Perched on the edge of Lake Dunstan, Cromwell is just 40 minutes by rental car from Queenstown. Parts of the town were relocated to their current positions when the Clyde Dam was formed, flooding some of the original townships. The reconstructed buildings have formed a heritage precinct and are now home to various artists, shops, and cafes.
Rich in gold mining history but now best known for its vineyards and stone fruit orchards, Cromwell is popular in the summer months where you can sample some of the famous stone fruit or try your hand at some of the many water sports available on Lake Dunstan. The Clyde Dam is also worth a visit; even if just to appreciate the sheer size of this manmade structure.
Cromwell hosts a good scattering of services and facilities, with cafés and restaurants, wineries, and bars all at your disposal. Accommodation options are varied; there is something for every budget.
Things To Do In Cromwell
- Goldfields Mining Centre. Enjoy a guided tour and some authentic gold panning action in this Department of Conservation historic reserve.
- Cromwell Heritage Precinct. Step back in time and enjoy the authentic feel of this fully operational ‘gold mining town’ complete with its original heritage buildings.
- Highlands Motorsport Park. Try your hand at the ‘Fastlap’ race car experience, drive a supercar, or hit the track in the Go Karts for some family fun, then relax and refuel at the onsite Highlands Café.
Considered the commercial hub of Central Otago, but perhaps best known for its superb fruit orchards and sheep farming since the gold rush days, Alexandra is easily found about an hour’s drive from Queenstown heading along the banks of the Clutha River from Cromwell.
Alexandra offers some unique walking and cycling trails, some that follow the tracks gold miners used back in the 1800s, and is also a popular stop on the well-known Otago Central Rail Trail cycling track that runs throughout the Central Otago region.
The local museum and gallery provide a glimpse into the rich gold mining heritage of the town and you can also see examples of this dotted around the township, with stone cottages, walls and mining remain still standing today.
Alexandra offers a good range of places to eat and is home to some excellent wineries. There is an adequate range of accommodation, with everything from campgrounds to well-equipped motels. Outdoor recreation is at its best, look for boating, swimming, fishing, walking, cycling, and four-wheel drive opportunities.
Things To Do In Alexandra
- Alexandra Mountain Clock. Want to check out the Alexandra township from above? Take the short 30-minute walk up the hill to the Alexandra Clock. The perfect way to stretch your legs after a long drive.
- Ice Inline Sports Complex. Check out the Olympic-sized outdoor skating rink for some skating, curling, and ice hockey action, or grab some skates and have a go yourself during a public session.
- Alexandra Blossom Festival. Celebrate the arrival of Spring with the locals and don’t miss the Alexandra Blossom Festival. Held every September the festival includes a Grand Procession and a good mix of local events and activities.
Two hours by rental car from Queenstown, Ranfurly is a small town originally settled in the gold rush days and later made popular with the arrival of the railways. Long since closed, the old railway track now forms part of the Otago Central Rail Trail. An information centre is now housed within the old railway station.
Instantly recognizable for its prominent Art Deco buildings, the result of a building boom in the 1930s, Ranfurly is also a popular pit-stop on the Otago Central Rail Trail offering a good choice of places to eat and various forms of accommodation.
Not surprisingly Art Deco-themed activities are found in abundance in Ranfurly, including a second-hand Art Deco furniture and fittings store, a self-guided Art Deco walks, and the Southern Hemisphere’s only Art Deco Museum – housed in the historic Centennial Milk Bar building.
Things To Do In Ranfurly
- Dog Sledding With Real Dog Adventures NZ. Enjoy an authentic dog sledding experience (with or without snow) while learning about these amazing Alaskan Malamutes and Canadian Eskimo dogs and their owners.
- 4WD Tours. Get off the beaten track – quite literally, and enjoy a 4WD tour from the experts at Off Trail Tours. Their tailored tour options can include local high country tracks, historical sites of interest, fishing, golf, and refreshment stops at the region's historical pubs, plus much more.
- John Turnbull Thomson’s Statue. When driving along Ranfurly’s main street, stop for a quick opportunity to stretch the legs at the Turnbull Thomson reserve. Chief surveyor of the Otago region, the John Turnbull Thomson statue was built in honor of his contributions to the region.
Situated in the beautiful Teviot Valley, Roxburgh is an easy two hours by rental car from Queenstown and makes a great rest stop if you are heading on to Dunedin. Roxburgh is one of the best apple-growing areas in New Zealand and is nestled amongst some amazing tussock-clad countryside and very productive fruit orchards.
Summertime roadside stalls offer an abundance of apricots, plums, berries, cherries, apples, and more. Don’t worry if you eat too much fruit, there are lots of mountain biking and hiking trails in and around the township. The Roxburgh area also has many historic relics from the gold mining era, including buildings, water-races, and various other bits and pieces. For some well-preserved examples of the Chinese miners, rock huts head out along the Roxburgh Gorge Trail.
Take a stroll through the town for some quaint art galleries, historical buildings, cafes, and restaurants, and keep an eye out for one of the famous New Zealand Jimmy’s Pies along the way. Pinders Pond is the perfect place to pitch a tent for the night or if camping is not your thing check out the Roxburgh Lodge for a touch of luxury.
Things To Do In Roxburgh
- Roxburgh Hydro Dam. Check out this impressive 1950’s built Hydroelectric Dam, consisting of millions of tonnes of concrete the damn makes for some great photo opportunities.
- Salmon Fishing The Clutha. The Clutha River provides fishermen with a multitude of Trout fishing opportunities all year round as well as prime Salmon fishing during the months of January to March.
- The Teviot Museum. Enjoy photographic displays, antique machinery, and equipment from the region's rich gold mining, farming, and damn building history. The museum is located on Abbotsford Street.
Useful Central Otago Links
Need more information on where to stay, what to do, and which of the amazing wineries you are going to visit in the Central Otago region? Check out the links below.
The mountainous high country and tussock filled valleys of the Central Otago region hold a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders, a place of history, a place of solitude, and a place of wonder, please remember to look out for our precious flora and fauna and treat our countryside with the respect it deserves. Enjoy!