Central Otago Rental Car Travel Itinerary
Discover the delights of Central Otago for your next holiday, seek out the friendly local towns, stunning rocky landscapes, growing art and craft culture and well-preserved gold heritage while indulging in the world class Central Otago wines and fresh seasonal produce.
Exploring the Central Otago region is best done by car, as there are very few public transport options allowing the freedom to really get out there and find your own way. Car hire is readily available from either Dunedin or Queenstown and also Christchurch if you are making an epic roadie out of it.
Want to know where to go and what not to miss? Take a look at our travel itinerary and enjoy all the region has to offer.
Sample the wines – go on, it’s a must-do in Central Otago.
- Despite being the world’s southernmost wine-growing area, Otago is home to a fast-growing wine industry that has become internationally renowned for its Pinot Noir.
- Take a self-drive winery tour through this stunning country, or jump on a guided central Otago winery tour from Queenstown. Most of the larger wineries are located near Cromwell, Alexandra and Queenstown.
- Our top picks are the Gibbston Valley Winery, Mt Difficulty Wines and the Wild Earth Winery – a particularly nice place to stop for lunch!
- In days of old, Otago was also known for being a rich source of gold, while you are in the area learn about this legendary gold mining history at the Goldfields Mining Centre on the Kawarau Gorge Road. You can even try your hand at old fashioned gold panning.
Cromwell is a destination in itself – let’s take some time to explore…
- An historic town where modern-day artists are hard at work, explore the heritage buildings of Old Cromwell Town on foot, sample delicious Otago handmade preserves from Provisions, and enjoy a relaxing coffee at the historic Grain and Seed Cafe.
- Get in a round of mini golf at the Cromwell Mini Golf complex on Murray Terrace for a few laughs then take a picnic lunch to Lake Dunstan where you can fish, cycle or walk along the lakeside.
- Head down to Alexandra for the afternoon stopping at the Touch Yarns showroom, where a variety of yarns inspired by the magnificent surroundings are available for display and purchase, designed by Marnie Kelly.
The Otago Rail Trail here we come!
- Following the Central Otago Rail Trail is a great way to see parts of Central Otago you would normally miss. Hire a bike from Cromwell, Queenstown or Clyde and get off the beaten track and explore for the day or if you have the time why not spend 3 or 4 days?
- Travel from Clyde to Omakau, stopping at the Chatto Creek Tavern, the historic goldfield town of Ophir, and the old Tucker Hill gold diggings.
- Lauder to Oturehua is one of the most spectacular parts of the trail, offering views of stunning gorge scenery as you pass through the valleys. Explore the Poolburn Gorge and Viaduct, and the Wedderburn Goods Shed.
Whether you take the Rail Trail or simply drive on over, Naseby is a great place to stop for the day.
- Explore the Naseby area by taking a 4 wheel drive tour around the High Country, visit the local historic gold mining relics, and enjoy the many walkways in the 25 square km Naseby Forest.
- Visit one of the town’s museums –the Motoring Museum or the Maniototo Early Settlers Museum.
- If visiting in the Winter months, check out the Maniototo ice rink on Channel Road and have a go at curling, ice skating or ice hockey, or take on the challenge of the downhill luge behind the rink.
- At the days end head out towards Middlemarch and enjoy the fantastic scenery of the upper Taieri Gorge, the Taieri River, and the Strath Taieri plain.
Stop by the Lake Roxburgh Village and check out the Hydro Dam.
- View The Lost Village on the east side of the River, the remains of the pop-up village are a reminder of all the workers who contributed to the hydro dam’s construction. Drive or walk across the damn or view from the lookout.
- Exploring the man-made Lake Roxburgh is also a great activity for the afternoon. Seek out McKenzies Beach for a great place for a picnic or get out on the water and enjoy some sightseeing, fishing or water sports.
- Look out for the Commissioners Walk, beginning across the dam from the village, highlights include the schist bridge buttress, rock shelter remains and dam lookouts.
Taking a slight detour to Tapanui…
- Just 40 minutes drive from Roxburgh is the little township of Tapanui. Its claim to fame being it was one of the main settings for the movie Pete’s Dragon filmed here in the 2015. Take a walk through the Conical Hill Railway Tunnel – keep an eye out for glow worms!
- The Blue Mountains are the featured attraction here, with many excellent hiking tracks on offer. Take your pick for the afternoon and enjoy the peace and quiet of the rainforest. Take a dip at The Leithen water hole before heading back to Tapanui for a meal at the local Robin & Co Restaurant.
It’s the last day so let’s get some of that great stone fruit to take home with us.
- Heading back through Roxburgh the Fairview Orchard is the perfect place to grab some of the best cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums for the road trip home.
- Or try the Freeway Orchard at Cromwell for the best real-fruit ice creams, fruit juices an smoothies to break up the trip.
- Tavish’s Kitchen on Kawarau Gorge Road just out of Cromwell offers up some amazing preserves, jams, chutneys and sauces – perfect if you have a long trip home.
Central Otago Travel
Getting around Central Otago is easy with a rental car and there are plenty of options for you to choose from.
NZ Rent A Car has car rental locations throughout New Zealand, including a handy Dunedin car rental depot offering a wide range of reliable affordable rental cars to suit all budgets.
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Explore Central Otago with affordable Dunedin car rental from New Zealand Rent A Car.