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Cheap Seats Marathon, Otago

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Cheap Seats MarathonIntermediate

Submitted by Sierra Alef-Defoe

Info Info
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Trail Information






Lake Hawea

Urban fringe


Undulating, small hills only

Native bush
Open farmlands
Open tussock/grasslands


7:30 (Slow)
5:30 (Moderate)
3:30 (Fast)



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The Cheap Seats marathon loops Albert Town, Hāwea, and Luggate in just over a marathon distance. A classic tour of the Upper Clutha/Hāwea area.

Start at the Albert Town campsite and Hāwea swing bridge, this 45km loop links up the following segments:

  • Hāwea river track: ~14 km: A lovely track along the river from Albert Town campsite to Lake Hāwea, this section is easy with only small undulations. Just after crossing Camp Hill road, you can see people surfing “The Wave,” a human-made surfing wave in the Hāwea river. Once you get to Lake Hāwea, turn right to get on the Gladstone Track.   
  • Gladstone track: ~7 km: This track follows the Lake Hāwea foreshore from the dam across to Johns Creek beach. Undulating with some steep but short hills, and also passing some lovely beaches! From John’s Creek beach, head briefly up Timaru Creek Road before veering left onto the Hāwea back road. There’s a tiny Liliput library at this intersection.
  • Hāwea back road: ~8 km: A lovely dirt/gravel back road taking the scenic route from Lake Hāwea to Hāwea Flat. Usually not too much traffic on this road besides locals/farmers. A few fords can form on this road in the winter or after significant precipitation. This stretch can also be quite exposed to sun in summertime! At the end of Hāwea back road you will intersect with Kane road – veer left onto Kane Road.
  • Kane road: ~8 km: Linking Hāwea Flat to Luggate, take caution as this is a section where you’re on the side of a 100 km/h highway. Towards the end there’s a crossing of the red bridge which unfortunately doesn’t have a footpath, so you must get on this one-lane bridge and cross like a car! Just after the bridge, look after the Newcastle trailhead on the right.
  • Newcastle track: ~12 km: Following the true left of the Upper Clutha river, this track links Luggate back to Albert Town. A lovely undulating single track, parts can get a bit frosty/muddy in winter, and can be very sun exposed in summer.
    Finally, run back over the Hāwea swing bridge to the Albert Town campsite to finish your run.

This route is also possible by mountain bike! Be aware of bikes on all DOC tracks described here, as they are all mixed-use. The route should be suitable to do all year except for after extreme weather.

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Features of interest

The Hāwea wave flat white water park.

Make Up of Run

Easy Single Track: 70%

Gravel Road: 15%

Sealed Road: 15%

Route Data


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Overlapping Runs

The following trails overlap with this run to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate Strava activity for each

Upper Clutha River Loop

Upper Clutha River Loop

Length: 29.50km

Hawea River Track

Hawea River Track

Length: 20.90km


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  • Access

    Albert Town campsite / Hāwea swing bridge. Alternatively the track could be started anywhere along the loop, such as Hāwea lakefront, Johns Creek, Newcastle trailhead off Kane Road, etc.

    Park near the Hāwea swing bridge at Albert Town campsite.

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  • Staying Safe


    If you don't know the area, you might want to check the map on the Hāwea back road, and where the turnoff is from Kane Rd to the Newcastle track. Other than that, you're mostly on DOC tracks that are signposted.

    Generally good.

    Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Cellphone.

    Although you follow rivers and a lake nearly the whole way, there aren't convenient places to fill with potable water. Either bring your own, or veer a bit off course to fill up at a cafe in Hāwea or Luggate.

    A few fords in the Hāwea back road/John Creek area can be high after storms. Newcastle track can be prone to mud and frost.

    There is about 7kms on Kane Road, which does not have a footpath, cars are traveling at 100 kmph. There is a shoulder most of the way, but take your earphones out and be very cautious.

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