South Island trip: Part Two, cycling in Central Otago

Chris from Central Cycle Trail, Clyde with our bikes

This blog recounts our three-day cycle experience, travelling on different trails in Central Otago. There were five couples and tour leader Gerard in our group. All had biking experience, and with e-bikes, which was good. On our first day, it was cool to start, but a fine day, and all were eager to get going. First, we were shuttled, with our bikes on a trailer, to Oturehua, and the start of our ride.

Me posing for a photo

We were on the popular Rail Trail, and it wasn’t hard to see why this section had been chosen. This part of the track was wide and an easy ride. The scenery was wonderful, and we had the best weather that day to show it off. Everyone was taking advantage of this, and stopping often to photograph the views.

This was a two hour ride, and too short as far as I was concerned, although it gave us plenty of time to enjoy what the Central Otago landscape has to offer. We arrived in Lauder, just a wee smudge on the landscape, but with the loveliest old railway station I’ve seen for a while – except, of course, there are no rails anymore as the Rail Trail was formed on the footprint of the old railway track.

Lauder Station

We were transferred to Ophir for lunch at the award-winning Pitches Store. Ophir is so small one might whizz right past it, although it is famed for more than its restaurant: it is also known to be the coldest place in winter and the hottest in summer. But, quite delightful despite that. A transfer back to Clyde, some time to ourselves, and another night of fine food and a great sleep at Olivers. The following day we’d be switching hotels, and cycling on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. This day would involve more biking, but we were up for that. Bring it on!

On day two we were shuttled to Roxburgh dam and the start of the trail to Shingle peak, just 12km away.

We stopped for snacks and photos along the way, not that we needed the food exactly, but it was nice to chat about our day. At Shingle Creek we passed our bikes over to Chris once more, as we were shepherded into a Jetboat to be whisked up the Clutha River to Doctors Point, a speedy 40 minutes away. This area is stark, stony, and majestic, but as we swooped alongside the bank, to be shown the remains of caves that gold-miners had adapted for shelter in the 1860s, we were blown away. We were told by the skipper that canvas would have hung across the entrances back in the day.

A miner’s cave (behind flax on right).
The remains of a hut, where Harriet Heron, an early settler, sold goods to prospectors in the Otago gold rush

From Doctor’s Point we re-joined the cycle trail, and rode the next 10kms into Alexandra for a coffee and quick bite of lunch. Four of us chose a retro tearooms, with food to suit the decor. However, Lisa and I were not unhappy with our choice of cheese rolls and were still licking our lips as the call went out to jump back on our bikes for the last leg into Clyde. From there, the shuttle took us all up the road to Cromwell, where we disembarked at Pisa Moorings’ Lake Edge Resort. I would have enjoyed the ambience and views to the lake if I hadn’t developed a splitting headache. Never mind, Kerry was able to enjoy the meal and company on my behalf.

On the third day, we began with a very pleasant lakeside ride into Cromwell Historic Precinct, for coffee and a wander around. I had to stop along the way to take photos as the scenery was superb.

Looking across to the old gold tailings
Photo opportunity at the 45th parallel, Lowburn
Looking across from Cromwell
Remains of an old cottage, Cromwell





 We cycled through relatively flat areas and around the stony banks, following dirt tracks and over newly constructed wood bridges, all the while keeping sight of Dunstan lake. At one point as we came off the hill onto flattish land again we swept through archways of yellowing poplars. I had always loved biking through Autumn leaves and the way they billow from your tyres as you whoosh along. We continued along and under the Bannockburn Bridge and onto a new trail which took us to Carrick Vineyard. The lunch and wine tasting was a very nice way to end our Otago cycling experience. Again, a perfect day. And as Kerry and I must have been too absorbed with biking that last stretch to take more photos, I have popped one in from our trip brochure, which shows the end of the trail.

Bike trail to Carrick Vineyards

See you soon for the next part of our trip; three days, two nights on our Doubtful Sound cruise adventure.

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