This past weekend, Tom and I got out onto our bikes and headed off on a nearby trail. In Central Otago, the Clutha Gold bike trail is a relatively easy ride of just under 75 km along the lovely Clutha river between Roxburgh and Lawrence.
With the weather looking relatively good (for autumn!), we drove out to Lawrence early on Saturday morning where a friendly transfer from Lawrence Bike Transfers were ready to ship us and our bikes out to Roxburgh Village and the start of the trail.
A few homes near the hydro-electric Roxburgh dam, Roxburgh village marked the start of our little journey. From the Village, we followed the river in to Roxburgh – a small-ish country town with a smattering of cafes and shops doing a sleepy Saturday trade. We received a few compliments on our bikes outside the cafe we stopped at to refuel on caffeine!
From Roxburgh, the next section is about twice as long (~20km), continuing to travel along the river to Millers Flat. The trail is located on the other bank to the highway, and dips up and down through spectacular country and alongside farmlands – mostly sheep and cattle.
After stopping Millers Flat for a scone and another coffee, we pushed on to the longest section (~25km) to Beaumont. The track rises and falls along some steep and narrow (but short!) sections here, but the scenery is breathtaking. We passed a colony of deer across from us over the river, and the water seemed to flow faster.
The Clutha area was once a booming gold-mining district, now it is mainly agricultural – orchards, vegetables and stock. There are also big patches of lovely native vegetation, and the autumn colours of the foreign trees are amazing, especially on a lovely crisp day!
We stayed the night at Beaumont Hotel and were up early to hit the trail regardless of sore behinds (me) and sore legs (me, again). From Beaumont to Lawrence is less than 20km, but that includes the steepest section, climbing Big Hill at a gradient of around 7%. It was a much easier climb than I expected, though, despite my low fitness levels. We reached Big Hill Tunnel which runs through the hill (originally excavated for the train) and from there it was pretty much a cruisy downhill slope into Lawrence.
Although the path spends a lot more time on this stretch right beside the highway, it’s quite safe. Additionally, the more separated sections are lovely, so it’s worth it!
I would really recommend this trail, particularly for less confident riders – the path is in good condition and there are lots of wonderful places to pause on the way. You could probably easily do the whole trail in one day if you were keen – that’s what I would do if I went again!