Our Opinion: Making the most of a 5 Day (or longer) Rail Trail holiday
"What a Diff'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 – it is almost certain your bike saddle will inflict some degree of discomfort.
Perhaps though, a benefit perhaps 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 in a rental car (available at Wedderburn and Ranfurly) 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, our Five day Itinerary here is everyday on the Rail Trail.
Our Recommendation: Day 1/Night 1
Even with an electric-assist bike, cycling the Rail Trail from Middlemarch calls for more planning than starting out 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 afurther 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.