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 9.05am and 5.50pm to be greeted and briefed by your bike hire company representative. A morning arrival in Clyde usually means your bike tyres will be crunching over the trail’s gravel surface by around 10am.
The big question to ask yourself when making a morning departure from the Clyde Rail Trail Terminal is 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 White Horse hosts are usually only too happy to collect from 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 Central Otago views and the chance of spying a kārearea, the NZ native falcon and 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 tiny Rail Trail township big on attractions. 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.