3 Day Intinerary Clyde to Middlemarch

Our Recommendation: Day 1/Night 1

Three days and 153km cycling on the Rail Trail’s gravel surface calls for reasonable cycling skills and a good degree of fitness. The availability of hire electric-assist bikes is something to consider to help make three days more achievable.

The Intercity bus from Queenstown drops you in Clyde at 9.15am to be greeted and briefed by your bike hire company representative. Usually your tyres will be crunching on the trail’s gravel surface by around 10am.

The Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel bus service arrives in Clyde from Queenstown at the later time of 10.40am, and taking into account your bike hire company’s ‘meet and brief’, you can be on the trail at around 11.15am.

Either start time presents up two very important questions? Do you ride the 45km to Lauder for your first night or do you take on the 68kms all the way to Oturehua? To help you here, if there are any doubts about fitness, stamina or riding abilities (even with electric-assist bikes) go only as far as Lauder for an early night and early start to Day 2 for the ride from Lauder to Ranfurly (48km) or Waipiata (56km). Just up the highway from Lauder is Becks and accommodation in the White Horse Hotel, a great opportunity to mix with the local farming community. The accommodation hosts are only too happy to collect and deliver you back to Lauder the next morning.

The bonus for starting out on Day 2 from Lauder is the morning ride up through the spectacular Poolburn Gorge with its curved concrete bridge, two long tunnels (don’t forget to bring a torch) and high railway viaduct not to mention stunning views and the chance of spying a NZ native falcon, the world’s fastest diving bird of prey. But that said, going all the way on Day 1 from Clyde to Oturehua rewards you with time in the morning of Day 2 to enjoy this township. Here is the Ida Dam that freezes over for outdoor curling, Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead with something for both men and women, New Zealand’s longest serving general store and the amazing Golden Progress Mine with Otago’s last remaining wooden gantry (‘Poppet head’) standing 14 metres tall over a 46 metre shaft.

Your Journey on Day 1

Click on the tabs below for info on the trail and distances between them.

Clyde to Alexandra   Distance: 8 km

  • In the township of Clyde the Train station still exists on its original site. The platform is located at the front of the building and it also has vintage memorabilia underneath the veranda.
  • Follow the cycle signs which take you across State Highway 8 where you will come to the Trail head at the intersection of State Highway 8 and Springvale Road.
  • Dogs are permitted on this section of the trail provided they are on a lead.
  • Car parking facilities are available for those people who wish to leave a vehicle there when cycling the trail.
  • A highlight on this section is the wooden trestle Muttontown Viaduct which is 109 metres long and 9 metres high.
  • After closing Muttontown Viaduct you will see a Signal box. 
  • The Alexandra Golf course runs parallel to the rail trail on outskirts of Alexandra.

Alexandra to Chatto Creek   Distance: 17 km 

  • The Rail Trail crosses State Highway 85.
  • On the outskirts of town you will cycle over the Manuherikia Bridge No. 3.
  • Galloway is a popular stopping and meeting point for cyclists and support vehicles.
  • Further up is a red Line Ganger’s shed with information panels about the local area inside.
  • Keep an eye out for the colourful lupins flowering over the spring and summer seasons.
  • Continuing further up is the impressive Manuherikia No. 2 Bridge which is 120 metres long and 14 metres high. From the bridge you can watch trout or on a hot summer’s day swim in the river.
  • Leaving the Manuherikia River you will now follow the sublime Chatto Creek. Willows line the stream to the left and you will see and smell the thyme spread amongst the schist rock formations on the right.
  • Chatto Creek Tavern will draw you in with their fine food and friendly service.

Chatto Creek to Omakau   Distance: 12 km 

  • After crossing State Highway 85 from the Chatto Creek Tavern there is an information kiosk and basic toilet indicating the next section of the Rail Trail.
  • The trail ‘S’ bends and slowly ascends Tiger Hill. This gradual 1 in 50 incline, the steepest on the Rail Trail, made it possible for the trains to ascend this gradient.
  • Have a well-deserved rest at Tiger Hill Gangers’ Shed with spectacular mountain views.
  • As you proceed you will cycle under the over bridge at State Highway 85 and then the trail descends slightly into the town of Omakau.

Omakau to Lauder   Distance: 7 km 

  • When travelling to Lauder you will cycle through the Matakanui Valley. Adjacent to the Rail Trail are deer, sheep and cattle farms.
  • The snow capped Dunstan Mountains can be easily viewed to the nor-west from the Rail Trail.
  • The distinctive Hawkdun Mountain Range is also visible to the north.
  • The Raggedy Range is to the south east of the trail.
  • This section of the Trail is generally open country.


Lauder to Oturehua   Distance: 23 km 

  • The trail crosses the impressive Manuherikia Bridge No. 1 that is 110 metres in length with the Manuherikia stream 14 metres below. 
  • Approximately 10 metres before the entrance of the Poolburn Tunnel No. 2 is a path on the left side with a safety rail. This short path brings you to relics of the Linemen’s Base, used during the rail construction through the Poolburn Gorge.
  • It is hard not to feel for the linesmen who built the railway line with major cuts and the fills to give a steady gradient for the steam trains. This was built with hard physical labour, wheelbarrow, pick, shovel, horse and cart.
  • Continue your journey into the Poolburn Tunnel No. 2 being the longest tunnel on the trail at 229 metres.
  • Although it may not appear so, the tunnel is curved and extremely dark in the centre therefore torches are highly recommended.
  • The 201 metre Poolburn Tunnel No. 1 is further up the gorge.
  • A short distance further on is the Poolburn Viaduct, arguably the most impressive structure on the Rail Trail.
  • The viaduct is supported by large schist stone which Stone Masons crafted to a standard seldom seen today.
  • Look for the information board explaining the history on the eastern (Oturehua) end of the bridge and take a photo of this mighty viaduct.
  • As you descend the Raggedy Range you get brilliant views of the spectacular Hawkdun Mountain Range.
  • After leaving the Poolburn Gorge you reach the original Auripo Station Site. The station has however been removed and now virtually nothing remains.
  • The Ida Valley will open up in front of you. The valley is known for its extremely harsh climate over the winter months and is prone to fog on the valley floor.
  • Be sure to take a look at the original old Ida Valley Railway Hotel which is privately owned but can be viewed fromthe trail or public road.
  • Upon entering the outskirts of Oturehua, you will cross the Ida Valley Road and view what is locally known as the Idaburn Dam, which comes alive in winter when the ice forms and a bonspiel or curling competition takes place.
  • Hayes Engineering, famous for countless inventions is recommended. The historic mud brick buildings are also very photogenic. Hayes Engineering is clearly signposted from the trail and the Ida Valley Road. Look for the windmill.

Our Recommendation: Day 2/Night 2

When starting out from Lauder for Ranfurly (48km) or Waipiata (56km), the aim should be to make the most of the Poolburn Gorge, enjoy the ride across the Ida Valley, explore Oturehua and then cycle the Big Sky country of the Maniototo Plains for Night 2 in Ranfurly or Waipiata. If you’re really fit there’s also the option of cycling all the way from Lauder to Kokonga (66.5km).

Where Day 2 starts at Oturehua consider only biking the 33km to Waipiata or 43.5km to Kokonga. The reason for this is giving yourselves time for an afternoon of a Rail Trail ‘must-do’ … curling at Naseby’s international standard year round indoor rink. Accommodation hosts are more than happy to transport you there and back, or rental vehicles are available in Ranfurly, or you may be lucky enough to have an accompany vehicle. Naseby also has good accommodation and hosts happy to pick you up from Waipiata or Kokonga to deliver you back the next day for Day 3 on the Rail Trail.

Your Journey on Day 2

Click on the tabs below for info on the trail and distances between them.

Oturehua to Wedderburn   Distance: 12 km 

  • On the edge of Oturehua on your way to Wedderburn is the first 45º South Latitude sign-posted on a concrete monument.
  • The historic Golden Progress Mine may be visited by turning off the trail and following Reef Road, which is clearly sign-posted from the trail
  • After a gradual climb up Rough Ridge, you will come to a second crossing of the 45º South Latitude.
  • Take a breather at Seagull Hill Gangers’ Shed.
  • On the top of the ridge you have conquered the highest point of the Rail Trail, at 618 metres above sea level.
  • Easily descend into the town of Wedderburn.
  • Approaching the town you can see the Wedderburn Golf Course.
  • When you cross SH 85 you will find the iconic Wedderburn goods shed made famous by Grahame Sydney.

Wedderburn to Ranfurly   Distance: 13 km 

  • Generally a gradual decline from Wedderburn to Ranfurly.
  • This section of the trail offers the first views of the vast Maniototo Plain which is surrounded by the Mt Ida, Rough Ridge, Hawkdun and Rock and Pillar Ranges, as well as the Kakanui Mountains. Many of these mountains are often snow-covered in the winter and spring.
  • Good time can be made with favourable winds and down hill gradient from Wedderburn to Ranfurly but this section is more challenging from the opposite direction.
  • Two ganger’s sheds located along this section of the Rail Trail are available for shelter if unfavourable weather occurs.

Ranfurly to Waipiata   Distance: 8 km

  • The Ranfurly to Waipiata section of the trail is in the heart of the Maniototo Plain. The vastness of the plain and the “big sky” create an undeniable sense of serenity. “Mani-o-toto” is Maori for “Plains of Blood” reflecting bloody incidents in the plains distant past.
  • Mountain ranges include the Rock and Pillar Range to the south, Rough Ridge to the west, Mt St Bathans to the nor-west, the Kakanui Mountains to the east and Mt Ida and the Mount Ida range to the north. The contrast between the vastness of the plain, the mountains, snow covered in winter, and the big Maniototo sky can be spectacular. 
  • The surrounding mountains enhance the most dramatic sunrises and sunsets.
  • Find shade at the Ranfurly Straight Gangers’ Shed with information display boards about the local area.
  • Approaching the town of Waipiata there is an under bridge that you pass through.

Waipiata to Kokonga   Distance: 10.5 km

  • The 97m long and 6m high Taieri River Rail Bridge is the only crossing of the Taieri River on the Rail Trail.
  • One of the only “freedom camping areas” on the trail (no running water available). No fires.
  • Catch a trout for tea from the banks of the Taieri River.
  • Read the display boards about the naturally formed Lake Taieri which was drained in the 1940’s.
  • Observe the pitted volcanic rocks blown from the extinct Flat Cap Volcano beside the trail.
  • The Waipiata to Kokonga Road runs parallel to the Rail Trail at one point and physically crosses the Trail further down the line, known locally as Carey’s Crossing.
  • Further along is the town of Kokonga with a small settlement of houses below the trail.
  • The Gangers shed at Kokonga can be accessed with public access from State Highway 87 (sign-posted Rail Trail Road).
  • The Kokonga Railway Station and Goods Shed have been removed but the concrete sided platform still remains.

Our Recommendation: Day 3

There’s no way of getting round it, one day has to be the longest distance and Day 3 is it. Cycling from Ranfurly to Middlemarch is 60km or Waipiata to Middlemarch 52 km. But the good news is this part of the Rail Trail is mostly downhill, the Upper Taieri Gorge very beautiful, and ride through the Strath Taieri Valley from Hyde to Middlemarch rates highly on the scenic scale. This last day can be even more of a breeze when the prevailing tailwind provides assistance. A head wind though can make cycling somewhat challenging.

Having reached Middlemarch do you immediately board the world famous Taieri Gorge Railway train to Dunedin for a day or two in ‘Edinburgh of the South’? … do you alight a daily bus service back to Clyde or Queenstown or Wanaka?… do you hand in your bike to relax in the comfy seat of the bike hire company’s shuttle while it transports you back to Clyde?… do you immediately head out of Middlemarch in your accompanyinbg vehicle? … or do you organise to spend a night in Middlemarch? Questions! Questions! Answers below…

  • The two hour Taieri Gorge Railway journey to Dunedin is considered one of the world’s great train rides and will definitely value-add your Rail Trail experience. Most days the train departs for Dunedin from tiny Pukerangi Station, 20km south of Middlemarch. Because of the popularity of this train lots of bike hire and other shuttles run between Middlemarch and Pukerangi. Departure times from Pukerangi to Dunedin are 11.45am & 4.45pm October to April; 2.45pm May to September. The train does however travel all the way to Middlemarch on most Friday’s and Sunday’s from October through April, departing for Dunedin at 1pm.  
  • Dunedin takes some beating as a destination and a day or longer in ‘Edinburgh of the South’ is definitely worth consideration. But that said, the summer morning Taieri Gorge Railway from Pukerangi will get you to the historic Dunedin Railway Station (reputedly NZ’s most photographed building) at 1.30pm; just in time to catch the 1.55pm Intercity bus (at 7 Halsey St, a short walk from the railway station) back to the Clyde Rail Trail head or on to Queenstown. The Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel daily service to Clyde and Queenstown/Wanaka departs Dunedin Railway Station at 3.30pm daily. This gives you a little more time before for looking around the Octagon or the highly recommended Settlers Museum (free entry). 
  • Another option is to arrive in Middlemarch in time for your bike hire company to drive you back to Clyde to overnight there or connect with the bus to Queenstown (6.10pm Wanaka Connexions/Atomic Shuttle; Intercity 4.45pm). Or you could hop on board the Alpine Connexions bus that each day during summer months (October – April) departs Middlemarch at 12.05pm, going all the way to Queenstown via most communities along the Rail Trail including Clyde.
  • Staying in Middlemarch for a night or longer is definitely an option. There’s a good selection of accommodation and interesting attractions such as a goldmining submarine, albeit unsuccessful (www.middlemarch.co.nz ). 

Your Journey on Day 3

Click on the tabs below for info on the trail and distances between them.

Kokonga - Dasiy Bank Car Park 4km

  • The Trail runs adjacent to State Highway 87 with the impressive Kakanui Mountains to the east.
  • The Daisy Bank car park is an ideal place to meet support vehicles, as it is clearly signposted on State Highway 87 and the Rail Trail itself. 

Daisy Bank Car Park - Tiroiti 4 km

  • Be careful when crossing State Highway 87 because it is a sweeping corner.
  • This section has dramatic terrain with many cuts and fills making the trail easy for cyclists today but tough to construct back in the day of the pick, shovel and wheelbarrow when the railway line was constructed.
  • A remaining feature is the Red Dwarf Gangers Shed with a window to poke you head out of for a photo opportunity.
  • Daisy Bank Campsite is an excellent location to pitch a tent and enjoy the wilderness. No open fires permitted during the closed season. The area has a basic toilet without running water. Contact DOC for more information. It is recommended that you hop off your bike and walk through the pines to the banks of the river at the camping area.
  • At the Daisy Bank Campsite relax under one of the many willow trees and admire the grand rock face wall.
  • Cool off with a swim in the Taieri River but be cautious about the river’s water levels.
  • A couple of km’s later at Tiroiti there is an information kiosk and sign-posts by Highway 87 with car parks available.
  • A Red Gangers Shed is also here.

Tiroiti - Hyde 6.5 km

  • Not too far past the information kiosk is the Historic Capburn Railway Bridge.
  • The Capburn Railway Bridge is 40 metres in length and 7 metres in height.
  • This bridge still has its original sleepers and railway lines.
  • Cyclists should dismount and walk across this bridge.
  • The Capburn Creek that runs underneath the Capburn railway bridge flows into the Taieri River nearby.
  • Keep going down the trail to the spectacular Prices Creek Viaduct, which is 91 metres long and 32 metres high.
  • The Viaduct is made of steel and concrete construction and is one of the last structures to be built on the Rail Trail.
  • An alternative route for horseback riders is signposted on both ends approaching the bridge.
  • Cyclists should be aware of strong wind gusts when crossing the Viaduct.
  • Approaching the Hyde Tunnel there is a new walkway which leads down to the Taieri River to see the Hyde diversion tunnel created for gold mining.
  • The walkway offers stunning scenery, interesting history, and great photo opportunities (highly recommended).
  • Back on the trail you go through the slightly curved Hyde Tunnel at 151 metres long.The basalt based Hyde Tunnel is the only completely bricked tunnel on the Trail.
  • A gentle gradient takes you to the township of Hyde where there is a public car park and information kiosk.
  • Across Highway 87 is the Otago Central Hotel where you can enjoy well-earned refreshments.

Hyde to Middlemarch   Distance: 27 km 

  • The section from Hyde to Middlemarch can be prone to strong winds, especially over the spring and summer seasons.
  • Winds generally are favourable when heading in the direction from Hyde to Middlemarch.
  • There are four Ganger sheds between Hyde and Middlemarch called Scrub Burn, Rock and Pillar Access, Strath Taieri and Rock and Pillar Station Gangers Shed.
  • The Hyde Station is 2 km from the township of Hyde and still contains some of the original stock wagons.
  • Beside the station a clear path is available for cyclists toride on before rejoining the Trail.
  • Hyde Station is also sign-posted from State Highway 87.
  • Past the Hyde Station is ‘Straw Cutting’ the site of the fatal Hyde railway disaster that occurred on June 4th 1943.
  • The area where the train accident occurred is 200 metres up the line in the direction of Hyde from the memorial site.
  • The tragedy claimed 21 lives after the Locomotive AB782 derailed on the bend because of excessive speed. 
  • The memorial site is clearly signposted from State Highway 87 and the Rail Trail also comes very close to the memorial site. It is a convenient point for cyclist and support vehicles to meet.
  • The last substantial bridge you will cross is over ‘Five Mile Creek’.
  • The majestic Rock and Pillar mountains are to the nor-west, with the Taieri Ridge to the south-east.
  • A good meeting point for support vehicles and cyclists is at the Rock and Pillar Gangers Shed where the Rail Trail crosses State Highway 87.
  • At the Rock and Pillar Gangers Shed there is a basic toilet with an information kiosk. The shed also provides shelter from the elements or shade during the hot summer months.
  • It is a rewarding sight seeing the town of Middlemarch in the distance where fine food, beverages and country hospitality await you.
  • For those people who are ending their journey in Middlemarch congratulations, and for those people who are only starting in Middlemarch have fun and good luck!

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.

More Info