4 Day Itinerary Clyde to Middlemarch

Our Recommendation: Day 1/Night 1

The Intercity bus from Queenstown drops you in Clyde at 9.15am to be greeted and briefed by a representative of your bike hire company. With this earlyish start and, of course, depending on fitness and cycling skills, it’s not overstretching or overreaching to book your first night’s accommodation at Omakau/Ophir or even Lauder.

With the Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel bus service scheduled to arrive in Clyde from Queenstown at 10.40am, and taking into account your bike hire company’s ‘meet and brief’, it will be late morning before hitting the trail, hence our recommendation you make Chatto Creek or Omakau/Ophir your first night’s stop. When booking Omakau or Ophir accommodation, do ask hosts that should you arrive at Chatto Creek too exhausted or saddle sore for the Tiger Hill climb, would they collect and return you in the morning. Almost certainly the response will be ‘not a problem’.


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.

 

Our Recommendation: Day 2/Night 2

Where Day 2 begins with climbing Tiger Hill, we recommend pedalling no further than Oturehua for your second night’s stopover. An interesting accommodation option when making Oturehua your destination for Night 2 is St Bathans where accommodation hosts there will pick you up from the Rail Trail and return you the next morning.

However, where your second day starts out from Omakau, Ophir or even Lauder, do consider spending time exploring Oturehua before cycling 12 km to Wedderburn for Night 2.

Another off-trail option for Night 2 is Naseby where most accommodation hosts will happily collect you from the Rail Trail and deliver you back in the morning. Staying the night in Naseby you have no excuses for not doing the Rail Trail ‘must-do’ … curling at the year round international indoor rink.

Highlights of Day 2 includes Poolburn Gorge with its curved concrete bridge just out of Lauder, two long tunnels (don’t forget to bring a torch) and lofty railway viaduct not to mention stunning views and the chance of spying a NZ native falcon, the world’s fastest diving bird of prey.

After the ride across the floor of the Ida Valley, Oturehua is rather like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 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. If you didn’t get time to explore Oturehua on arrival, do make time in the morning before setting out on Day 3.


Your Journey on Day 2

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

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.

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.

Our Recommendation: Day 3/Night 3

Day 3 takes you across the ‘big sky’ country of the Maniototo Plain to Ranfurly (South Island’s Art Deco capital), Waipiata (middle of nowhere’ sight of a large and historic building complex that was a 100 bed tuberculosis sanatorium), Kokonga and then through the beautiful Upper Taieri Gorge past Tiroiti to Hyde. Making Hyde your destination for Night 3 presents yet another ‘must-see’ opportunity and that is to visit the huge, fully operational Oceana Gold Mine on the outskirts of historic Macraes Flat where the hosts of Stanley’s Hotel will collect you from and deliver you back to Hyde the next morning.

Where your second night on the trail was spent in Oturehua we do suggest that you call it a day after the 43.5km cycle to Kokonga, not that you have to stay there. Accommodation hosts in Waipiata or Ranfurly are generally only too happy to collect you from Kokonga or even Tiroiti and Hyde. returning you the next morning for Day 4’s ride to Middlemarch.


Your Journey on Day 3

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

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.

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.

Our Recommendation: Day 4

When planning your Otago Central Rail Trail experience, Day 4 offers interesting options and opportunities. After pedalling into Middlemarch – hopefully with the prevailing wind helping push you through the scenic Strath Taieri Valley -- 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 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 accompanying 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 3.20pm 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).
  • 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 gold mining submarine, albeit unsuccessful (www.middlemarch.co.nz ). 

Your Journey on Day 4

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

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.

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