Exploring Otago Wine Country on New Zealand’s Best Cycle Trails

By MiNDFOOD

Sample the beautiful scenery on two wheels at Mt Difficulty in Bannockburn.
Sample the beautiful scenery on two wheels at Mt Difficulty in Bannockburn.
Otago’s cycle trails traverse one of New Zealand’s most iconic wine-growing regions across a network of over 500km. Experience diverse scenery from rugged mountains and deep gorges to crystal-clear lakes and rivers with myriad of vineyards and cosy country pubs to visit.

Here are three of the best trails for tipples and tastings, all with bike hire and shuttle services available to bring you back safely after that inevitable long lunch…

Après-bike’ at Kinross.

Gibbston River Trail, Queenstown

Part of the Queenstown Trail network, this easy trail begins at the Kawarau ‘Bungy’ Bridge and follows the Kawarau River through Gibbston – the ‘Valley of Vines’ – with immersive wine-tasting experiences throughout the valley.

Gibbston Valley Winery is home to the country’s largest wine cave and has an onsite cheesery, deli and a restaurant. The Gibbston Tavern is a must-do along the trail and has a new tasting room experience which includes local wine, gins, liqueurs and ports. Further along the trail, Kinross offers one cellar door but the chance to try wine from five different wineries, plus a bistro for lunch and cosy vineyard cottage accommodation. Towards the end of the trail, Mt Rosa is a great option to sample five varietals over a lunch platter.

The wonderful view at Te Kano.

The Lake Dunstan Trail

Ridden in its entirety, the spectacular Lake Dunstan Trail between Cromwell and Clyde is 55km long and a full-day trip. However, a shorter loop ride between Cromwell and Bannockburn makes a relaxing half-day experience and is an easy way to sample exceptional wines and enjoy a winery lunch.

Crossing the Kawarau River at Bannockburn Bridge, turn right to follow the new cycle trail along Felton Road – one of the most well-known wine roads in NZ. There are many cellar doors and restaurants to choose from, but here’s a top tip: start at Terra Sancta at the far end of the road and work your way back to Mt Difficulty for lunch, making sure to visit Te Kano along the way. This cycle path is the first completed leg of the new Kawarau Gorge Trail. Due to open in 2025, it will connect the Gibbston River Trail in Queenstown to the Lake Dunstan Trail and wider Otago trail network.

Carrick Winery is friendly to cyclists as well as families.

Alternatively, turn left at the bridge continuing on the Lake Dunstan Trail where you’ll find Carrick Winery, one of several wineries located along Cairnmuir Road. The Pedal & Pour food truck in the Carrick Garden is geared up for cyclists and families, while the restaurant caters for fine dining options.

Historic cellar door at Monte Christo Winery.

The Otago Central Rail Trail

Affectionately known as the ‘ale trail’ due to the plentiful country pubs along the 152km journey between Clyde and Middlemarch, there are also options for visiting wineries along the Rail Trail, with most of the pubs and restaurants serving local wines, too. Don’t miss the recently opened Monte Christo Winery in Clyde, where the first vines in Central Otago were planted in the 1860s. Exclusive cottage accommodation, landscaped grounds, ‘Fritzy’ the food truck and of course wine tastings are all available.

Not into wine, but got more time?….

For more wilderness than wine, check out the Roxburgh Gorge or the Clutha Gold Trails, offering a scenic journey through Central Otago and Clutha with a new trail that stretches to Waihola on the East Coast. Beer lovers can head for Dunedin and the new Te Aka Otākou path, visiting breweries on a loop ride around Otago Harbour.

For more information visit
www.trailhub.co.nz

 

Photos: Geoff Marks, Destination Queenstown.

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