The History of the Rail Trail

A Golden Opportunity

The famous Central Otago gold rush of the 1860s caused quite the stir and led to an influx of new settlers to the region in search of riches.

This sparked a time of great prosperity for the area and it wasn’t long before plans were drawn up for a railway line from Dunedin, the largest and richest city in New Zealand at the time.


The Glory Days 

Construction of the Otago Central Branch Railway began at Wingatui near Dunedin in 1879 and reached Middlemarch in 1891. The 152km line from Middlemarch to Clyde that is now the Otago Rail Trail was built over the next 16 years and completed in 1907.

In its glory days, the railway transported passengers between Dunedin and Clyde daily. The trip took over eight hours, with a lunch stop in Ranfurly and refreshment stops in Hindon and Omakau. 

End of an era

After the gold rush, the area became a farming hotspot and the railway was mainly used for freight traffic through the 20th century.

Construction of the Clyde Dam kept the line busy during the 1980s but following its completion, the need for the line had reached its end. In 1990 the railway was officially closed.


The Birth of the Rail Trail

As we entered the new millennium, the 152km stretch between Middlemarch and Clyde was reopened, this time as a cycle trail to attract adventurers to see the big sky vistas in a unique way.

Today, the Department of Conservation and the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust work together with the local communities to maintain and enhance the famous ride. The trains might be long gone from around here, but the heritage of the railway and its pioneering workers lives on through the Rail Trail.



No wonder this organisation is 5 star! I would give it a 6. From the very first phone call right through to our arrival in Middle March and our transportation back to Wedderburn the service we got was impeccable. The accommodation booked for us was great and the dinner venues also great. A big thank you to a great bunch of people.

GlobeTrotting650476, October 2019

From pick up at the airport, to getting bikes sorted, to have accommodation all sorted and also lovely restaurants booked ... It all was very well done! Friendly and helpful staff, doing their very best to sort out any issues immediately. Bikes were very comfortable and enjoyable!

Patricia S, July 2019

I cant fault our experience with Central Cycle Trail Co. Bikes were great, accommodation excellent we didn't have to think about anything and the cost was very reasonable. I would highly recommend. This is a great blue print for the other great rides in NZ.

Sarah P, June 2019

From Pip & Lauren organising our accommodation and logistics, to Audry & Dave carrying out our transfers and face-to-face, we (group of seven friends) had a fantastic time in May, cycling from Middlemarch to Clyde. The bikes, the accommodation, the restaurants, the attention to detail - everything was perfect. Even the weather played its part. Thank you so much. Would not hesitate to recommend Cycle Surgery to anyone thinking about doing this trip.

Heather M, May 2019

The Most-Awarded Cycling Tour Company in Central Otago

Savour the ride. We'll handle the rest.