OTAGO CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL
This is our country's original Great Ride which crosses the open expanse of Otago's interior plains on a former railway alignment with frequent stops to enjoy the many historic railway towns.
The journey is suitable for almost all riders and can be ridden all year but can be frigid in winter. The trail surface is wide, flat and has a good surface. The journey is typically undertaken in several days, although it can be enjoyed in smaller sections between the townships.
The Otago Central Rail Trail was the first of its kind in NZ being an 'A to B' journey from Clyde to Middlemarch. The trail has several service towns dotted along it giving riders convenient stops to enjoy provisions and accommodation along the way.
The trail can be ridden in either direction and it is worth looking at a forecast for wind direction as this may influence what way you travel. The trail can also be experienced in sections with the middle parts having more of the trail highlights of tunnels and viaducts.
The trail is graded as easiest, being a wide gravel path with minimal gradients (trains didn't go up steep hills!) and can generally be ridden side by side. The trail is open all year but does have an extreme climate. Summers can be scorching hot during the day and winters well below freezing.
Being one of the most established trails in the country, there are plenty of providers for accommodation, food, bike hire and shuttles.
Beside the trail are numbered markers that you can measure your progress in kilometres. You will not be starting the markers at 'zero' as these concrete markers are the original distance of the branch railway line from Wingatui (just south of Dunedin) to Middlemarch; the section still used by the Taieri Gorge train.
So Middlemarch is at the 64km mark while the Clyde marker is 215km. On the app the trail sections and stops only relate to the cycle trail distances not these trailside concrete markers.