Central Otago is home to three of New Zealand's Great Rides; the Otago Central Rail Trail is the Original Great Ride and is on many peoples 'must-do' lists.
The Roxburgh Gorge Trail is known as the grand canyon of New Zealand, and the Clutha Gold Trail follows the powerful Clutha Mata-au River and showcases the regions farming, fruitgrowing and goldmining history.
It's also possible to join these three trails together for over 250km of spectacular off-road riding through incredible scenery.
The entire Central Otago region is criss-crossed with smaller cycling and mountain biking trails for the adventurous or the leisure cyclist and there are lengths to suit any time you might have available. Whether you want a multi-day cycle trail experience, or a weekend mountainbikers getaway in Alexandra or Naseby then our towns and trails will have something to suit even the fussiest of riders.
Cycling and scenery. One way or another, we’ll take your breath away.
Common cycle trail questions
When should I plan to ride?
The trails of Central Otago are open all year around, the most popular time for our great rides is from February to April. In Summer temperatures can reach 30 degrees Celsius or above and often go down below freezing in winter.
Autumn and Spring may be more moderate, but temperatures can fluctuate drastically during the course of a day, whatever the season. Whenever you choose to go, prepare for all weathers. The warm westerly wind is common in spring.
Trails are open during winter, but as less people are travelling they may be less selection available for accommodation and dining. Make sure to call ahead, or check opening hours.
Which direction should I ride or walk the trails?
The Rail Trail, Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trails can be travelled in either direction and access is available at various locations. You can choose to do a particular part of a trail or the whole trail. If you choose to do part, it is important to research the closest entry/exit points, vehicle parking and factors such as direction (ascending/descending) and winds. If shuttles or boat transfers are required you need to book ahead.
Cyclists should note that four hours a day on a bike seat is about as much as the average rider can tolerate. Recreational cyclists (10–12kph) should allow at least four days to complete the whole Rail Trail (approx 35 – 40km’s covered per day). Walkers should allow approximately two weeks.
Do I need to be cycle fit?
A reasonable level of fitness is important and cyclists bringing their own bikes should get them serviced beforehand. E-Bikes have opened up more opportunity to a wider range of riders, and can be easily hired from most local cycle trail specialists.
How do I arrange transport & accommodation?
Transport to/from the trails and any places in between should be prearranged. Local cycle trail companies offer shuttle services and bag transfers. They can also co-ordinate your entire trip including accommodation, so you just need to turn up and ride.
There is a wide range of accommodation along the Rail Trail with options from budget to boutique hotels. Booking well in advance is advisable. Food and drink is available at cafés and pubs on the trail.
View our local cycle operators.
Where do I find more information on cycle tours & packages?
Whether you're looking for an all-inclusive package, fully guided tour, a day excursion from Queenstown, or you want to hire a bike and explore Central Otago's world class cycling trails under your own steam there is are local businesses ready to help you plan your trip.
Talk to any of the operators listed on this site or talk to one of the local Central Otago i-SITEs about a particular trail, or ways to create a custom tour for you and your family or group. Packages often can combine the best sections of each cycle trail, with other Central Otago highlights like wine tasting, curling and the Highlands Motorsport park to ensure you have the complete Central Otago cycling holiday experience.
Tour packages can be fully escorted with everything provided and pre-organised. This could include cycles, luggage transfers, guides, accommodation, refreshments, meals and transport so you can walk or cycle as much or as little as you choose. Alternatively, they can be partially supported providing some of those services and not others. The duration of tours varies, usually between one and five days. Tour sizes also vary, with some operators specialising in small groups.
It is also worth noting that most operators offer transport and shuttles to and from the start of each trail, and can pick you up from Queenstown Airport or your accommodation.
Where should I stay?
You can either stay in one place and 'hub and spoke' your trip, or make a journey and stay at accommodation along the trails.
Whether you choose to stay in a luxury lodge with gourmet meals and stunning vistas of snow-dusted mountain ranges, big skies and empty spaces. Or enjoy the comradeship that comes with sharing facilities and yarns with other travellers at a backpacker lodge or holiday park.
When it comes to booking accommodation for your trip to Central Otago, there is also plenty to suit all budgets – bed and breakfasts, farmstay, homestays, holiday homes, hotels and motels.