I am told Central Otago has weathered the Covid storm well, with strong support from kiwis who are thriving on exploring their own backyard. Campervans and caravans have been flying out the door. Out of school holidays, it is often the ‘Grey Nomads’ who are out and about, with electric bikes and the cycleways of Central Otago are a great attraction. As part of our explorations, we are spending 4 nights in Arrowtown, with our electric bikes.
Queenstown has largely promoted itself to the international market and the town looks sad and largely empty, pining for international travellers to return. It seems no place for kiwis, so we decide to stay in Arrowtown. It’s beautiful historic precinct is magic to visit in Autumn. Unlike Queenstown, it feels like a community here – at the Four Square people obviously know most of the shoppers.
Queenstown Cycle Trails
You do not have to base yourself in Queenstown to enjoy the Queenstown cycle trails, Arrowtown is a great base. These trails are being extended all the time.
Arrow River Bridges Trail
– Arrowtown to the old Kawerau Bridge and bungy jump
We cycle this in both directions – 13.7 kms x 2 about 2 hours each way. It starts in the historic Arrowtown goldfields. Warning – it takes a while for the sun to come up down in the historic precinct, so apart from summer, start the day with brunch before heading out.
My recommendation have brunch at Provisions of Arrowtown which is our pick of Arrowtown cafēs – in the old town, lovely old building and good food galore. The French Toast was outstanding – an invention of their chef who who has poured custard into a Brioche base and baked it.
The trail crosses 5 bridges over the Arrow River – easy riding, but interesting as we cross gorges on swing bridges. You can keep going on the Gibbston Wine Trail, or hive off towards Queenstown. We enjoyed this ride and the chance to stop at the Cafe at the Bungy Bridge. When we arrived there were about 20 bikes – all of them electric stopped off for a break.
Lake Dunstan rail trail
Unfortunately we are a week early for the full trail to be open, so we ride from Smiths Way to Bannochburn with lunch at Black Rabbit cafe – worth waiting for.
The trail has the best surface of any I have ridden (apart from bitumen!). It basically follows the lake, but in an interesting up and down kind of way. I notice there is another trail nearer the road which is probably better for commuters. But today in early May there are lots of others out on the trail enjoying the ride and the scenery – many like us with electric bikes.
The sun is shining, the leaves have their autumn colours, the lake is still and clear – perfect day for cycling.
We pass the flash new settlement of Pisa Moorings, and in Cromwell the track goes past the beautiful historic precinct. These buildings have been relocated, as much of old Cromwell including the bridge is now well buried under the lake – the price they paid for creating the hydro electricity system. There is a cafē here if you need a coffee, but we are bushing on for the Black Rabbit at Bannochburn – another 6-7 kms on.
This is wine and fruit country – vines march up and down the hills forming geometric patterns, some still covered with cloth, though the harvest looks to be mostly over. Paddocks of cherries, apples and pears dot the landscape, and fresh fruit stalls are open with their produce.
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