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The Lake Dunstan Cycle and Pedestrian Trail between Cromwell and Clyde has been a “phenomenal” success since opening May 8, 2021, garnering glowing reviews, more than 60,000 visits, and creating business opportunities. Trace Barrett reports.

With a swag of glowing reviews in print, video and online, more than 60,000 visits and the creation of new business opportunities, the Lake Dunstan Cycle and Pedestrian Trail is an unquestionable success.

Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust spokeswoman Janeen Wood on Tuesday said a feasibility study done on the trail in 2018 estimated 7000 people would use the trail in its first year, and that number would rise to 13,515 by 2032.

As of the end of January, more than 62,000 pedestrians and cyclists had passed a trail counter set up near Carrick Vineyard in Bannockburn since it opened on May 8, 2021.

A new daily record of 844 trail users was recorded on January 3. That month, 12,068 used it.

Those figures were a conservative estimate as only trail users passing Carrick Vineyard were counted, and not those who rode or walked other sections, Ms Wood said.

Tourism Central Otago general manager Dylan Rushbrook said the general feedback on the trail was “phenomenal”, with users from around New Zealand and abroad “loving it”.

The trail had really added to the profile of Central Otago, which was rising anyway, he said.

Lockdown had increased the number of domestic tourists enjoying Central Otago.

“If anything, for Central Otago, having a captive audience of Kiwis, has only seen us grow.

“We’ve had more people in 2021 than we had in 2020, and 2020 was a record year on 2019.”

The trail and others with in the region – Central Rail Trail, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail – benefiting from the exposure, he said.

Shayne O’Connor, trail manager for the Lake Dunstan, Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trails, said conversations he had with cycle tour operators confirmed the flow-on business effect.

“They’re all saying they’ve noticed a real upturn since the Lake Dunstan Trail opened,” he said.

Businesses along the Dunstan Trail added to the experience of users with their offerings, Mr Rushbrook said.

One such business is a floating cafe – Coffee Afloat opened by Jolanda Richard Foale – the same day the trail opened.

The couple owns a company running helicopter scenic flights from Cromwell but business was hit hard by the onset of Covid-19.

Cyclists themselves, the husband and wife were models for trail promotions before it opened and that inspired them to set up the cafe in a sheltered bay, serving beverages and snacks to trail users.

As of January 28, Coffee Afloat had served more than 16,000 coffees, and almost 2000 ice-creams.

On September 24, they added a second boat to the business serving venison and thyme burgers as part of the Eat.Taste.Central. food and drink promotion.

The Foales use solar power on the boats, source as much product as possible from local providers and use paper coffee cups and lids to be sustainable and care for the stunning environment in which they work.

Relaxing between rides . . . Michelle Tannock (left) and Katherine Clifford rest at Carrick Vineyard after riding part of the Lake Dunstan Trail on Saturday. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT

The trail has also inspired a secondary business for Carrick Vineyard, Winery and Restaurant, through which the Dunstan Trail passes.

Owners Alison and Tony Cleland, who celebrated one year of owning the vineyard at the weekend, have opened a pizza kitchen and cafe to complement their restaurant as a quick casual offering for those hungry people making their way along the trail.

“We wanted to cater for and welcome the cyclists coming through,” Mrs Cleland said.

Mr Cleland said the cafe was busy with coffees and scones in the morning, leading into wine and pizzas in the afternoons and evenings.

Local Michelle Tannock was relaxing with a visiting friend, Katherine Clifford, on Saturday afternoon at Carrick, having just ridden to Coffee Afloat for coffees and a shared burger before returning to Bannockburn.

Mrs Clifford said two of her neighbours in Palmerston North had ridden the Dunstan Trail, and Mrs Tannock said she and her husband regularly rode to Cairnmuir Gully for coffee then rode home again.

The trail is “absolutely fabulous”, Mrs Tannock said.

“It has spectacular scenery and it’s so well designed, with the bridges and the clip-on paths.”

“It’s world-class,” Mrs Clifford added.