Frequently Asked Questions
Quick answers to questions you may have.
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- Is the Otago Central Rail Trail part of the New Zealand Cycle Trails Network (Nga Haerenga)
You bet it is! The phenomenal success of the Otago Central Rail Trail and the growth it brought to Central Otago has been one the inspirations for the national cycleway concept and it will remain the benchmark trail for the Great Rides of New Zealand.
- How do I get to Off The Rails?
We depart from Queenstown or Clyde. Our driver/guides will collect you from these destinations. Queenstown has easy access by air or road and we can recommend accommodation should you wish to stay a day or two before or after your Otago Central Rail Trail experience.
- Who can do the Rail Trail?
All ages and stages can enjoy an Off the Road tours if they can ride a bike, but we don't recommend it for children under 5 years of age. There are some hill climbs, but nothing steeper than 1:50 (which is the most that could be asked of a steam train). And our driver/guides are available at all times to assist if legs get tired.
- How long is the Rail Trail?
The Otago Central Rail Trail is a little over 150km from the start at Clyde to the end at Middlemarch. We offer two excusions - two nights/three days and three nights/four days.
- What do I need to bring?
We provide bikes, panniers and helmets. You will need to bring light clothing and trainers suitable for spending a day on a bike, a waterproof/windproof jacket and a woolen or thermal top in case there is a sudden change of weather.
You should also bring clothes for exploring and going out in the evening - nothing too smart. We also recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Cameras are a must!
We will send you a detailed packing list after booking.
- Do we stay at different locations along the trail?
Off The Rails has superior Qualmark accredited accommodation in the hub of the Rail Trail - Ranfurly. We refer to this as 'home base' accommodation. You can unpack, relax and enjoy your stay in your own room for the duration of your holiday. We will take you to experience the many iconic restaurants and cafes around the Maniototo in the evening - all just a short transfer from Ranfurly.
- We have young children - can we do the Off The Rails holiday?
Absolutely - we provide half bikes ideal for little legs, which attach to your mountain bike. However, we do think the long days are likely to be too tiring for children under 5 years unless they are very stoic! It is a fabulous holiday for families and our guides ensure everyone is comfortable and happy.
- What will we see?
When you cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail, you get to experience a landscape most visitors don't see. The historic railway line (now minus its rails) takes you over weathered bridges, past historic gold diggings and into villages little touched by today's hustle and bustle.
- Can groups do the Rail Trail?
Absolutely - it's a fabulous holiday for groups of two to 14 (twin share accommodation). Get two or three families, your share group or a book club together and we will arrange an exclusive booking for you.
- What kind of bike will I have?
We have Avanti brand bikes with front suspension, in a range of sizes to fit everyone. These are designed for trail riding. They are a 'step thru' design that makes getting on and off easier. They also have a slightly more upright seating position which is ideal for sightseeing.
We also offer electric bikes for those who need a little help or just want that extra comfort factor.
For 'traditionalists' we still have standard high bar Mountain Bikes. Because this cycleway has such a gentle gradient, you won't need many of its 24 or 27 gears.We provide special gel seats for extra comfort. We also have kids' tow bikes - you attach it to your bike seat's stem and your child pedals as well. Or they can have their own bike; you choose.
- What other gear do you provide?
Every bike comes with a rack on the back for our waterproof panniers to hold anything you might want during the day. There's also a handlebar bag for your map, camera, and water bottles. Cycle helmet, puncture repair kit and pump are also provided.
What else do I need to bring?
- Sunscreen and hat
- Comfortable shoes for walking and light, waterproof jacket
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper
- How fit do I need to be?
If you can ride a bike, you can bike the Rail Trail. Obviously, both your bottom and your legs will thank you for getting a bit fitter first.
- What about those lycra bike pants?
You don't need them, but they are comfortable, especially the padded ones!
- If we come with family or friends, can we all stay together?
Of course. Groups of up to 12 can stay in our accommodation. We can sleep six guests in our new motel style units 'Railway Retreat' and six in our renovated villa, at Thomas Street. The villa has a kitchen if you want to cook meals at night.
- Will it be crowded?
No way. Even in midsummer, the Rail Trail's limited accommodation and remoteness ensures that there is plenty of room (150 km) to spread out and enjoy the solitude.
- Is there cell phone coverage?
Yes, nearly everywhere. If you do get a blank spot, you should be only half an hour's ride from coverage. But you can always pretend you were out of reach...
- What other food do I need?
We provide you with a filling continental breakfast and you can help yourself to snacks from the fruit bowl. You might want to carry some food to fuel yourself en route, and pubs and country stores can be found along the trail.
- Will I have any hills to grind up?
Because this used to be a railway track, there are no serious hills. In fact, the steepest incline on the Otago Central Rail Trail is 1:50. That means you probably won't even have a chance to try out your bike's lowest gear.
- What is the weather like?
As the famous Kiwi song says, you can have four seasons in one day. But usually, summer weather is warm and dry (20-30degrees Celsius or more), winter is cold (10 degrees either side of zero) while autumn (10-25 degrees Celsius) and spring (15-25 degrees Celsius) can be anything in between. Summer evenings can be cool, so bring a warm jersey
- What if I also want to visit Queenstown?
Off The Rails standard trips start and end in Queenstown, so this is the ideal way to mix resort time with time out.
- Do we have to start at Queenstown?
No, you do not. Off The Rails will arrange your itinerary to suit you. If you have a group that wants to start in Dunedin, just let us know.
- How long should I take to do the trail?
This depends of how fast you want to go, how fit you are and how much time you want for other things like sightseeing.
Our 4 day/3 nights is ideal. The longest day of cycling is 48km and that's early in the trip. The last two days have less, which is good as you may be getting tired by then! Find out more
The 3 day/2 night tour has a day of 60km. If you are a regular cyclist this is not likely to be a problem. Find out more
- What if I want to take a day off cycling and do something else?
No problem at all. We will happily negotiate a deal that allows you to do this. You can either organise it yourself or ask us to put a package together for you and your group. I recommend the full day wine tour!