The Sections | Otago Central Rail Trail

A little planning will go a long way to ensuring you have an enjoyable and comfortable trip on the Otago Central Rail Trail.

The Rail Trail is busiest from October to April. Summer (December, January, February) temperatures can reach 35 degrees Celsius or above and go down to 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.

The trail is open during winter, but few people travel then and less services operate.

The Rail Trail can be travelled in either direction and access is available at various locations. You can choose to do a particular part of the 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.

Cyclists should note that four hours a day on a bike seat is about as much as anyone 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.

A reasonable level of fitness is important and cyclists bringing their own bikes should get them serviced beforehand.

Mountain bikers intending to venture off-trail should research their routes, seek advice and check weather conditions beforehand.

Transport to/from the trail and any places in between should be carefully coordinated and prearranged.

There is a wide range of Central Otago accommodation providers from budget to boutique hotels. Booking well in advance is advisable. Food and drink is available at cafés and pubs on the trail.

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a public reserve and entry is free.


From Clyde to Alexandra the rail trail passes orchards, vineyards and pastures. From Alexandra the landscape changes from rural, where some of the world’s finest merino sheep graze, to unique Central Otago schist rock and then follows the Manuherikia River into Chatto Creek. Total distance covered is 25km’s. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail


The rail trail from Chatto Creek to Lauder (19 km’s) travels through irrigated farmland of the lower Manuherika Valley before ascending the sweeping ‘S’ bend up Tiger Hill, the steepest part of the Rail Trail. The towns of Omakau, Ophir and Lauder are places to soak up the atmosphere of the past. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail


Lauder to Oturehua (22.5km’s) is a fascinating and visually stunning section of the Rail Trail. It crosses the curved Manuherikia No.1 Bridge beginning a gradual climb into the Poolburn Gorge and then enters tunnels cut through schist-stone. It crosses the spectacular Poolburn Viaduct then enters the Ida Valley on its way to Oturehua. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail


The Rail Trail reaches its highest point of 618 meters just before Wedderburn. The trail then descends across the Maniototo Plains to Ranfurly now famous for its art deco architecture. A side trip to Naseby and/or Dansey’s Pass is a good choice. Total distance covered is 25.5km’s. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail


Between Ranfurly and Hyde (32.5km’s) the rail trail continues along the Maniototo Plain to Waipiata. Between Waipata and Kokonga it passes the former Taieri Lake before entering the Taieri Gorge and following a scenic river course to Tiroiti. After crossing Price’s Creek Viaduct the trail soon reaches Hyde. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail


From Hyde to Middlemarch (27.5km’s) gently rolling and flat landscape characterises the Rail Trail across the Strath Taieri Plain. Just south of the Hyde Station site is the scene of the region’s worst rail disaster. The Otago Central Rail Trail ends 400 metres short of Middlemarch Station. Find out more about this section of the Otago Central Rail Trail
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