Construction of the Kawarau Gorge Trail, a major development in New Zealand’s cycling and hiking infrastructure, is underway, linking Queenstown and Cromwell through a 32-kilometre route. This trail promises to be a significant addition to the region’s outdoor activities, offering breathtaking views and a unique experience through the Kawarau Gorge.
The commencement of the trail was marked by a ceremony at Oxbow Adventure Co, attended by notable figures including Southland MP Joseph Mooney, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan, and Queenstown Lakes Mayor Glyn Lewers. The construction, which began in December 2023, is expected to take approximately two years to complete.
The trail is not just a path but a sophisticated engineering project. It includes the construction of two suspension bridges over the Kawarau River and an underpass near Oxbow Adventure Co. One of the bridges, the Nevis Ferry Bridge, will be a 105m-long suspension bridge, designed to blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. Another bridge, near Citroen Rapids, will be slightly smaller but equally impressive. The trail will also feature a 25m long, 3m wide, and 2.5m high underpass beneath State Highway 6, enhancing safety for trail users.
Moreover, this trail is a part of a larger vision, connecting five Great Rides in the Otago region, eventually creating a continuous 530km trail network stretching from Queenstown to Dunedin. This ambitious project involves the Southern Lakes Trails, who also managed the successful Lake Dunstan Trail, and the Central Otago Queenstown Trails Network Trust.
Attractions along the trail include historical and natural sites like the Goldfields Mining Centre, an old moa’s nest, and an ecological sanctuary for native biodiversity. These features not only enhance the trail’s appeal but also provide an opportunity to engage with the region’s rich cultural and natural history.
The trail’s development is a result of collaborative efforts among various stakeholders, including landowners, government bodies, and local trusts. The funding, in place since 2018, has been sourced from the New Zealand Government, Central Lakes Trust, and Otago Community Trust, amounting to over $26 million.
In addition to its recreational benefits, the trail is expected to boost tourism and local businesses in the region. It is anticipated that the trail will attract significant numbers of visitors, mirroring the success of the Lake Dunstan Trail, which saw an impressive 87,000 riders in a single year.
The anticipated influx of tourists and outdoor enthusiasts drawn by the Kawarau Gorge Trail is also expected to have a significant positive impact on the hospitality sector, particularly the Queenstown hotels. With the trail providing a new attraction in the region, these hotels are likely to see an increase in guests seeking accommodation. This uptick in visitors not only benefits the hotels but also contributes to the overall economic vitality of Queenstown, as these tourists will also engage with other local businesses and services.
This development is a significant step towards enhancing New Zealand’s reputation as a premier destination for outdoor activities, offering both locals and tourists an unparalleled experience of the region’s stunning landscapes and rich history.