Otago Rail Trail

I’ve just returned from a few days in Central Otago - this part of NZ is barren but beautiful, and I was there to shoot with PureTrails, following one of their bike tours along the Otago Rail Trail. Originally a railway between 1879 - 1990, the line was built to help farmers get their stock to market, so as you can imagine it’s full of history throughout the region, and what better way to discover this trail than by bike? 

NZ’s original ‘great ride’, the Otago Rail Trail (150km of disused railway corridor) officially opened in 2000, PureTrails New Zealand ran their first cycle tour along the trail in 2004 and their brilliant adventures uncovering the history and communities along the trail are still extremely popular to this day. It was a pleasure to work alongside the PureTrails team - clearly very passionate about their cycle tours, their beautiful country and the history it holds.

Personally, I had never stepped foot into this part of the South Island before, so it was awesome to learn more about the Otago region whilst shooting along the trail. I loved some of the old signage along the way which set the scene, a constant reminder of the railway that used to run there - and what incredible scenery the trail holds! Some of my favourite spots on the ride were the Poolburn Gorge, with the trail crossing the tall viaduct and passing through tunnels before opening out into the Ida Valley - think barren farm land with amazing snow-capped mountains in the distance. Wedderburn, the highest point of the trail, google this one and you won’t see much other than the old goods shed that sits on the farmland - this little town actually holds a lot of history and used to be a stopover point for gold miners before becoming predominantly a farming area. The trail ended in Middlemarch, a station built in 1891, where those on the cycle tour swapped their 2 wheels for a train and headed towards Dunedin on the Taieri Gorge Railway. Shooting in this area was a real experience and luckily, the weather allowed for some great content. We’d managed to miss the recent rain, which had done us a favour by making the grass super green and giving the mountains a sprinkling of snow, giving Otago a chance to show off for the camera.

Overall, Central Otago was quiet and lonely, yet beautiful and characterful all at once - an amazing experience of NZ off the beaten track. Stay tuned for this content from PureTrails New Zealand - I’m hoping it will give a great taster of the trail and its history.

James Hustler