Frequently Asked Questions

Be Prepared - Check out the questions that we are most often asked...

How much does it cost to ride the Trail?

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a Recreation Reserve managed by the Department of Conservation in partnership with the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust.  It is free to ride the trail itself. The cost to you will be in accommodation and meals while you are riding the trail. We suggest you plan your trip and book accommodation.

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Can I ride the Trail as an independent traveller?

Yes, you and/or your family can be independent travellers. This is where you plan the trip for you and your family yourself. You will need to arrange bike hire, if required, through bike hire operators on the Trail and book the accommodation yourself. My advice would be to start planning as soon as you can and get your accommodation booked early. Start by deciding how far you want to cycle each day so that you can then focus on a place where you need to book accommodation. Our website has a 'Plan your Trip Guide' and some suggested itineraries you may wish to consider.

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What level of fitness is required to complete the Trail?

The Trail is described as Grade 1 Novice cyclists, families and others seeking an easy cycling experience.  If you or some of your group have not been on a bike for some time it would be a good idea to take a few weeks to get bike fit before you complete the Trail. The more accustomed you are to a bike seat the more you will enjoy the trip.

Where there are slopes on the trail they are gradual and there are no sudden dips or tight bends. The Trail is a compacted gravel pathway although in some short sections you may experience some loose stones. The Trail is wide enough for cyclists to ride side by side if they wish or to pass each other comfortably. People of all ages have completed and enjoyed this Trail.

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How long does it take?

The Trail is 152km long. How far you travel in one day will depend on your level of fitness. When cycling the average speed for most of us is 10km per hour, many people allow 3 - 5 days. The average walking pace is 4 - 6km per hour, allow at least 6 days.

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Is there water available along the Trail?

Take plenty of water with you, and purchase more along the way. Be sure to fill your water bottle at your place of accommodation before you start your trip each day. There are some towns along the way where water can be restricted in the summer months.

There is a tap at the Ranfurly and Oturehua Station sites.

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What extra gear will I need to take with me?

Bring sunscreen, first aid kit, bike repair kit and clothes for all seasons.  You may also like to bring a torch for the tunnels along the way.

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Will I have mobile phone coverage?

For most of the Trail you will have coverage, but there are some areas where coverage will be weak or no coverage at all.

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Can I use an E-bike on the Trail?

Yes, power-assisted cycles (not exceeding 300watts) are permitted on the Trail.

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Do I have to wear a cycle helmet on the Trail?

Yes, you need to wear a helmet.  It is compulsory for all cyclists on New Zealand roads to wear cycle helmets.  In legal terms the definition of a road includes a street, a motorway, a beach and a place to which the public have access whether as of right or not.

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Can I use a Drone on/along the Trail?

The Otago Central Rail Trail is not open to the use of drones due to the potential risk to users which is consistent with restrictions on most public conservation land.  There is an ability for a permit to be granted for promotional /commercial purposes – Contact DOC - 03 440 2040

All commercial use of unmanned aircraft including Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or drones over conservation lands and waters requires a concession from DOC. Recreational use requires either a concession or authorisation from DOC. You can check with the local DOC office to see which applies to you, Alexandra 03 4402040

The concession/authorisation process enables DOC to monitor and manage the effects of activities on public conservation lands and waters. It is important you follow the rules and guidelines set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for operating aircraft safely – see the CAA website for more information.

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Can I ride only specific sections of the Trail?

Yes - the Trail has many entry and exit points and can be experienced as a ride from Station to Station, see the map for Station sites. As you will not be completing the whole trail make sure you include a section with tunnels and viaducts, so either the Poolburn Gorge or the section between Daisybank and Hyde.

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If I only have a day what section should I ride?

We suggest a section that would include viaducts and tunnels.  So a section that would include Prices Creek or the Poolburn Gorge.  But do check out the popular itineraries section of our website for more information on one day trips.

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Is freedom camping allowed along the Trail?

There is freedom camping between Tiroiti and Daisybank and a site near Waipiata as outlined on the RT brochure map. There is also various commercial campsites on route at Clyde, Alexandra, Omakau, Ranfurly and Middlemarch.  Please note that the camping sites on the RT map cannot be accessed by a vehicle, they are designed for bikers or walkers that want to camp along the Trail.

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Are dogs allowed on the Trail?

Dogs are allowed on the Trail however they must be on a lead and under control at all times as much of the Trail travels through farmland.

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Who does the Trail?

Is the Otago Central Rail Trail really “your thing?” Ask anyone on the Trail why they are there and you may get a different answer each time. 

The Trail is suitable for any age (as long as you are reasonably fit). Lots of retired people, looking for an adventure, are getting back on bikes, some are including just parts of the Trail in their new Campervan lifestyle. Doing parts (or all) of the Trail can also be a great family experience, and camping grounds can add to the whole adventure. Doing the Trail can be a unique way to celebrate a special occasion. School groups include the Trail as an outdoor learning experience. Social clubs often organise “outings with a difference” (add a quirky theme, dress up for fun, etc.) The Trail is perfect for walkers wanting to recover their health – (it gets the “Heart Tick”) and it is an ideal way for fitness and sports groups to add some novelty to their regime as well as build team spirit. The Trail may seem easy to some, but “super athletes” can test their endurance and head off into the hills on their mountain bikes.

The Trail is long enough to allow plenty of moments of peace and solitude and “time-out” for those with a busy lifestyle. The more arty or spiritual amongst us may just be inspired to pick up a brush or a pen or a camera to capture a part of this “World of Difference.”  And of course many overseas visitors also want to experience the real heartland of New Zealand.

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What are the tips for a great experience?

Make sure you -

- Book your accommodation early and in advance
- Take plenty of bottled water with you. You can buy more at trail-side businesses
- Share the Trail with consideration for other users
- Take your rubbish away with you
- Bring a torch for the tunnels, sunscreen, first aid, bike repair kits and clothes for all seasons
- Bring your own toilet paper.  There are eco-toilets along the Trail - see the OCRT leaflet. - - Toilets in cafes and hotels are provided for customers    
- Leave gates as you find them  

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How do I get back to my vehicle once I have completed the Trail?

There are a number of options for transporting you and/or your luggage along the trail or back to your car.  Most of our Tour Planners will provide this services and they are listed under the transport section on our website.  Please use the link below for their contact details.

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Is there parking at the start of the Trail in Clyde?

There is a large car-parking area at the start of the Trail which is the Clyde Railhead site on Springvale Road.

Parking here is at your own risk.


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Is there an app that shows our progress along the Trail in real time?

The Great Rides App has the ability to track progress along the Trail in real time.  You can download the app using a link at the bottom of our home page or by following the link

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Is the Trail open all year round?

The Trail is open all year round and a great experience in all seasons.  Most ride the trail during the months September to May as Winters can be cold in Central Otago and there are a number of businesses along the trail that take a break in the winter months.  If your ride in Winter dress for the occasion and check availability of accommodation and food providers before you start your journey.

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