Our Opinion: Making the most of a 5 Day (or longer) Rail Trail holiday
"What a Dif'rance a Day Makes". The title of this timeless song says it all. Perhaps the most significant difference between four and five days is being able to ride fewer kilometres each day, and that generally means less time on the saddle. Even wearing padded bike pants – recommended – or riding an electric assist mountain bike (e-bike), it is almost certain your saddle will inflict some degree of discomfort.
Perhaps though, a benefit not immediately obvious about 5 Days is to follow our suggested 4 Day Itinerary but with a trail-free, saddle-free lay day in the Maniototo. Known as Big Sky Country, the Maniototo is central to so many of the most popular off-trail places to visit by shuttle (Naseby Transfers 03 444 9884), by arrangement with accommodation providers or in an accompanying vehicle… St Bathans (and its manmade Blue Lake), Naseby (forest walks and curling in the Southern Hemisphere’s only international standard rink), Danseys Pass/Kyeburn (food and beverages in the historic stage coach hotel and gold diggings), Ranfurly (the South’s Art Deco Capital), Waipiata (middle of nowhere 100 year old, 100 bed former tuberculosis hospital), Hamiltons (community restored cemetery), Patearoa (Sowburn Walkway), Paerau/Styx (foot of the Dunstan Trail that brought gold prospectors from the coast to Central Otago). Something else a lay day can be great for is to drive The Pig Route (State Highway 85) to and from the coast and such attractions as the Moeraki Boulders and Fleur’s Place.
However, this 5 Day itinerary is on the trail every day.
Our Recommendation: Day 1/Night 1
The Intercity bus from Queenstown drops you in Clyde at 9.05am 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 or whether your hire bike is electric assist, it’s not overstretching to book your first night’s accommodation at Omakau/Ophir or even Lauder.
However should you decide to explore the historic features and cafes of Clyde before making a late morning or early afternoon start, our recommendation is to book Chatto Creek or Omakau/Ophir accommodation for 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’ although there will likely be a fee.
The afternoon Intercity Service arrives in Clyde from Queenstown at 5.50pm so we suggest staying in Clyde and then following our advice above for Day 1/Night 1 on the Otago Central Rail Trail.