Background on the trail

Construction of the Otago Central Branch Railway began at Wingatui near Dunedin in 1879 and the line reached Middlemarch in 1891. The 152km of line from Middlemarch to Clyde that is now the Otago Rail Trail was built over the next 16 years and completed in 1907. It is not difficult when riding the trail nowadays to imagine the sound of pick, shovel, dynamite, horse and cart as the hardy souls who built the line toiled away. The line was to be used to transport supplies to and from the gold fields but the gold rush was by and large over by its completion time so instead the line was mainly used to transport supplies, wool and livestock.

By the late 1980’s the line was used less and less as road transport proliferated and the completion of the Clyde Dam reduced the quantities moved by rail. It was decided to strip the line and develop a Rail Trail. The Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Otago Central Rail Trust redeveloped the corridor to be suitable for walkers, horse riders and cyclists from 1994 to 2000 and beyond. The track was re-graveled, 68 bridges were redecked and safety rails added with the aim of presenting a very enjoyable experience travelling through this unique landscape. It now exists for your enjoyment.

The Rail Trail Guide Book

The single most important resource when travelling the Central Otago Rail Trail

A beautifully crafted book with amazing photography by Peter Andrews showing Central Otago as it truly is, one of the most rugged, extreme and beautiful locations on the planet. Stunning scenery, amazing and important historical and current information, detailed maps, lists of accommodation, frequently asked questions, where to eat, how far between towns, etc. It’s all in here.

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