Lake Dunstan Trail becomes the fourth Great Ride in Central Otago
The Lake Dunstan Trail opened to much excitement on 8 May 2021. Today the trail was officially awarded Great Ride status by Tourism and Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash in time for the first anniversary of its opening. This brings Central Otago’s great ride trails to number four, the most of any region in New Zealand, and is testament to the Central Otago, Queenstown Network Trails Trust (COQNT), funders, and trail construction companies’ commitment to build a trail to the highest possible standard.
The official track counter has recorded more than 83,000 user movements (cyclists and walkers) since the trail opened, totally eclipsing the predicted figures of 7000 for its first year. It is now being heralded by many as possibly the best one-day ride in New Zealand and has been a catalyst to establish and expand businesses along its length; examples such as a pizza and wine caravan, a floating coffee and burger bar, and for the tech savvy, an app where people arrange a car transfer from end to end, are innovative and contribute to the user experience.
Opening in February 2000, the Otago Central Rail trail is the original great ride. It was this trail that inspired the future development of a network of trails throughout New Zealand. In 2013 both the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trails opened and with the addition of the Lake Dunstan Trail there are now over 300km of interconnected off-road great ride standard cycle and walking trails to explore in Central Otago with more to come.
“In the last twelve months, the Lake Dunstan Trail and recently opened Matangi Station MTB Park have both built on the variety and extent of cycling opportunities in Central Otago, further cementing Central Otago’s place as a leader for cycle trails and cycle tourism,” Tourism Central Otago General Manager Dylan Rushbrook said.
“Congratulations must go to all those who have contributed in some way to the development of this trail. The engineering skills used to create a quality trail in challenging terrain are second to none, particularly in the Cromwell Gorge. Clip on bridges, swing bridges, boardwalk and stone walling all create a trail that is not only a pleasure to ride, walk or run, but also is visually stunning and sympathetic to the environment.
“It’s wonderful to see how users have found many ways to get out and use the Lake Dunstan Trail,” Mr Rushbrook said. “We know that some locals have completed the Cromwell to Clyde heritage precinct to heritage precinct leg multiple times and in both directions. Others prefer to use the trail as it meanders alongside Lake Dunstan between Smiths Way and the Cromwell Heritage Precinct or will go from Cromwell to the Bannockburn wineries and return. It is this variety of choice that appears to attract such a wide range of users.
“As our team worked with the trails trust to capture visuals in preparation for the trails opening, it was clear that getting an epic ‘brag photo’ is easy on this trail. Right from the beginning we have seen images of the Lake Dunstan Trail being shared far and wide through social networks.
“Central Otago trails are all experiencing a busy autumn period. We really want people to be courteous and considerate of other trail users in these shared spaces. A few simple things, like slow down, keep left, be prepared and factoring in your actual skill level when choosing what trail to enjoy make everyone’s experience better.”