New Zealand. What can be said that hasn’t been said already? Instead of a long monologue of travel brochure proportions below is the abridged version of why we flock here on mass:

  • amazing scenery
  • world-class riding 
  • friendly people
  • no dangerous animals
  • easy access across the ditch 
  • they speak English

As if that isn’t enough, the New Zealand Tourism Board has made that decision even easier by mapping out and grading their ‘23 Great Rides’ around the country.

This issue we are taking it back to the roots of the 23 Great Rides initiative - back to where it all began. An unused rail corridor that stretches from Clyde to Middlemarch has become the perfect 152km playground for cyclists. Packed with scenery and laid-back charm that only NZ can provide, this trail attracts people from around the world. From humble beginnings, the Otago Central Rail Trail has grown to the point that 15,000+ riders tackle its length every year. Add to this the partial uses and the number gets up to around 60,000 - not bad for a disused rail line.

This ride is all about the scenery, people, coffee and beer. Aptly nicknamed the ‘Ale Trail’ – a refreshment stop is never far from hand. This is the trail to give the less experienced and more timid a chance to taste the freedom that comes from riding your bike without the fear of rough trails, big climbs and having to share the experience with cars. Without further ado I present to you the Otago Central Rail Trail.

 

BACKGROUND
Located in the heart of the scenic South Island, the vast Central Otago region lies between coastal Dunedin and the iconic Southern Alps.

With the discovery of gold in the mid 1800s, the region exploded in activity with people coming from all over the world to stake their claim. Rough, rugged terrain made getting supplies in and out an arduous and taxing affair - with both the roads and vehicles degrading quickly under heavy use. A more reliable link between the coast and the goldfields was needed; the railway was born from this necessity. 15 years in the making, brains and brawn cut the railway through the landscape with multiple tunnels and viaducts, greatly improving the time and cost involved in getting things to where they needed to go. The end of the gold rush, coupled with better roads and vehicles over the next century, saw the official closure of the railway in 1990.

The corridor was repurposed for use by cyclists, walkers and horse riders. In a strange twist of fate it’s once again bringing people to the region. Like a phoenix from the ashes, the region finds itself back in prosperity - this time through tourism rather than gold.