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Family Fun on the Lake Dunstan Trail

An easy bike ride for families along the Lake Dunstan Trail

Lake Dunstan Trail, Central Otago
Geoff Marks

1 days

A family friendly bike ride and itinerary along the Lake Dunstan Trail.

The route described below is approximately 25km one way, but there are numerous options along the trail between Smith’s Way (near Pisa Moorings) and Bannockburn where you can safely park the car and start your ride to adjust the distance based on the age and fitness of your family members.

Bike hire and shuttle services are also available for the Lake Dunstan Trail and the other surrounding Great Rides in the Otago region.


Dustin Park (Mt Pisa Playground) to Cromwell Heritage Precinct
11.5km (one way) | Grade 1 (easy)

A great place to start a family bike ride is Dustin Park (off Ferry Lane) in Pisa Moorings. This expansive park offers access to the Lake Dunstan Trail as well as a super fun children’s playground and toilets. There’s plenty of parking too and its safely tucked away from the main road. Or, if you’re after that essential pre-ride coffee, then Marsden Lake Resort’s Moorings Restaurant is ideally located on the trail at Pisa Moorings.

Between Pisa Moorings and Cromwell Heritage Precinct, the Lake Dunstan Trail follows the shoreline and is a wide, well-formed trail which is generally flat and rated as easy (grade 1).

Preparing for a family adventure on the Lake Dunstan Trail.

Sunrise on the Lake Dunstan Trail.

Spectacular lake and mountain views are a constant companion on the trail.

The trail is wide and easy between Pisa Moorings and Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

On this section of trail, it pays to factor in the prevailing northwest wind which can strengthen during the day, especially in spring and early summer. Starting at Pisa Moorings and heading south towards Cromwell means that you’ll have the wind at your back on the ride out but potentially a headwind if you choose an out-and-back ride. Always check the weather forecast and take appropriate clothing or sunscreen. Central Otago’s weather can be changeable and experiencing four seasons in one day is not uncommon, especially in spring.

After about 4km you’ll come to the 45th Parallel South Marker. The 45th parallel south is a circle of latitude that’s 45° south of the Earth's equator. The line marks the theoretical halfway point between the equator and the South Pole. There is a great walking track here but requires crossing the busy main road so take extreme care. The 45th Parallel Loop Track has a steep start but rewards walkers with fabulous panoramic views.

A further 6km down the trail there’s an opportunity for another coffee or an ice cream at the Cromwell Mall and a photo opportunity at the Big Fruit, where there’s also a playground and toilets. Accessing the Big Fruit requires a small diversion off the Lake Dunstan Trail, and it’s recommended that families utilise the new Wooing Tree Walkway, which includes a cycling and pedestrian underpass under State Highway 8B, and links Wooing Tree Estate with the Big Fruit Reserve next to the Cromwell Mall.

Cromwell's iconic 'Big Fruit' - a children's playground, toilets and cafes are all available here.

Continuing along the trail, you’ll pass under the bridge on the state highway at the ominously named Dead Man’s Point, and from here it’s only 1.5km to Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

When the Clyde hydro dam was completed in 1990, Cromwell’s main street disappeared under the waters of Lake Dunstan. Some of the historic buildings dating back to the gold rush of the 1860’s were saved or lovingly restored on higher ground, creating the Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

As well as boutique shops, cafes and artisan producers, the waterfront at the Heritage Precinct is the perfect picnic spot with activities such as boating, swimming and kayaking available. There’s even a pétanque court.

Riding around towards Dead Man's Point and Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

The trail is well sign posted the whole way.

Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

Approaching Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

Remember to park your bikes as the Precinct is for pedestrianised.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!....

Family games and ice creams at Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

Cromwell Heritage Precinct to Bannockburn Inlet & Carrick Winery
7km - 8km (one way) | Grade 2 (intermediate).

Suitably fueled up following a stop at Cromwell Heritage Precinct the trail continues to Bannockburn. The trail now changes from grade 1 to grade 2 with some gentle climbs and descents, but the track is still wide with an excellent surface. This part of the trail is particularly popular with walkers, joggers and dog walkers, so please slow down and share the trail.

Upon reaching Bannockburn Bridge (which includes a special clip-on cycleway to avoid riding on the main road) you have a choice to make. If you continue up the short hill to Bannockburn itself, you’ll find the historic Bannockburn Hotel and Black Rabbit Café. Turn right and you’ll follow a new trail along Felton Road with its numerous wineries, restaurants, and cellar doors. The historic Bannockburn Sluicings along Felton Road is another exciting place to explore with the family. Or you can turn left and follow the Lake Dunstan Trail around to Bannockburn Inlet.

Bannockburn Sluicings Walk and the vineyards along Felton Road (credit Will Nelson).

Bannockburn Inlet is a great place for a family picnic.

Bannockburn Inlet is a safe place for a refreshing swim in the summer, with parking, picnic tables and toilets. However, just 1km further along the trail and up a moderate climb, you’ll find Carrick Winery, one of numerous wineries located along the Cairnmuir Road. Carrick is a perfect place to finish your ride with an expansive lawn for the kids to play on.

Pedal & Pour in the Carrick Garden is open daily from 10am and serves Carrick wines, gourmet pizzas featuring local produce, coffee, and homemade snacks. It’s ideally located right on the trail for a morning coffee with freshly made cheese scones, a lunch stop, or a slow afternoon sipping a glass of wine while enjoying the view. Bean bags, picnic blankets and lawn games for the kids are available. The Carrick Restaurant offers more formal dining options with a seasonal menu that showcases local produce and organic ingredients fresh from the garden.

Return back to Pisa Moorings - or wherever you parked your car – via the same route, although there is a more direct cycleway along Bannockburn Road from the bridge to take you back to Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

Pizza for the kids on the lawn at Carrick Winery....

.... Carrick is also a great place for mum and dad to enjoy a glass of wine!

The Ride - Pisa Moorings to Bannockburn

Beyond Carrick Winery…

For those with appropriate skills and experience the Lake Dunstan Trail extends for another 25km from Cornish Point (a few kilometres beyond Carrick Winery) to the Clyde Dam. However, this section of trail is significantly more challenging and includes some steep, exposed and narrow sections of track (grade 3) as well as long climbs and descents which inexperienced riders or young children may find difficult. There is no alternative access in or out once committed to the Cromwell Gorge.

If you intend to attempt this section of the Lake Dunstan Trail, it’s recommended that you watch the safety video below and carefully review the trip planning guide.