We awoke in Clyde to a foggy and brisk -1°C outside but the forecast looked great, so after defrosting the car windscreen we made our way to Cromwell to start our ride on the new Lake Dunstan Trail. I had been looking forward to this ride since it opened and despite it being winter I just couldn’t wait any longer.
On reaching old Cromwell town for the start of the ride, the fog was still heavy so decided to get a coffee at Armando’s Kitchen in the hope it would lift soon. We've driven through Cromwell on the way to Queenstown many times, but I had never taken the time to visit the historic precinct. It is a beautiful collection of historic buildings on the shores of Lake Dunstan and well worth a stop.
With the fog showing no sign of clearing, we decide to put on the hat and gloves and head out along the lakeshore. The first section to Bannockburn inlet meanders around the lake where we get mystic views as the sun starts to peek through the fog. The trail is wide and smooth and there are a few small hills to ride up, but this only adds to the fun of riding down the other side.
Once we reach the inlet, we have a much need bathroom break - thanks to the coffee we had earlier. There is a nice picnic and designated swimming area - not that we were going to take a dip in winter as no man needs that much shrinkage.
We continue passing by vineyards and olive gardens to Cornish point which is on the opposite side of the lake to Cromwell. Without the fog, there would be beautiful views of the historic precinct.
As the trail winds around following the lake, the fog begins to break and we start to cross bridges and ride over amazing structures pinned into the rock. The workmanship is just incredible with each plank moulded to the shape of the rock. Around every corner is amazing scenery and before we know it, we have reached Coffee Afloat just before the Cairnmuir Ladder.
After loading up with more caffeine we head off and upward but thankfully we are on E-bikes so the climb is over without much effort on our part. There are plenty of switchbacks to keep the gradient reasonable and once we reach the top we are rewarded with sensational views.
The next section is the most challenging. There are sections of the trail that are a bit narrower, certainly not single track but not rail-trail wide either. There are some descents with sharper corners that need to be navigated with a bit more care considering this is a two-way trail. Most descending corners have guard rails erected but there are three of four that just have a few rocks indicating a sharp drop-off on the other side. While the trail guide states the trail as 1-2, I would consider this section closer to 3 in some areas. It is all manageable but you wouldn’t feel comfortable if you haven't been on a bike since childhood.
Close to the halfway hut, there is another section with short switchbacks and tighter corners with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views. Once past the second climb, there are some lovely long winding descents as you head back to Clyde.
Once we reach the Dunstan Arm Rowing club we marvel at the views over the dam. A short ride back on the tarmac road to Clyde and we find ourselves in need of some afternoon refreshments. Over a crisp cold beer, we reflect on what a magical day it has been. From a cold foggy start to brilliantly blue clear skies we were treated to one of New Zealand’s must-do rides. I can't recommend it highly enough.