Otago Rail Trail

Can Too Adventure Challenge

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Trek Dates
19 - 24 March 2023



Trek Cost


New Zealand

Cycle the Otago Rail Trail with Can Too and help raise much needed funds for cancer research

Challenge Highlights

  • Join the Can Too team and help raise vital funds for early career cancer research
  • Ride the stunning new Lake Dunstan trail through the magnificent Cromwell Gorge
  • Enjoy easy riding in epic landscapes with big skies on the Otago Rail Trail
  • Go deep into history through tunnels, over bridges, along railways & riverside paths
  • Admire architectural gems in Clyde, Ophir, Ranfurly, Dunedin, Oamaru & beyond
  • Enjoy a marine wildlife cruise on the Sootychaser in Otago Harbour
  • Savour delicious local wine & food, and stay in great accommodation
  • Explore Oamaru’s atmospheric Victorian precinct and the Pacific Coast

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Ride through an array of spectacular southern landscapes on our fully guided and supported trip taking in both the Lake Dunstan Trail and Otago Central Rail Trail.

The adventure begins with a warm up ride alongside the shimmering waters of Lake Dunstan before we have the option to ride through the dramatic Cromwell Gorge on the new Lake Dunstan Trail.

Then you’re off on New Zealand’s first and most famous Great Ride. Following the old Otago Central railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch, this iconic, multi-day ride takes in grand landscapes, charming towns, country hospitality and rich history.

Our expert guides will show you the best trailside highlights such as heritage sites, architectural gems, and vineyards.

You’ll also enjoy delicious local food and drink, and friendly welcomes in accommodation full of character.

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Challenge Grade

The Lake Dunstan & Otago Central Rail Trail is graded introductory to moderate.

The section of the Lake Dunstan Trail through the Cromwell Gorge on day 1 is moderately technical and is optional as it is more challenging with some short hills, narrow track, tight corners and exposure in places. There is an alternate ride for less confident riders.

The Otago Central Rail Trail is graded introductory and is a good, hard packed wide trail with just one significant hill which is a gradual gradient as it follows the course of the old railway.

Overall you will need a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy the trip and we suggest 2 hours of cycling per week for the three months leading up to your trip. We recommend training on compacted gravel trails, and completing a multi-day ride prior to your trip to get used to being in the saddle for long periods of time.

The more training you have done on hills and on compacted gravel, the more enjoyable your trip will be.

For those keen to ride through the Gorge, experience of rougher terrain and riding tight corners is recommended.

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Inclusions/exclusions and detailed itinerary.

Lake Dunstan and Central Otago Rail Trail Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Queenstown

After all the fundraising and preparation, the journey finally begins!

On arrival in Queenstown please make your way to the Garden Court Motel for overnight accommodation on a twin share basis. Later this evening we will meet for dinner at a local restaurant.

Dinner included

Day 2: Cromwell to Clyde: Lake Dunstan Trail - up to 55km Cycle

After breakfast in Queenstown we transfer through the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell. We unload the bikes at Smith’s Way and start our journey with an easy ride following the glistening shores of Lake Dunstan.

We pass through Cromwell’s Old Town, a small historic precinct dating back to the gold rush days of the 1800s, where galleries, coffee shops and boutiques give us a short break from the bike.

The trail continues along the Kawarau arm of Lake Dunstan to the Bannockburn Bridge offering stunning views across the lake while passing by wineries and olive groves. This is the perfect stop for lunch and a wine tasting at a nearby boutique vineyard.

From Cornish Point some riders will continue on along the new Lake Dunstan Trail into the dramatic Cromwell Gorge, where the track winds around sheer rockfaces and over lake inlets on impressively engineered platforms and bridges rising above the lake to Clyde.

For those riders who wish to avoid the more demanding section through the gorge, there will be an option to drive to Clyde and ride all or part of the easier river trail to Alexandra, or explore the small historic town.

We will all meet again in Clyde, settle into our comfortable accommodation and enjoy an early dinner.

Cycling Distances:

  • Smith’s Way to Cornish Point – 30km
  • Cornish Point to Clyde via Lake Dunstan (Moderate) – 25km
  • Clyde to Alexandra River Trail (Introductory) – 12km each way

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included.

Day 3: Clyde to Lauder - 44km Cycle

Leaving Clyde via the historic railway line, we’ll track across rural plains encircled by dramatic mountain ranges.

Beyond the tiny settlement of Chatto Creek, the trail climbs gently before levelling off to reach our lunch stop, Omakau. We’ll then hop on the bus for the short detour to must-see Ophir township and the Raggedy Range lookout for a bird’s eye view of region.

Back on the bikes, it’s another 9km of easy riding to reach Lauder.

Late afternoon we’ll drive to St Bathans for a walk around the surreal Blue Lake formed during the 1800s gold days. Enjoy a game of pool or banter at the Lauder pub before we tuck into a well-earned dinner.

Cycling distance: 44km

Breakfast and dinner are included. 

Day 4: Lauder to Ranfurly - 47km Cycle

Today’s ride features the trip’s first tunnels and bridges as we trace the pretty Poolburn Gorge and head into the Idaburn Valley.

We’ll stop at Hayes Engineering Works, a delightfully rustic heritage site, and Oturehua’s old-fashioned grocery store.

After lunch, it’s a gentle climb to the rail trail’s highpoint, then a downhill roll to Ranfurly with its striking art deco architecture.

Late afternoon, we’ll take the short drive to Naseby, a cute forestry town famous for its indoor curling rink. There is the option to try ‘bowls on ice’ or to stroll around Naseby, or a sup at the old pub. All nice ways to wind down before we return to Ranfurly for dinner.

Cycling distance 47km

Breakfast and dinner are included. 

Day 5: Ranfurly to Dunedin - 59km Cycle

Today combines the trip’s biggest daily distance with some of its most fun riding.

The trail tracks towards Waipiata, then follows the edge of an old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge with yet more bridges and tunnels.

It’s a flowing downhill run to the historic Hotel Hyde, a picturesque spot for a breather. From here, the final 27km takes in the poignant 1943 Hyde rail disaster memorial, then wends across rolling plains towards the trail’s end at Middlemarch.

After lunch, we’ll board the support vehicle for the drive to Dunedin where we‘ll celebrate our trip with a final group dinner.

Cycling distance: 59km

Breakfast and dinner are included. 

Day 6: Dunedin to Christchurch - 24km Cycle

After breakfast, we head off to ride alongside the Otago Harbour to Portobello. This ride takes us down the harbour, surrounded by volcanic hills on both sides, and home to nesting albatross, penguins, and seals, as well as the site of historic shipwrecks.

We’ll get a closer look as we board the vessel ‘Sootychaser’ for a mini wildlife tour across to Port Chalmers. The Sootychaser is named after the Sooty shearwater, New Zealand’s muttonbird, and on our tour we’ll hear about history of the area, see the boats, make a detour to see harbour birds and Larnach Castle from a distance.

From Port Chalmers we’ll drive north stopping to admire the Moeraki Boulders and for a wander around the Victorian Precinct and portside park in Oamaru.

After lunch we continue driving northwards across the Canterbury Plains, and on to Christchurch for a central city drop-off around 6pm.

Cycling distance: 15-20km

Breakfast is included. 

Download Info Pack.

Inclusions/exclusions and detailed itinerary.

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