Cycling in New Zealand is becoming increasingly popular, which has lead to some significant development of some great cycle trails throughout New Zealand over the past few years.
Recently a friend and I thought we better see what all this cycling is about and decided to fly to Queenstown and check out The Otago Rail Trail. The last time I was on a bike was at school so I new this was going to hurt. I was not keen on those skin tight lycra pants these cyclists wear around Auckland so looked around and found some board shorts with padding underneath on the backside.
The flight into Queenstown is amazing with a low entry required. Coming in the rugged mountains surround you as you touch down in the adventure playground of New Zealand. From here we got a shuttle to Clyde where Shane, the operator of Trail Journeys greeted us. He provided us with excellent service and set us up on our bikes for the next 4 days.
We had 3 nights and 4 days to complete the Otago Rail Trail. This turned out to be the right amount of time for us. We got to experience the different Otago Rail Trail accommodation options, meet the locals, have a few beers and soak up the history of the Rail Trail.
We set out with fresh legs, bottoms and lots of enthusiasm knowing the first watering hole was only 25km away. A head wind soon changed this and our average speed was cut in half! We were thankful to pull into the Chatto Creek Tavern where we had our first experience of an Otago Rail Trail pub feed. We feed on whitebait and blue cod with chips and about 4 beers each for lunch. What a great start!
Later that afternoon we checked out Ophir, which was a great little town. We named it Ophir Awesome. There is also Rail Trail accommodation here along with some great old buildings, which are worth seeing. It is just a short ride from Omakau where we spent the night at Tiger Hill Lodge, which is a new schist lodge on the Trail at Omakau. It was $75 per night, which included breakfast.
With sore bums we were back on the bike heading for Wedderburn around 36km away. Our first stop was Gilchrist’s Oturehua Store. This is a working historical general store operating since 1902. We spoke to the lady working here and learnt some more about the town and the history. We arrived in Wedderburn just after lunch and arranged a hire car to explore the surrounding area including a great country pub called the Vulcan Hotel. We also checked out Naseby where we went curling. In winter it is possible to curl outside on frozen lakes. Naseby is a great old town also worth checking out. That night we stayed in the Lodge and Cottages in Wedderburn located at the top of the Otago Rail Trail as you approach Wedderburn.
We had our best pub feed (see photo below) at the Wedderburn Tavern and got to hang out with the owners who were great company. I can highly recommend our experience at the Wedderburn Tavern.
Now the legs were starting to hurt and the bum was pretty bad. Nothing a few beers wouldn’t fix along the way. We had 51km in the saddle today on our way to overnight at Hyde. The scenery changes as you enter a gorge and more lovely old bridges. We arrived in Hyde around 2pm had a bite to eat and some more beers. The Rail Trail culture is great. We meet some more good people, ate some more big feeds and shared a few stories and wines.
The final day was all down hill, which made for an easy last section of 27km to Middlemarch where we caught the train and got to experience the Taieri Gorge Railway. The Taieri Gorge Railway is another great experience in its own right. This takes you back through some great scenery linking you back to Dunedin where we could catch a flight back to Auckland. The Taieri Gorge Railway is a 77km journey, which runs daily.
The overall experience of the Otago Rail Trail was fantastic! The community is all working together really well to deliver a consistent, quality experience throughout the Rail Trail all finished off by the Taieri Gorge Railway experience. It is a good value experience with plenty of accommodation options depending on your budget. You can also just ride sections of the track if you do not want to commit to the whole journey. It was a very social trip with pubs every few hours and other like minded cyclists.
Our bus company Adventure Tours New Zealand that is run by Stray includes a morning on the Otago Rail Trail and a visit to Naseby. If you are self driving in a Spaceship you can do sections of the trail as you please.
Have fun exploring the trail and the history that comes with it. There are some beautiful old buildings, cold Speight’s and lots of old stories and photos of the hardships the men lived through while building it.