Epworth South Island Otago Cycle Challenge

Cycle New Zealand’s most iconic trails, the Alps to Ocean,Otago Central Rail Trail and the Roxburgh Gorge Trails and raise awareness for Epworth Foundation.

Challenge Highlights

  • Raising money for Epworth Medical Foundation
  • Three cycle trails, one challenge!
  • Cycle alongside the emerald green lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Benmore following the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail
  • Admire majestic views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, NZ's highest mountain in the World Heritage National Park
  • Ride the length of NZ's famous Otago Central Rail Trail, following the route of a historic rail road
  • Admire the hand-built viaducts and tunnels along the trail
  • Take a journey on the famous Taieri Gorge Railway
  • Experience an exhilarating jet boat ride along the stunning Lake Roxburgh


Majestic rugged mountains, spectacular glaciers, wild coastlines, emerald blue lakes - it’s all here and within reach. New Zealand boasts an amazing variety of landscapes and equally amazing biking. This ultimate 8 day adventure offers the perfect opportunity to ride along 3 of the famous cycle trails of the South Island. Our cycle tour leaves the garden city of Christchurch, heads south towards the Southern Alps and Central Otago before arriving in the beautiful lake district town of Queenstown.

We begin with the Alps to Ocean trail near Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. We cycle past the snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps, turquoise glacier-fed lakes and lush green pasture. We then join the second of the great rides, the Otago Central Rail Trail following the old Central Otago branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. Our route takes us through many historic towns, crossing viaducts, bridges and through railway tunnels dating back to the gold mining era of the 1880’s.

We travel to the Scottish settlement of Dunedin on the Taieri Gorge Railway, reputedly one of the world’s greatest train journeys before embarking on our third and final trail, the Clutha Gold and Roxburgh Gorge. Our final day sees us cycling through the fabulous Roxborough Gorge and enjoying a scenic jet boat ride before transferring to Queenstown and the end of this amazing adventure.

Fundraising Portal

When fundraising for the charity donation component of this challenge you must seek permission of your charity before beginning to fundraise in their name. The team at Epworth will be in touch with you upon registration to give you the details of the online fundraising page and permission to fundraise.

Challenge Grade

This tour is graded introductory to moderate. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and we suggest 90 minutes of cycling three to five times a week for the three months leading up to your trip. Some of the trail is on hard packed gravel, some is loose gravel which can be rough and uneven in places and there are plenty of hills. We recommend practise cycling up hills and on gravel before your tour, and to get used to being in the saddle for long periods of time, day after day. The tour is fully supported and if at any stage you feel like having a rest from cycling you will be able to ride in the support vehicle.


After all the planing and preparation the wait is finally over! Please make your way to your Australian gateway airport for your flight to Christchurch. Flight details will be sent once you register. On arrival into Christchurch we will be met by our guides at the international airport. We will be taken to their depot for a bike fitting and tour briefing. We will enjoy a short warm up ride through Hagley Park and the central city and then the rest of the afternoon will be free to explore. In the early evening we have our first group dinner together where we will learn more about the exciting itinerary in the week ahead. Cycling Distance: up to 15km

Meals:  D

After an early breakfast we depart Christchurch and drive across the Canterbury Plains towards Geraldine for a refreshment break before heading into the arid Mackenzie Country. We drive to Lake Tekapo Village for lunch and visit the famous Church of the Good Shepherd and nearby statue standing as a tribute to the sheepdogs that make farming the Mackenzie Basin possible. This afternoon we set away on the first of the three famous cycle trails we are to conquer this tour - the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, following quiet roads that follow the turquoise blue waters of the canal system. We cycle past a salmon farm and enjoy a fast down hill to the edge of Lake Pukaki. We cycle round the shores of the lake on cycle trail to the visitor centre at the very southern edge of the lake and admire the views of majestic Aoraki/Mt Cook across its cerulean waters. Here we load up our bikes and transfer to Lake Ohau Lodge, we will be rewarded with fantastic views over Lake Ohau and treated to a delicious home cooked dinner. Cycling Distance: Tekapo to Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre - up to 45km

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we have 2 options to continue along the Alps to Ocean trail. The first will take us alongside Lake Ohau and the Pukaki Canals towards Twizel and the second option for those who would like a challenge can follow the trail which climbs up to the Tarnbrae Saddle. At 900m this is the highpoint of the whole Alps to Ocean Cycle and your efforts are rewarded with stunning views across the Mackenzie Basin. The rough shingle track is steep and narrow and is suited to the more confident and fitter riders. In the afternoon we transfer to Clyde, a quaint historic gold mining town once a wild and rollicking “canvas” town bustling with gold miners, shop keepers and ever-present dancing girls. There will be time to explore the historic precinct with its stone buildings, gift shops, art galleries and numerous cafes. Those keen for more cycling can ride alongside the Clutha River. Then we enjoy sampling some local boutique wines at a vineyard in Clyde before heading to dinner. Cycling Distance: Lake Ohau Lodge to Twizel - 35 km or Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama via Tarnbrae Saddle - 41 km Optional Clutha River Ride - 12km one way

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we embark on the second of our cycle trails - the Otago Central Rail Trail, a beautiful 150km historic journey into the Central Otago heartland. As one of the historic gold mining locations of New Zealand, the Central Otago region is full of colonial history. We set off from the trail head in Clyde and head towards Chatto Creek, with views of the Dunstan Mountains and Raggedy Range in the distance. The trail starts to rise before levelling off to Omakau where we stop for lunch. We then take a drive to visit the quaint township of Ophir and the iconic road bridge. After lunch the remaining 9kms flow under the wheels until we arrive at Lauder. Late afternoon we will visit another historic gold mining village, St. Bathans, for a walk around the incredible man-made Blue Lake, with sluicings and gold mining remains. This evening it is time for a relaxing beer and a game of pool at the local pub before dinner. Cycling Distance: Clyde to Lauder - 44km

Meals:  B,L,D

Our cycle ride today takes us onto the most dramatic part of the trail following the rocky and willow tree-edged Pooleburn Gorge, crossing the 37m high Poolburn Viaduct, and through 2 long tunnels before we emerge into the scenic Idaburn valley. Here we stop for a visit to the Hayes Engineering works, where some of New Zealand's first industrial farm equipment was invented. The stop is also perfectly located to fuel up with a hearty lunch at their cafe before our afternoon ride. One last short easy climb takes us to the highest point of the rail trail and the beginning of the downhill descent that take us to the art deco township of Ranfurly. We’ll have some free time in the afternoon to relax, stroll around Ranfurly or catch up on some washing. Around 4:30pm we drive out to Naseby, a small foresting township, just off the trail. Here we have the option of trying our skills at curling: bowls on ice. This is a lot of fun and is the only dedicated curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere. If curling doesn't appeal, a relaxing pint at the iconic Royal Hotel, or a walk around the village or in the forest plantation are alternatives. After these activities we head back to Ranfurly for dinner and overnight. Cycling Distance: Lauder to Ranfurly - 47km

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we complete the Otago Central Rail Trail. From Waipiata the trail follows the edge of an old lake before entering the Taieri Gorge. The trail crosses through further tunnels and bridges before a fast downhill to the old hotel at Hyde. From here a final 27kms takes us past the scene of the famous Hyde rail disaster of 1943 and then out onto Strath Taieri valley under the Rock and Pillar mountain range, slowly descending into Middlemarch. This is the end of the trail and time for a celebratory drink at a local cafe. However the day is not yet finished and we board the famous Taieri Express for a spectacular train ride through the gorge to Dunedin, the Edinburgh of New Zealand. Our dinner tonight is a group celebration to acknowledge the 150kms and completion of the Otago Central Rail Trail. Cycling Distance: Ranfurly to Middlemarch - 59km

Meals:  B,L,D

After breakfast we visit Baldwin Street, reputedly the “steepest street in the world”, for a short but challenging early morning stroll! We then head towards Roxburgh and the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail linking towns established during the Gold Rush of the 1860’s. From Dunedin we drive to Millers Flat where we start our final riding day. Today sees us squeezing past Dumbarton Rock, which once stretched all the way across the river, before riding past the network of orchards and rural farmland alongside the Clutha River back to Lake Roxburgh Village. We continue our journey onto Roxburgh Dam, the oldest Hydro Dam in the South Island, from where we connect with the final section of our ride, known as the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. The Roxburgh Gorge is a stunning landscape of steep hillsides strewn with giant boulders leading down to a willow-lined river and lake. Our final ride is split up with a scenic jet boat ride on the Clutha River before arriving in the town of Alexandra. Here we load up the bikes and transfer to the adrenalin capital of NZ; Queenstown, making a fitting end to our tour. Tonight we enjoy a final group dinner to celebrate our week’s cycling achievements. Cycling Distance: Millers Flat to Alexandra - up to 50km

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning after breakfast we have a half day by our self where you can organise a jet boat ride or go bungee jumping before your 15:45 afternoon flight. We say a sad farewell to our guides and cycling companions as we catch a shuttle to the airport for check in. We will be delivered to Queenstown Airport time for our flights. Flight details will be sent once you register.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • Travel with Epworth Foundation ambassador
  • 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation on twin share basis, in a mix of 4 star hotels and some historic character lodgings
  • Bike hire (including helmet)
  • International flights and taxes
  • Professional qualified driver/guides
  • Private vehicle transport (except for Taieri Gorge train)
  • Airport pick up in Christchurch and drop off in Queenstown
  • Taieri Gorge Train Journey from Middlemarch to Dunedin
  • Jet boat ride through the Roxburgh Gorge
  • Otago Rail Trail passport
  • Wine tasting in boutique Central Otago vineyard
  • Water, fruit and snacks while cycling
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation

What's Not Included

  • All beverages, other than breakfast
  • Water bottle (help us save the environment and bring your own bike drink bottle)
  • Optional activities (eg. Curling in Naseby)
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, shopping etc)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

What You Carry

  • The tour is fully supported so you wont have to carry anything. If hiring one of our bikes it will have a rear saddle bag with enough space to put an extra layer, your camera, wallet, phone etc. We recommend you pack your luggage in a soft sports bag for easy stowing in the trailer/vehicle. We urge you to keep your luggage to a minimum.

Fundraising Impact

Epworth Medical Foundation - The difference you make

When you donate to the Foundation, your generosity is used to directly benefit our patients. For example, more than half of all medical equipment at Epworth HealthCare is funded by the Foundation, and 80 percent of our medical research.

Charitable funds are used to support:

*state-of-the-art medical equipment that ensures our patients receive the very best

*world-class facilities that maximise patient outcomes, safety and comfort

*groundbreaking medical research projects and trials, shared with our patients

*staff education and training opportunities to pass best-practice on to our patients

*support programs to care for our patients’ emotional and financial needs

New Zealand Challenge Reviews

Fast Facts

Trip Dates: DepartReturn
Duration:8 Days
Charity Challenge
Grade:Introductory to Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:EA7
Registration Fee:USD$160
Travel Cost:USD$160

When you donate to the Foundation, your generosity is used to directly benefit our patients. For example, more than half of all medical equipment at Epworth HealthCare is funded by the Foundation, and 80 percent of our medical research.