Otago Rail Trail

New Zealand

Looking for an experience you’ll be talking about for years to come? This exhilarating cycling adventure on New Zealand’s Otago Rail Trail is the perfect way to witness South Island’s vast, breath-taking scenery.

Trip duration:
5 days

Challenge duration:
5 days

Challenge grade:
2/5

Departure months:
November to April

Accommodation:
3-Star motels and lodges, twin-share

Cycling the Otago Rail Trail

There's nothing quite like the open expanse of New Zealand's South Island - the dramatic landscapes, the crisp blue skyline hugging the rugged mountain ranges, with startling contrasts of blue, green and grey.

On this adventure, you’ll feel a rush of exhilaration as you ride through picturesque countryside, passing quaint mining towns and rustic villages—stopping every once in a while to admire the scenery and enjoy a delicious, well-earned lunch.

You’ll have the chance to explore some of the region’s highlights, including the Arrow River, Kawarau Gorge, the dazzling aquamarine Blue Lake and the Raggedy Range lookout. You’ll also stop by to see the rustic heritage site of Hayes Engineering Works, for a glimpse into New Zealand’s pioneer life.

Challenge yourself, learn more about the region’s fascinating history and have an unforgettable experience on the Otago Rail Trail.

Back of a man on a bicycle outdoors, on a dirt path surrounded by greenery
Aerial view of Queenstown, New Zealand at dusk

Why you'll love this adventure

  • Tackle New Zealand’s most famous Great Ride, following the path of the old Otago Central railway line
  • Cycle by deep canyons, sparkling lakes, and take in magnificent lookouts
  • Take in grand landscapes, charming towns, country hospitality and rich history
  • Meet like-minded people and make a difference to a cause you are passionate about

 

Trip notes

Day 1: Queenstown to Clyde

We’ll meet in downtown Queenstown early in the morning at 8:00am to introduce ourselves, get our bikes sorted, and talk through the adventure to come. Then we’re off to Arrowtown to warm up on the Arrow River Bridges Ride – arguably the best of the Queenstown Trails. As we head into the vine-lined Gibbston Valley, we’ll pass the historic Kawarau Bridge, home to the world’s original bungee jump. After a drive through the picturesque Kawarau Gorge and lunch in Cromwell, it’s another scenic drive to Clyde – the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Take time out to explore the village and surrounds on foot or bike before the evening starts with wine-tasting at a local vineyard. There’ll be plenty to talk about over our first group dinner! 

Transfer Time: 1 ½ hours

Cycling Distance: 16km (optional ride in the afternoon 15km)

Meals: Dinner

Day 2: Clyde to Lauder

Leaving Clyde via the historic railway line, we’ll track across rural plains encircled by dramatic mountain ranges. Beyond the tiny settlement of Chatto Creek, the trail climbs gently before levelling off to reach our lunch stop, Omakau. We’ll then hop on the bus for the short detour to must-see Ophir township and the Raggedy Range lookout for a bird’s eye view of the region. Back on the bikes, it’s another 9km of easy riding to reach Lauder. Late afternoon we’ll drive to St Bathans for a walk around the surreal Blue Lake formed during the 1800s gold days. Enjoy a game of pool or banter at the Lauder pub before we tuck into a well-earned dinner.

Cycling Distance: 44km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Lauder to Ranfurly

Today’s ride features the trip’s first tunnels and bridges as we trace the pretty Poolburn Gorge and head into the Idaburn Valley. We’ll stop at Hayes Engineering Works, a delightfully rustic heritage site, and Oturehua’s old-fashioned grocery store. After lunch, it’s a gentle climb to the rail trail’s highpoint, then a downhill roll to Ranfurly with its striking art deco architecture. Late afternoon, we’ll take the short drive to Naseby, a cute forestry, old gold mining town famous for its indoor curling rink. Here’s your chance to try ‘bowls on ice’ – it’s very addictive! Naseby is also terrific for a stroll or a stop at the old pub, both nice ways to wind down before we return to Ranfurly for dinner.

Cycling Distance: 47km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Ranfurly to Dunedin

Today combines the trip’s biggest daily distance with some of its most fun riding. The trail tracks towards Waipiata, then follows the edge of an old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge with yet more bridges and tunnels. It’s a flowing downhill run to the historic Hotel Hyde, a picturesque spot for a breather. From here, the final 27km takes in the poignant 1943 Hyde rail disaster memorial, then winds across rolling plains towards the trail’s end at Middlemarch. After a well-earned café break, we’ll board the heritage Taieri Gorge Railway for the spectacular journey through to Dunedin where we‘ll celebrate our trip with a final group dinner.

Train Journey: 6 ½ hours

Cycling Distance: 59km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Dunedin to Christchurch

After breakfast, it’s off to Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. After a short but sharp walk up and down again, we’ll continue driving north to admire the Moeraki Boulders. Further north, we’ll get back in the saddle for a final ride along the coast, through rural countryside to reach Oamaru. There, wander around the portside park and historic Victorian Precinct to enjoy boutique shopping, dining, and photo ops galore. After lunch we continue driving northwards across the Canterbury Plains, and on to Christchurch for an airport and then central city drop-off around 6pm. If you are departing tonight, please do not book your flight before 8:30pm.

Cycling Distance: 24km

Transfer Time: 4 hours

Meals: Breakfast

Day 1: Queenstown to Clyde

We’ll meet in downtown Queenstown early in the morning at 8:00am to introduce ourselves, get our bikes sorted, and talk through the adventure to come. Then we’re off to Arrowtown to warm up on the Arrow River Bridges Ride – arguably the best of the Queenstown Trails. As we head into the vine-lined Gibbston Valley, we’ll pass historic Kawarau Bridge, home to the world’s original bungee jump. After a drive through the picturesque Kawarau Gorge and lunch in Cromwell, it’s another scenic drive to Clyde – start of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Take time out to explore the village and surrounds on foot or bike before the evening starts with wine-tasting at a local vineyard. There’ll be plenty to talk about over our first group dinner! 

Transfer Time: 1 ½ hours

Cycling Distance: 16km (optional ride in the afternoon 15km)

Meals: Dinner

Day 2: Clyde to Lauder

Leaving Clyde via the historic railway line, we’ll track across rural plains encircled by dramatic mountain ranges. Beyond the tiny settlement of Chatto Creek, the trail climbs gently before levelling off to reach our lunch stop, Omakau. We’ll then hop on the bus for the short detour to must-see Ophir township and the Raggedy Range lookout for a bird’s eye view of the region. Back on the bikes, it’s another 9km of easy riding to reach Lauder. Late afternoon we’ll drive to St Bathans for a walk around the surreal Blue Lake formed during the 1800s gold days. Enjoy a game of pool or banter at the Lauder pub before we tuck into a well-earned dinner.

Cycling Distance: 44km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Lauder to Ranfurly

Today’s ride features the trip’s first tunnels and bridges as we trace the pretty Poolburn Gorge and head into the Idaburn Valley. We’ll stop at Hayes Engineering Works, a delightfully rustic heritage site, and Oturehua’s old-fashioned grocery store. After lunch, it’s a gentle climb to the rail trail’s highpoint, then a downhill roll to Ranfurly with its striking art deco architecture. Late afternoon, we’ll take the short drive to Naseby, a cute forestry, old gold mining town famous for its indoor curling rink. Here’s your chance to try ‘bowls on ice’ – it’s very addictive! Naseby is also terrific for a stroll or a stop at the old pub, both nice ways to wind down before we return to Ranfurly for dinner.

Cycling Distance: 47km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Ranfurly to Dunedin

Today combines the trip’s biggest daily distance with some of its most fun riding. The trail tracks towards Waipiata, then follows the edge of an old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge with yet more bridges and tunnels. It’s a flowing downhill run to the historic Hotel Hyde, a picturesque spot for a breather. From here, the final 27km takes in the poignant 1943 Hyde rail disaster memorial, then winds across rolling plains towards the trail’s end at Middlemarch. After a well-earned café break, we’ll board the heritage Taieri Gorge Railway for the spectacular journey through to Dunedin where we‘ll celebrate our trip with a final group dinner.

Train Journey: 6 ½ hours

Cycling Distance: 59km

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Dunedin to Christchurch

After breakfast, it’s off to Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. After a short but sharp walk up and down again, we’ll continue driving north to admire the Moeraki Boulders. Further north, we’ll get back in the saddle for a final ride along the coast, through rural countryside to reach Oamaru. There, wander around the portside park and historic Victorian Precinct to enjoy boutique shopping, dining, and photo ops galore. After lunch we continue driving northwards across the Canterbury Plains, and on to Christchurch for an airport and then central city drop-off around 6pm. If you are departing tonight, please do not book your flight before 8:30pm.

Cycling Distance: 24km

Transfer Time: 4 hours

Meals: Breakfast

Frequently asked questions

Can't find the answer to your question? Get in touch via email (info@inspiredadventure.com.au) or phone (1300 905 188). We’re always here to help!

About the adventure

How challenging is this adventure?

The Otago Rail Trail cycle is rated a moderate 3/5. While no extensive cycling experience is required prior to registering, our adventures are specifically designed for people who are relatively fit and willing to train.

This is a physical challenge, and the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the experience. It is essential that you prepare for this challenge, particularly with hill or stair training. We recommend that in the months leading up to your trip, you increase your physical fitness with aerobic exercise.

Who will I be travelling with? 

Our average group size at Inspired Adventures ranges from 10 to 20 people. You can be sure that you have all come together with the shared purpose of making a difference to others and having the adventure of a lifetime.

The group will be led by a local tour guide with expert knowledge of the region. Many groups will also be accompanied by an Inspired Adventures team leader or doctor to support and motivate the team. 

Where applicable, a charity representative may also join the team. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about your chosen charity and their work.

Can I join an Inspired Adventure on my own?

Of course, most people do! Throughout your adventure journey, we will connect you with your fellow adventurers so you can get to know each other before you hit the road.

What is the general age range of participants?

The minimum age for this adventure is 18, however younger ages are considered on application. We have had participants aged 16–84 take part in our challenges, all united by their sense of philanthropy and adventure.

Fitness and training

How do I train for this adventure?

We will provide you with basic information on how to prepare for your adventure when you register. We recommend that you consult your GP and a personal trainer to develop a training plan that will prepare you for the challenge.

It is sensible to start training as early as possible before you go on your cycle. As part of your training, we recommend making use of your weekends to complete a full day cycle. You should aim to cycle in hilly terrain for up to 6 hours and get up to do it again the following day comfortably. Conventional exercise routines which build strength, fitness and stamina, such as aerobics and light weight training can be beneficial, particularly if your fitness level is less than ideal.

Accommodation

What is the accommodation like?

Accommodation on this adventure is at a 3-star accommodation based on twin-share. The rooms are based on twin-share and have shared facilities for the first two nights, and ensuite facilities for the last two nights. Due to the historic design of some of the accommodation, ensuite facilities are not available on all nights.

Will I be sharing accommodation?

Accommodation on this adventure is based on twin-share. You will be paired with a teammate of the same gender and, whenever possible, age group. 

I’m travelling with a friend, can we stay together?

Absolutely! If you’re travelling with a friend, please make note of this and we will pair you together.

What to expect

What is the food like? 

Check your itinerary notes for what meals are included as part of the adventure. A typical breakfast will be prepared by your guides and will consist of cereal with fruit and yoghurt, with hot food such as eggs sometimes available too. Lunch will be either sandwiches or wraps, either prepared by your guides or from local bakeries, along with fruit, nuts and healthy snacks.  Dinners will be prepared by your local guides and consist of healthy, hearty food Any dietary requirements you’ve noted during booking will be catered for. 

I have dietary requirements, will I be catered for?

Of course, we will happily arrange for any dietary requirements you’ve noted during booking to be catered for. 

What weather can I expect?

New Zealand’s alpine weather can be highly changeable. The temperature on the South Island during summer ranges from 10-30°C, with a pleasant 40-50% humidity. As a rule of thumb, plan for all weathers. If weather conditions aren’t optimal, the itinerary may be adjusted and we will attempt it on one of our other days. Your guide is a local expert, who will follow the DOC’s forecast and recommendation and will advise you on the best conditions in which to undertake the hike.

Will I have mobile phone reception? 

Phone signals will not always be available on the adventure. But don’t worry - this is all part of the experience! 

Will I have access to electricity?

Yes, there will be power points available at the lodge. New Zealand uses the Plug Type I (two flat pins and a grounding pin) the same as in Australia.

What do I need to pack? 

You will be sent a comprehensive packing list after you register for the adventure with everything you need to consider. In New Zealand you must be prepared for cold conditions at any time of year – it is essential to have enough warm items. 

What happens if there is a medical emergency?

Providing the safest possible environment is our highest priority and we have an outstanding safety record. All Inspired Adventures guides and Team Leaders are first aid trained. Our guides carry a satellite phone to be used if further assistance is required.

How will you manage the risk of COVID-19?

See the COVID-19 section of our website for full details.

Costs and payments

What’s included in the travel cost?

Package inclusions vary from trip to trip so please refer to the specific trip notes for details. 

Generally, the travel cost includes: 

  • Accommodation in 3-Star Motels and Lodges based on twin share
  • Transfers as per itinerary
  • Meals as per itinerary
  • Water and healthy snacks while cycling
  • Mountain bike hire
  • Local cycling guides and drivers
  • Private support vehicle
  • Entrance fees as per itinerary

What’s not included in the travel cost?

Package exclusions vary from trip to trip so please refer to the specific trip notes for details. 

Generally, the travel cost does not include: 

  • Airfares
  • Airport transfers
  • Travel insurance (compulsory for non-NZ residents, highly recommended for NZ residents)
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities

Is the travel cost guaranteed?

We will do our best to keep the travel costs as quoted. However, please keep in mind they can change due to group size or factors out of our control. If absolutely necessary, Inspired Travel may have to add on an additional supplement fee should the current social distancing measures continue. This fee would be required if our operator needs to add on additional vehicles, equipment and/or staff.

Why do I need to pay a registration fee? 

When you register, you will be required to pay a registration fee to secure your spot on the team. From the minute you register until you return from your adventure, the team at Inspired Adventures will provide you with everything you need - including a tailored fundraising plan, fitness advice and support with your travel preparations. You will receive access to your online adventure portal complete with your own online fundraising page and lots of resources to help you along the way. Your registration fee goes towards our cost of managing the adventure and supporting you on your journey.

How much spending money do I need?

We recommend that you allow NZ$45 per day to cover any meals not included in the trip costs, souvenirs, gifts, drinks and any additional activities you may wish to participate in. It is possible to travel well on a smaller budget and you can always withdraw more money while away.

Is it customary to tip? 

Tipping is not compulsory, and you are encouraged to tip only an amount you find appropriate.

Travel insurance and visas

Do I need to have travel insurance?

Travel insurance is compulsory for non-NZ residents and highly recommended for NZ residents to cover cancellation, hospital, emergency evacuation and lost luggage. We recommend purchasing your policy as soon as possible. It is up to you to ensure you have fully comprehensive travel insurance and you will need to share these details with our team before departure. For more information, please visit www.inspiredadventures.com.au/travel-insurance-information.

Do I need a visa to travel to New Zealand?

Australian passport holders do not require a visa for entry into New Zealand. If you are travelling on a different passport or for further information, please contact the relevant embassy.

About the adventure

How challenging is this adventure?

The Otago Rail Trail cycle is rated a moderate 3/5. While no extensive cycling experience is required prior to registering, our adventures are specifically designed for people who are relatively fit and willing to train. This is a physical challenge, and the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the experience. It is essential that you prepare for this challenge, particularly with hill or stair training. We recommend that in the months leading up to your trip, you increase your physical fitness with aerobic exercise.

Who will I be travelling with? 

Our average group size at Inspired Adventures ranges from 10 to 20 people. You can be sure that you have all come together with the shared purpose of making a difference to others and having the adventure of a lifetime.

The group will be led by a local tour guide with expert knowledge of the region. Many groups will also be accompanied by an Inspired Adventures team leader or doctor to support and motivate the team. 

Where applicable, a charity representative may also join the team. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about your chosen charity and their work.

Can I join an Inspired Adventure on my own?

Of course, most people do! Throughout your adventure journey, we will connect you with your fellow adventurers so you can get to know each other before you hit the road.

What is the general age range of participants?

The minimum age for this adventure is 18, however younger ages are considered on application. We have had participants aged 16–84 take part in our challenges, all united by their sense of philanthropy and adventure.

Fitness and training

How do I train for this adventure?

We will provide you with basic information on how to prepare for your adventure when you register. We recommend that you consult your GP and a personal trainer to develop a training plan that will prepare you for the challenge.

It is sensible to start training as early as possible before you go on your cycle. As part of your training, we recommend making use of your weekends to complete a full day cycle. You should aim to cycle in hilly terrain for up to 6 hours and get up to do it again the following day comfortably. Conventional exercise routines which build strength, fitness and stamina, such as aerobics and light weight training can be beneficial, particularly if your fitness level is less than ideal.

Accommodation

What is the accommodation like?

Accommodation on this adventure is at a 3-star accommodation based on twin-share. The rooms are based on twin-share and have shared facilities for the first two nights, and ensuite facilities for the last two nights. Due to the historic design of some of the accommodation, ensuite facilities are not available on all nights.

Will I be sharing accommodation?

Accommodation on this adventure is based on twin-share. You will be paired with a teammate of the same gender and, whenever possible, age group. 

I’m travelling with a friend, can we stay together?

Absolutely! If you’re travelling with a friend, please make note of this and we will pair you together.

What to expect

What is the food like? 

Check your itinerary notes for what meals are included as part of the adventure. A typical breakfast will be prepared by your guides and will consist of cereal with fruit and yoghurt, with hot food such as eggs sometimes available too. Lunch will be either sandwiches or wraps, either prepared by your guides or from local bakeries, along with fruit, nuts and healthy snacks.  Dinners will be prepared by your local guides and consist of healthy, hearty food Any dietary requirements you’ve noted during booking will be catered for. 

I have dietary requirements, will I be catered for?

Of course, we will happily arrange for any dietary requirements you’ve noted during booking to be catered for. 

What weather can I expect?

New Zealand’s alpine weather can be highly changeable. The temperature on the South Island during summer ranges from 10-30°C, with a pleasant 40-50% humidity. As a rule of thumb, plan for all weathers. If weather conditions aren’t optimal, the itinerary may be adjusted and we will attempt it on one of our other days. Your guide is a local expert, who will follow the DOC’s forecast and recommendation and will advise you on the best conditions in which to undertake the hike.

Will I have mobile phone reception? 

Phone signals will not always be available on the adventure. But don’t worry - this is all part of the experience! 

Will I have access to electricity?

Yes, there will be power points available at the lodge. New Zealand uses the Plug Type I (two flat pins and a grounding pin) the same as in Australia.

What do I need to pack? 

You will be sent a comprehensive packing list after you register for the adventure with everything you need to consider. In New Zealand you must be prepared for cold conditions at any time of year – it is essential to have enough warm items. 

What happens if there is a medical emergency?

Providing the safest possible environment is our highest priority and we have an outstanding safety record. All Inspired Adventures guides and Team Leaders are first aid trained. Our guides carry a satellite phone to be used if further assistance is required.

How will you manage the risk of COVID-19?

See the COVID-19 section of our website for full details.

Costs and payments

What’s included in the travel cost?

Package inclusions vary from trip to trip so please refer to the specific trip notes for details. 

Generally, the travel cost includes: 

  • Accommodation in 3-Star Motels and Lodges based on twin share
  • Transfers as per itinerary
  • Meals as per itinerary
  • Water and healthy snacks while cycling
  • Mountain bike hire
  • Local cycling guides and drivers
  • Private support vehicle
  • Entrance fees as per itinerary

What’s not included in the travel cost?

Package exclusions vary from trip to trip so please refer to the specific trip notes for details. 

Generally, the travel cost does not include: 

  • Airfares
  • Airport transfers
  • Travel insurance (compulsory for non-NZ residents, highly recommended for NZ residents)
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities

Is the travel cost guaranteed?

We will do our best to keep the travel costs as quoted. However, please keep in mind they can change due to group size or factors out of our control. If absolutely necessary, Inspired Travel may have to add on an additional supplement fee should the current social distancing measures continue. This fee would be required if our operator needs to add on additional vehicles, equipment and/or staff.

Why do I need to pay a registration fee? 

When you register, you will be required to pay a registration fee to secure your spot on the team. From the minute you register until you return from your adventure, the team at Inspired Adventures will provide you with everything you need - including a tailored fundraising plan, fitness advice and support with your travel preparations. You will receive access to your online adventure portal complete with your own online fundraising page and lots of resources to help you along the way. Your registration fee goes towards our cost of managing the adventure and supporting you on your journey.

How much spending money do I need?

We recommend that you allow NZ$45 per day to cover any meals not included in the trip costs, souvenirs, gifts, drinks and any additional activities you may wish to participate in. It is possible to travel well on a smaller budget and you can always withdraw more money while away.

Is it customary to tip? 

Tipping is not compulsory, and you are encouraged to tip only an amount you find appropriate.

Travel insurance and visas

Do I need to have travel insurance?

Travel insurance is compulsory for non-NZ residents and highly recommended for NZ residents to cover cancellation, hospital, emergency evacuation and lost luggage. We recommend purchasing your policy as soon as possible. It is up to you to ensure you have fully comprehensive travel insurance and you will need to share these details with our team before departure. For more information, please visit www.inspiredadventures.com.au/travel-insurance-information.

Do I need a visa to travel to New Zealand?

Australian passport holders do not require a visa for entry into New Zealand. If you are travelling on a different passport or for further information, please contact the relevant embassy.

All information is subject to change and will be confirmed upon your registration.

Icon-BLK-ResponsibleTravel

Responsible Travel

Caring for our adventurers, the communities we visit and the wellbeing of the planet is the heart of everything we do. This adventure is no exception.
Meaningful connections: Hear from Aranda Elders who will tell us about the history of the area.
Environment: We offset the emissions from this trip through carbon credit programs in partnership with Carbon Neutral. 
Treading lightly: Trekking is a great, low-impact way to explore.
Small group travel: Our teams consist of a maximum of 25 people. Better for you, and better for the planet.
Responsible business: We’re a certified B-Corp, committed to using business as a force for good

Icon-BLK-Safety

Safe travel and flexible bookings

Keeping you safe: We’ve developed a stringent COVID-10 Pandemic Safety Management Plan in cooperation with government guidelines, tourism boards and the advice of medical experts to minimise the risks associated with travel as best as possible.

Flexible bookings: If COVID-19 travel bans mean your Inspired Adventure cannot go ahead as scheduled, we will endeavour to reschedule the departure to a later date or you will receive a travel credit.

To learn more about our COVID-19 policy, you can see a full list of FAQs here

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Enquire today about an itinerary for your organisation.

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