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Best Rides Along the Central Otago Touring Route

Have the best of both worlds - an epic road trip and some spectacular bike rides!

Central Otago Touring Route, Lake Dunstan

5 days 
                            Road Trips

The Central Otago Touring Route is a spectacular road trip that traverses the South Island from Dunedin to Queenstown.
As well as offering a wonderful scenic drive, the route also offers easy access to some incredible cycling trails.

Central Otago Touring Route

About The Central Otago Touring Route

The Central Otago Touring Route is one of New Zealand’s best road trips. A journey of 341kms between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Alps follows scenic highways and offers numerous opportunities to get well off the beaten track, and not just in your car or motorhome! Take your bike with you, and the riding opportunities along the length of the Touring Route between Dunedin and Queenstown are almost limitless.

Read a more detailed article about this itinerary here.

The Dunedin Harbour Cycleway


The Dunedin Harbour Cycleway follows the shoreline of the harbour from Port Chalmers to the Otago Peninsula. The cycleway is sealed and suitable for all types of bicycles and most abilities and is generally flat.

The cycleway route is 54km in total but can easily be ridden in sections or shortened. A loop can be completed by catching the Port-to-Port cycle ferry between Portobello, Port Calmers and Back Beach which reduces the distance to around 30km.  

Clutha Gold Trail

Middlemarch and the Rail Trail

Middlemarch, 1hr inland from Dunedin, is the eastern start of the Otago Central Rail Trail. The Rail Trail is NZ’s original Great Ride and the easy grade 1 route traverses 152km through spectacular scenery finishing in the historic town of Clyde. Much of the Rail Trail follows the Touring Route allowing motorists with a bike to easily ride sections of the trail along their drive.

From March 2023, you’ll be able to ride a 63km extension to the Clutha Gold Trail from Waihola, just south of Dunedin, all the way to Roxburgh.


Danseys Pass Hotel

Naseby & Danseys Pass

From Ranfurly, it’s 15km to Naseby. Originally a major gold mining settlement, today Naseby is a chilled-out retreat for kiwi holiday makers with a network mountain bike trails. With numerous cafes and pubs, Naseby is well worth the detour. The curling rink is an absolute must-do.

Danseys Pass is a 17km ride (or drive) from Naseby and is the site of an historic hotel built in 1862 and possibly the only remaining coach inn still operating in New Zealand. Today the Danseys Pass Hotel still offers accommodation and hearty meals for travelers.

The Blue Lake, St Bathans

St Bathans

Regarding historic hotels and hearty meals, another great detour from the main Touring Route or Rail Trail is to St Bathans. Here you’ll find the Vulcan Hotel (rumoured to be haunted…just a rumour) and the photogenic Blue Lake. The man-made lake is a remnant from the Otago Goldrush and a fascinating 2km walk around the lake provides an insight into the lives of the miners and pioneers who worked here in the 1860s.

Pitches Store in Ophir offers accommodation and a restaurant for cyclists on the Rail Trail

Omakau, Ophir and Poolburn  

Omakau & Ophir, separated by the Manuherikia River, are key stopovers on the Rail Trail and drivers on the Touring Route alike. Whilst Ophir’s claim to fame is that it once recorded NZ’s coldest temperature (-21°C), don’t let that put you off a visit, as the warm welcome and great food at Blacks Hotel or Pitches Store more than compensates for a frosty winters!

Omakau or Lauder, are also great hubs to explore the Poolburn Dam area and the Poolburn Gorge section of the Rail Trail, one of the highlights of the trail.

Views of Alexandra from Matangi Station MTB Park

Alexandra & Clyde

Alexandra & Clyde were founded in the 1860's goldrush, they then transitioned to growing stone fruit in orchards & then vineyards for wine production.  

Wine tasting aside, they're great hubs for cyclists with three of New Zealand’s Great Rides: The Rail Trail, Roxburgh Gorge Trail & the Lake Dunstan Trail which starts in Clyde.

For those that like more technical, downhill mountain biking, then the Matangi Station MTB Park is a must do.





A new cycle path through the vineyards on Felton Road is ideal for wine tastings and long lunches.

Cromwell & Bannockburn

Fruit orchards & vineyards dominate the Cromwell and Bannockburn landscape. 

Juts off the Lake Dunstan Trail, a bike path on Felton Road is ideal for wine tasting, with a great selection of cafes & restaurants. A post-lunch walk or ride through the gold mining remnants at Bannockburn Sluicings is highly recommended.

Cromwell Heritage Precinct has a charming cluster of historic buildings, boutique shops & cafes plus a weekly farmers market. Cromwell itself is officially recognised as a 'Motorhome Friendly Town'. 

From gentle rides through the vines, to hardcore downhill tracks, Queenstown is a cycling mecca...


Queenstown is New Zealand's undisputed home of adventure and the exclamation mark at the end of the Central Otago Touring Route!

The riding options in Queenstown are as diverse as the restaurants and outdoor adventures. The Queenstown Trail is a 130km network of tracks with a ride to suit most abilities and experience, from easy to intermediate.

For advanced riders, the downhill tracks at Skyline are a must and for fit XC riders the new Coronet Loop Track is an epic backcountry, wilderness experience.