great emphasis on Tiger Hill yet we thought the hill after Oturehua (peaking just before Wedderburn) was probably a little steeper

4) This trail is sold on the premise that if you can 'ride a bike you can do the trail'. Not quite. We 'winged' it as have done heaps of cycling & coped fine (bum sorer than usual though!) despite the gear we were carrying & my now larger than normal frame . But I would say most people doing the trail - if planning on it in 5 days or less - need to put in a bit more work in terms in getting used to sitting on the saddle for long periods of time, biking on softer ground (some parts of the trail seemed almost sandy) or rough gravel (bumpy/vibrating) & coping with the wind. Especially if they are carrying the gear that they are meant to (snacks, change of clothes, first aid & puncture repairs kits & water).

We were annoyed but not surprised to find that many cyclists were carrying nothing or they maybe had say one person in the group carrying a token backpack. This is not on - cell phone range varies so if any thing happens or if you need help then you need to have the gear to wait while someone goes off to get & return with help.

5) Our biggest whinge of all: general unreliability & lack of information pertaining to pubs/hoteliers/cafes & their opening hours. We could not believe that in peak season nothing was open in most of the main towns bar say 1 place remaining open. In some towns nothing was open or if there was one place it was a token gesture (last minute microwaved savouries for example or drinks only). Worse still, those that were open were overpriced then sometimes charged 10% surcharge on top of this. This makes it very frustrating (for example the hotel in Hyde which NO ONE knew was closed...including the planners.....which meant that with Waipiata Hotel being closed there was NO FOOD for the 60km or so between Ranfurly & Middlemarch!!!) & very expensive which I imagine would preclude the interest of many families.

In sum I would like to see the Otago Central Rail Trail as the primary point for all communication, DOC to work in with the Trust so that the distance between towns/stops/stations is consistent & accurate, more communication between the Trust, planners & hoteliers/pubs/cafes re their opening hours & meal wait times with the 'problem' facilities widely notified, an updated trail book (the current one is 3 years old), more emphasis on the individual's need to carry the appropriate gear & a more accurate description of the trail so that would-be trail riders know that while it is easy they must be put in the work first if new to cycling/havent ridden for a while.....and that a tail wind does not preclude a strong cross wind!

Tips for the would-be trail rider:

1) Make sure you are used to the saddle & be sure to buy gel seat covers, bike pants & gloves
2) If hiring a bike still do the above & buy your own helmet - no bike hire facility can guarantee that the person who used the helmet before did not drop it. This is essential.
3) If not used to slight gradients or rough terrain be sure to train on this
4) Train for at least 30km riding each day (we did 44/54/52)
5) Ring all places you plan to eat at on the way & make sure they are open. Also check with your accommodation & see if they can provide you with food should one of your stops fall
through.
6) Allow for detours & photos - Ophir (about 6km round trip + photos) & the goldmine in Oturehua (about 1km return & 20mins walk into the mine + photos)
7) Have plenty of snacks, water, spare clothes, puncture repair & first aid kits enough for each person/bike in your group - cell phone coverage is sketchy so if you need help it could be a long wait....remember 30mins is a long time if you have a young child in distress
8) Prepare for wind - Dec-Jan most tail wind from Clyde to Middlemarch but the more exposed sections have quite strong cross winds
9) Don't treat it as a race - take your time to enjoy the scenery around you & breathe in that glorious South Island air!

Visited December 2012
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
OtagoRailTrail, Webmaster at Otago Central Rail Trail, responded to this review, January 22, 2013
A direct email response has been made to this posting by the Chair of the Otago Central Rail Charitable Trust, Kate Wilson.

She says in part "Many thanks for your feedback, your comments are appreciated. The Trust works in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to ensure the trail is of good quality and that the users have good information about the trail and what can be seen nearby. We will refer your comments to the Otago Central Rail Trail Operators Group for them to consider processes to improve the sharing of information and working alongside our website.

We have become aware this season from feedback that there are a few issues of businesses not quite meeting advertised hours. We are trying to remedy this issue as we become aware of it., but the information does need to be better shared and we will look into how this might occur. We have referred the distance issues to DOC and will look at consistency of this information.

Again, many thanks for your feedback". Kate Wilson, Chairperson OCRTT.
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