Poolburn Gorge

Central Otago District

Poolburn Gorge

This section of the Otago Central Rail Trail is one of the more interesting parts. As it winds through the Poolburn Gorge it passes through 2 tunnels and over a viaduct. There is also a walking track on one side of the Poolburn tunnel #2 that leads down to the old construction worker village, just a few old chimneys and a couple of walls remaining now. The Ida burn is the river that cuts through the Raggedy Range in the valley below.


There are the two main options for getting in the gorge, from the North-West start at Lauder and cycle towards the Ida Valley. From the South-East start at Oturehua and cycle towards the Matakanui Valley. Simple as that folks.

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The Real OCRT

Way back in 1997 I rode the Otago Central Rail Trail with some friends from high school. I can only remember a few spots from back then, The tunnels and bridges and how long and straight and bumpy it was. Believe me when I say they have made it so much more comfy to ride now.

But this trip was different, just had a few beers at the Lauder pub and headed out through the Gorge with some others. A perfect Central Otago temperature and one hell of a head wind, my favorite. As we neared the Poolburn Gorge we passed by massive fields of wild lavender, like a purple wave of haze. I attempted to ride faster than everyone to set up some pictures of them riding through the all encompassing lavender, but dehydration from to many IPA's had me beat, I think I managed to pull off at least one picture.

We passed by a small trail that lead down towards the river, I couldn't convince anyone to explore with me, so I bid my farewells and decided on some solo time. The trail had some information posted of how the railroad builders lived, and this trail lead down to their little stone huts, much of which have long fallen down, just a couple of stone chimneys left standing.

Back up on the trail, I had to catch up to the others, I had no idea how slow I would end up riding through the tunnels without any form of light (kind of a trend with me). How ever I did manage to capture some very experimental long exposure while riding through one of them. Either way, It was a lot further than I thought to get back to Oturehua.

Happy riding - Stu