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.