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7 Family Must Dos on the Otago Central Rail Trail

Otago Central Rail Trail
James Jubb

1 days

Some of the best things to do on the Rail Trail.

1. Don't Forget Your Passport

OK, so whilst you’re not crossing any international borders on your Rail Trail adventure, the scenery really is like another world!  To keep a record of your journey, the kids (and grown-ups too) can collect stickers along the way and place them in their Rail Trail Passport. At each old railway station site, a red-painted replica of an NZ Railways Department emergency phone box houses a sketch that matches to a sticker in your passport. Be sure to check out the interpretation panels at refurbished old stations too for interesting facts about the Rail Trail and surrounding regions.

You’ll also be helping support the trail as proceeds from buying a passport go towards trail enhancements. Click here to find out more

2. A 152km Long Classroom!

So perhaps this isn’t the best way to sell a Rail Trail cycling holiday to the kids, but Rail Tales is a brilliant new integrated education resource for teachers, parents and students which provides an opportunity learning before, during and after the Rail Trail experience. With subjects ranging from history to conservation and geology there’s something to keep even the most active brains stimulated! Read more here

3. An Out of This World Experience...Literally!

The Otago Central Interplanetary Cycle Trail lets you explore the vastness of the Solar System as your family journeys through space and time!

With sculptures depicting the planets located along the trail at a reduced scale of one hundred million to one, the Interplanetary Ride accurately reflects the size of the sun, planets and the moon, and the distances between them. The kids will think it's... ahem... really cosmic!  

Education out of the classroom with Rail Tales!

Checking out the awesome tunnels.

4. Hayes Engineering, Oturehua

Ernest Hayes was the original Kiwi innovator, backyard boffin and all-round No 8 wire Einstein! The Hayes complex, which includes stables and a dairy in addition to the engineering works and homestead is a fascinating stop along the trail for families. Hayes products are still used around the world today.

There’s a great café onsite at Hayes Engineering or check out the historic Gilchrist Store in Oturehua for a coffee and ice cream break.

5. Stardust and Ice in Naseby

A 14km deviation from the Rail Trail at Ranfurly takes you to Naseby (shuttle services available). Described as 2,000ft above worry level, Naseby is a real hidden gem.

One of the absolute must-dos is to take the family curling. Open year-round, Maniototo International Curling is an indoor rink and an unforgettable – and probably very competitive – family experience. 

Located next to the Stardust Art Gallery in Naseby is Dust Movies - a community cinema. This rustic and quirky movie theatre plays classic old movies on a Saturday between spring and autumn which are free to watch. Usually there's a kids matinee movie, followed by a feature for adults in the early evening. You're welcome to BYO and have a glass of wine during the show, but please don't take any food. Check in the window of the cinema to see what's being screened, but please bear in mind that because this is a free community theatre opening times can sometimes be a bit fluid….

Young apprentices on a tour at Hayes Engineering.

Stardust Art Gallery and Dust Movies in Naseby.

6. Tunnels & Bridges

Being an old railway line, the trail incorporates numerous tunnels and bridges along the way. The Poolburn Gorge (Auripo to Lauder section) is probably one of the most famous segments of the trail with two tunnels and the expansive Poolburn Viaduct, but the Daisybank to Hyde section also has a series of tunnels and bridges to explore. Remember to bring a torch and to dismount and walk your bikes through the tunnels.

7. Become a Food Critic!

Budding young Master Chefs can undertake a highly scientific study into the best cheese rollsor pies… or ice creams along the trail! Mum and Dad might also like to assess the quality of some of the local wine and craft beers on offer too. With a country pub or café located roughly every 15km along the trail there’s plenty of opportunity to sample the local fare along the ride.

Some the best cafes and restaurants in Central Otago are located on – or very near – the Rail Trail. Check out the winners from the 2022 Eat.Taste.Central competition for more inspiration.