Myrthe decided to combine all the bikepacking trails around Central Otago to create one massive four day bikepacking extravaganza! Here’s how it all went down.


By combining the Otago Rail Trail, the Clutha Gold Trail, and the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, Myrthe has created a four-day bikepacking loop which offers the perfect introduction to bike packing in Central Otago, New Zealand.

How to Get There

This loop starts and finishes in Alexandra, which lies in the middle of the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. From Queenstown, it takes just over an hour to drive to Alexandra, from Christchurch it’s a 5.5 hour drive. There’s a car park for Otago Rail Trail users on Tarbert Street.

You can also take the Intercity bus from Queenstown, Dunedin or Christchurch.


A perfect route!

Places to Stay in Central Otago

You’ll find campsites, cabins, motels, and B&Bs in most towns along the way, including Alexandra, Omakau, Wedderburn, Ranfurly, and Roxburgh. You can also practise responsible wild camping on public conservation land (check the Outdoor Access Commission’s Public Access Areas map to find areas with legal public access).

Day 1 – Camping available at Waipiata Domain, cabins/motel/B&B available in Ranfurly

Day 2 – Camping/hotels/cabins available in Middlemarch and Lawrence

Day 3 – Camping/hotels available in Beaumont and Millers Flat

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!


Paddock camping

Skill Level


Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration

Total: 328km / 4 days

Day 1: Alexandra to Waipiata – 94km / 640m elevation / 8 hours (including stops)

Day 2: Waipiata to Lee Flat – 94km / 880m elevation / 9 hours (including stops)

Day 3: Lee Flat to Beaumont – 65km / 910m elevation / 9 hours (including stops)

Day 4: Beaumont to Alexandra – 75km / 800m elevation / 8 hours (including stops and jet boat)


The Roxburgh Gorge trail

Essential Gear

What It’s Like Bikepacking in Central Otago

Like many other outdoor lovers, I spent most of the Covid-19 lockdown looking at maps and planning future adventures. One of the things on my wishlist was to do a multi-day bikepacking trip.

I’d done a few overnight bikepacking trips, but was keen to experience a longer trip on the bike.

Living in Central Otago, I’m lucky to have a number of New Zealand’s Great Rides on my doorstep. Over the years, I’ve done bits and pieces of these trails, but never from start to finish.


First night campsite


Looking at maps of the Otago Rail Trail, the Clutha Gold Trail, and the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, I realised these three trails almost form a loop. There’s just a short stretch of road riding needed to create a nice long route which would be perfect for a multiday bikepacking adventure.

It was January 2021 when I found myself cycling another stretch of these trails, telling my friend Cecile about my plotted route combining all three cycle trails back-to-back. She was so excited about the trip that we committed to it right there and then: during the Easter weekend, we’d bike the whole loop over four days.

April rolled around a lot quicker than expected, and having just moved house the weekend prior, I didn’t feel quite as prepared as I would have liked for my first four-day bikepacking trip.

I suddenly remembered that the Roxburgh Gorge Trail includes a jet boat tour which has to be booked in advance. Calling the jet boat operator, I was gutted to find out they were fully booked, but luckily we were allowed to catch a ride when the boat would make its way back after the tour.


Day 1 – Alexandra to Waipiata

Distance: 94km
Duration: 8 hours

And then it was time to start riding. I’d made a rough plan of the distances we’d try to cover each day, with 109km planned for the first day. But as we drove into Alexandra – the start and end point of our trip – it promptly started raining, so the first thing we did was find a cafe and order coffee.

It was 10.30am by the time we were on our way. Luckily, we were starting out with the relatively flat Otago Rail Trail, so we could smash out some easy kilometres. By the time we had made it to the Wedderburn Tavern, we were ready for a hot chocolate.


The Wedderburn Tavern makes for a great refreshment stop


At this point, it became clear we weren’t going to make our planned destination, so instead we headed for the tiny town of Waipiata. With 94km done, we pitched the tent, made dinner, and went to bed early, a bit weary with the idea that we had another three days of cycling ahead of us.


Day 2 – Waipiata to Lee Flat

Distance: 94km
Duration: 9 hours

Feeling like we were already behind on schedule, we decided to get up before sunrise and bike for an hour or two before stopping to have breakfast in the sun.

It was really hard getting out of our sleeping bags when we woke up to frost on our tent, and in trying to travel light, I’d skimped on bringing bulky warm layers. We jumped on our bikes, thinking we’d warm up once we got going, but the icy wind only made us feel colder.


A very cold start to day two


At one point, I was painfully cold. All I could do was focus on keeping going, hoping that we’d soon find a cafe along the way to warm up.

When we stopped to take a photo, my body went into protest and I started feeling dizzy and nearly fainted. We realised that instead of powering through, we needed to look after our bodies, so we stopped alongside the road and made hot tea and porridge.

Feeling much better and warmer, we continued on. And once the sun had finally come up and we found a coffee cart in Hyde, we were able to enjoy being on the bike again. We celebrated the milestone of our first trail done and dusted with an extravagant cafe lunch in Middlemarch.

We now had a 40km stretch on the highway before we’d turn off onto rural gravel roads. We were expecting this section to be the worst, but it turned out to be really enjoyable.

The landscape along S87 is stunning, with lots of interesting rock formations along the way. With the end of the day in sight, we stopped at a farm to fill up our water bottles so we’d have enough water for dinner and breakfast.

Once we got off the highway, we looked for a campsite and decided on an empty field on top of a hill. As we enjoyed the sunset, we relished in the fact that we’d successfully tackled another 94km day.

As soon as we were in bed, the wind picked up. At first we were listening to the gusts coming and going, but as they got stronger we started to worry about the tent.

Cecile went out to scout the area and came back saying there was an open barn where we’d be a bit more sheltered. We squeezed our tent in between the farm machinery and tried to get some shut eye, but I was too worried about how we would bike in this wind tomorrow to get much sleep.


Our tent pitched in a barn to shelter from the wind


Day 3 – Lee Flat to Beaumont

Distance: 65km
Duration: 9 hours

Sure enough, it was still bloody windy the next day. As this was our most exposed day, up and down gravel roads over some significant hills, we regularly got blown off our bikes.

We enjoyed the views of Lake Mahinerangi, but didn’t linger as all we could focus on was making it to the next town for lunch.


Beautiful but undulating gravel roads on day three


After a massive downhill (not nearly as much fun when the wind is trying to blow you back up the hill), we finally made it to Lawrence.

We were tired and sore, but we had to bike at least another 20km to be able to find a remote camp spot. Luckily, we were now back on a bike path and the Clutha Gold Trail made for an easy ride to Beaumont, where we camped beside the Clutha River.


Day 4 – Beaumont to Alexandra

Distance: 75km
Duration: 8 hours

And then we woke up on our final day. And it turned out to be an amazing day. The wind had died down, we were on cycle trails all day, and the views along the way were outstanding.

Despite having a deadline of making it to the jet boat jetty by 2pm, we felt like we were cruising along. We detoured into the town of Roxburgh to pick up some delicious treats for a scenic picnic.

The jet boat ride was great fun (especially when the driver conceded to Cecile’s request to perform a 360 degree turn on the water) and added something special to our final day on the bikes.

After the jet boat had dropped us off at Doctors Point, all that was left was a 10km ride back to Alexandra. And even though these last kilometres were probably the hardest (my butt was very sore at this point), it was a great way to finish the ride and end up where we had started out four days ago.


Loading the bikes onto the jet boat

Tips for Bikepacking Central Otago

Pick the best time of year to do this loop wisely, Central Otago is the coldest and driest part of New Zealand. The summers are hot with very little shade, while winter brings misty mornings, cloudless days, and freezing nights.

Regardless of which season it is, make sure to pack warm layers, rain jacket, and sun protection before setting off, look at the forecasted wind direction, it might pay to do this loop in the opposite direction. Make sure to book the jet boat ahead of time, as it gets fully booked out during some weekends and holidays.


Riding under the rainbow towards Beaumont

Bikepacking Central Otago FAQs

Can I take my own bike on the Otago rail trail?

You sure can! If need be you can hire a bike but you’re more than welcome to use your own

Can cyclists ride side by side in NZ?

Yes! Cyclists can ride two abreast in New Zealand

How much weight should I carry backpacking?

Depending on your trip length and fitness, you can carry anywhere between 25-50kg.