4 Day Itinerary Middlemarch to Clyde

Our Recommendation: Day 1/Night 1

Even with an electric-assist bike, cycling the Rail Trail from Middlemarch calls for more planning than starting from Clyde. The reason is Day 1 distances are relatively long and choices of accommodation limited. Or so it seems.

From Middlemarch it’s a gentle 27km climb through the Strath Taieri Valley to Hyde and three accommodation hosts. A further 6km will take you to Tiroiti’s only accommodation and then a further 14.5km to Kokonga and just two places to stay. However, this lack of accommodation is easily overcome by the willingness of accommodation hosts in Waipiata, Ranfurly and even Naseby to collect you from Hyde or Kokonga and deliver you back the next day. An additional benefit of doing this is to spend Night 2 at your Waipiata, Ranfurly or Naseby accommodation.

Setting out from Middlemarch also provides the opportunity to visit the huge, fully operational Oceana Gold Mine on the outskirts of historic Macraes Flat. The hosts of Stanley’s Hotel at Macraes Flat will collect from Hyde and deliver you back the next morning.


Your Journey on Day 1

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!

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.

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 2/Night 2

We recommend Day 2 starts in Hyde after staying there or being dropped back by Night 1’s accommodation hosts. An easy ride through the scenic Upper Taieri Gorge and around the shores of the long gone Taieri Lake, you’ll soon be back at your accommodation in Waipiata (25km) or Ranfurly(33km) with plenty of day left to hire a vehicle in Ranfurly or Wedderburn (13km up the Rail Trail from Ranfurly) or for your hosts or your accompanying vehicle to drive you to Naseby and its international year round indoor curling rink … sliding a 17 to 20kg ‘stone’ across the ice to the target area is one of the most popular ‘must-do’ experiences of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Naseby also has a good choice of accommodation with hosts usually happy to pick you up from the Rail Trail and deliver you back the next day. Another option for Night 2 is to stay at St Bathans where accommodation hosts there will pick you up from Wedderburn and return you the next morning.


Your Journey on Day 2

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Our Recommendation: Day 3/Night 3

Day 3 can be a long one, not just for kilometres in the saddle but also for stopping to explore or just to marvel at the jaw-dropping scenery.

If you spent Night 2 in Waipitata or Ranfurly (or even Naseby) we recommend an early start to cycle across the Maniototo Plains to Wedderburn (21km from Waipiata, 13km from Ranfurly) in time for lunch and a rest break before setting off for Night 3’s accommodation in Lauder (35km from Wedderburn) or Omakau/Ophir (42km from Wedderburn). If you feel you’ll have the energy to go further, especially if you spent Night 2 in Wedderburn (or St Bathans), it’s just 12km from Omakau/Ophir to Chatto Creek at the base of the exhilarating free-wheel down Tiger Hill.  

Just remember though. When planning where to stay on Night 3, do factor in time for Oturehua, just 12km downhill from Wedderburn. As you approach Oturehua a few hundred metre off-trail detour takes you to the amazing Golden Progress Mine where Otago’s last remaining wooden gantry (‘Poppet head’) stands 14 metres over a 46 metre shaft.

Oturehua is also home to New Zealand’s longest serving general store and Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead where there’s something for both men and women.

From Oturehua the trail crosses the floor of the Ida Valley and up a short climb to the Poolburn Railway Viaduct. From there it’s a relaxing downhill ride through the fantastic Poolburn Gorge with its two long tunnels (don’t forget to bring a torch) and the chance of spying a NZ native falcon, the world’s fastest diving bird of prey.

 

Our Recommendation: Day 4

Your final day on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Whether you set out from Lauder or Omakau/Ophir, it’s a relatively easy pedal to Clyde that takes in the fun of freewheeling down Tiger Hill between Omakau/Ophir and Chatto Creek. Day 4 can also become Night 4 on the Rail Trail should you plan to stay in Alexandra or Clyde, both towns offering a wide range of accommodation choices and plenty to see and do.

If you wish to bus back to Dunedin, timetables will have a big influence in your overnighting decisions… Intercity departs the Clyde Trail Head daily for Dunedin at 9.00am, Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel daily at 10.40am and from the beginning of November to the end of April, Catch-a-Bus leaves Clyde for Dunedin at 1.45pm Saturday to Thursday and 11am on Friday.

With Alexandra or Clyde so close to Queenstown what better way to complete your Otago Central Rail Trail experience than to at least get a taste of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destination. Year round Intercity departs Clyde for Queenstown at 4.54pm daily and Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel leaves at 6.20pm year round.

Another option may appeal should you wish spend a night in the Cromwell Basin, heart of the Central Otago wine producing region. Intercity and Alpine Connexions/Atomic Travel buses to Queenstown stop at Cromwell as does Catch-a-Bus during summer months, departing Clyde at 11.30am Saturday to Thursday and 7.45pm on Fridays.

 

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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