Otago Rail Trail Part 1

On the way to Middlemarch we stopped lakeside in Waihola a very picturesque place located between Milton and Mosgiel there is a Motorcamp there (#8421) with a dump station as well. Although we didn’t stay there, it certainly looked like an excellent place to stay. We noticed a couple of the locals fishing from the foreshore so that might add to the attraction with trout for dinner.

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to drive back into the high country. With almost no traffic on the road (where is everyone in the South Island?). Turning off State Highway 1 towards Outram, Home to Adam Hall, New Zealand’s medal-winning Paralympic skier we enjoyed the drive through the farming district. Turning left once we hit SH87 the road starts the steep climb towards Middlemarch.

It’s a constant effort to claw my eyes back towards the road as they roamed the ever-changing countryside. Once we reached the start of the rocky outcrops, we just had to pull over to grab a couple of photos.

We arrived into Middlemarch a place that sees an influx of tourists daily from two different sources the first with the Taiere Railway coming twice daily with carriage loads from Dunedin who have travelled the spectacular gorge route. Theirs is only a brief stop before the return to Dunedin.

The second influx are those like us who are here either to start the rail trail or celebrating the finish of their ride. With a couple of large cycle rental companies in town, it would appear to be quite an industry, but with our own bikes on board, it was just a matter of unloading them.

As you begin the rail trail the notice board informs you it’s 150kms to Clyde with this I realise that if we are going to make the full distance we will ride 300kms as we will need to ride to one point then return to the starting point so that we can move the Motorhome to the next spot etc. We can do this! I thought.

We had parked alongside the rail station behind another motorhomer who was unloading his bike to also start the ride. After meeting Brian and a quick discussion about our bikes he was off on full battery power up the trail in a cloud of dust.

With the track stretching out in front of us for what looked like forever Sarah and I set off at a more sedate pace admiring the views of the fantastic high country around us.

With the deregulation of the transport industry in New Zealand, the railway had seen its loads reduced, but it was used to transport larger items to the dam construction projects in Clyde. When the railway line was decommissioned in 1990. Following the completion of the Clyde Dam project. All of the tracks were lifted together with some of the stations also being removed.

So the first stop along the way was just a little shed at the side of the track although given how close it was to Middlemarch the original station probably wouldn’t have been much bigger. At each of the stops, there is a stamp. Meaning you can stamp your travel passport of the route if you have purchased one of these. I thought a photo would do just as good a job.

Reaching the Rock and Pillar Station 14kms up the track, we decided that this would be our turn around point for the day with the next station another 7kms up the road. The station has been removed here as well, but in the photo, you can see what it used to look like.

Just past the old station is the first of the longer bridges that cross the multiple rivers and streams flowing down from the hills to our left, so we rode to this and took the photo then started the ride back.


Halfway back to Middlemarch, we were overtaken in a cloud of dust as Brian flew past us at around 40km on his Ebike. While we arrived in Middlemarch at a more sedate pace pleased with the 30kms that we had achieved on the first day.

We had quite a chat with Brian at Middlemarch with both of us agreeing to meet up at the freedom camping area in Tiroiti (#8352) we moved up the road to get settled.

It’s an attractive little camping area just to the side of Horseburn Rd right below the Rail Trail. There aren’t that many level spots, so we ended up parking less than a metre from the roadside. It is, however, a tranquil spot with a very restful nights sleep had by both of us followed by the amazing sunrise you can see above.

Close to the camping area is the bridge that has been well restored as well as made cycle-friendly, it was from here that we would start our second day on the bikes. Heading back to where we got to yesterday before returning back to the van a ride of around 40kms.

With Brian joining us for the ride we rode at a more sedate pace than he was riding the day before as the trail followed the Taieri River as it wound it’s way alongside. Not long after leaving base camp we came across the Prices Creek Bridge this is 91 metres long as well as being quite tall at 30 plus metres, given my fear of heights I was somewhat concerned about the crossing as it looked quite narrow I did, however, make it across without looking down!

Just beyond the bridge is the tunnel at 115 metres long it’s not really long enough to need a torch except that the tunnel bends so you cannot see one end from the other. However, as Sarah has a lamp on her bike problem solved as we all rode in convoy.


Next, we encountered the small town of Hyde with this magnificent hotel, the first of many similar to this style that we would encounter in this area.  Like a lot of places along the trail, Hyde has become one of the places to stay when doing the trail. With all sorts of places to stay, including the hotel. If you ride with one of the companies that rent the bikes they take your luggage each day to your nights’ accommodation so that you won’t be weighed down on the trail.

Just up the road from the Hyde village is the Hyde Station, one of the few stations that have been left intact on the line. The station is semi-restored with the old control box glassed off, allowing you to see all you would have needed to be a station master. There are also a couple of old carriages adding to the ambience of the place.

Further down the road, we reached the Hyde Memorial a stone cairn to the people who died when one of the trains travelling at an estimated 120 kmph ran off the rails derailing seven carriages and killing 21 people. A horrific tragedy, especially in such a remote place. You can only imagine how long it would have taken to get the injured to hospital from here.

From the memorial, it was only another 7kms to reach the point we had got to yesterday. As the trail is almost entirely flat, it’s a relatively smooth ride plus we can cheat if needed since we have the Ebikes. Along the way, there are a number of the Gangers Hut’s. Each of these has an information board that talks about the area. How far to the next destination as well some of the people involved in the construction of the railway. These are fascinating and well worth taking the time to stop and have a read.

That afternoon with Sarah feeling a little leg sore after the 40kms on the bike, Brian and I decided that we would push up the trail another 10 or so km’s to reduce the overall distance. Thankfully with the sun out, I had been able to put some charge into the bike with the two of us riding at speed most of the way.

The landscape is continuously changing, making the ride enjoyable the whole way with something to look at in every direction. With over 60kms ridden we were both a little saddle sore on the return back to the Motorhomes.

Brian made decided to move onto Ranfurly for the night as he required supplies. Still, we chose to spend another night at the freedom camp in Tiroiti as it was just such a peaceful spot till around 1.30am when the car behind us (towing a caravan) had it’s alarm go off for no apparent reason. Talk about loud!

We had agreed to meet Brian again in Ranfurly the following morning to continue the ride, so the blog continues from there with the next post.
If you would like to see all the places we have visited click here

If you would like to see the ratings of the places we have stayed click here

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2 thoughts on “Otago Rail Trail Part 1

  1. Well done, both of you. Not surprised that you’re a bit saddle sore, and hope you make it all the way …

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