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Mountain bike the Otago Trail

Last updated: 23 April, 2024

Central Otago is one of the South Island’s jewels – an immense area of spectacular upland scenery.

The 150km Otago Trail, from Clyde to Dunedin, passes through mountain ranges, hills and gorges, past old goldmines, across the vast Maniototo plain, ending in the fruit-growing areas of Central Otago.

The route follows a converted railway track and has been designed specifically for use by long-distance walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. It’s New Zealand’s most popular cycling trail.

If you don’t fancy the full 3-, 4- or even 5-day epic adventure, there are one-day customised options, including pick up from Queenstown or Dunedin.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: 3-5 days

Getting there & doing it

There are several tour operators servicing the trail. They can pick up from Queenstown, Dunedin or Christchurch. You can either hire equipment from them (and get itinerary advice), or go on a guided trip. The whole trail can be completed in three days, though four and five-day options allow for a slower pace and sightseeing along the way.

If pressed for time, just tackle a single section; operators can arrange transfers for you and your luggage. Independent travellers can pick up the trail in either Clyde or Middlemarch.

Local specialist Off the Rails offers customised one-day trips, or if you’re doing the whole trail, daily pick-ups and drop-offs staying in the same accommodation each night.

The trail website lists the best hotels, guesthouses and other simple accommodation options at stops along the way, but the trail is becoming extremely popular, and accommodation options are limited – so book ahead.

There’s little shade on the trail and temperatures can fluctuate – from extremely hot to extremely cold. For a full list of essentials to take with you, see the trail’s website.

When to do it

The trail is open all year round. High summer would be perfect, but spring and autumn are also great for cycling in New Zealand.