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Alexandra

Located in the heart of Central Otago, Alexandra is situated at the junction of State Highway 8 and provincial Highway 85. Alexandra was called Lower Dunstan, Junction and Manuherikia before 1863, when they finally adopted the name of the new Princess of Wales.

At first Alexandra was just an offshoot of Clyde but it made its own name in the dredging boom of the 1890's. At that time people also began to see the enormous fruit-growing potential of the area. Today the gold and the dredges have all but gone, but the fruit trees make sure Alexandra stays prosperous. It is a town of contrasts - there are still many old buildings but many modern ones as well. Out of town the contrasts continue; orchards and dredge tailings, lush valleys and parched schist slopes.

The dry climate has enabled relics of goldmining activities and stone buildings to survive into the present day in remarkably good condition. The climate of Alexandra/Clyde is semi-arid. The lovely hot summers and crisp cool winters are related to the ring of mountains and high plateau country acting as a barrier against coastal moisture-laden winds. These winds shed their water on the peaks before reaching inland, resulting in Central Otago's distinction as being one of the driest areas in New Zealand, hence its official classification as semi-desert.

Our town owes its origins to the discovery of gold between Clyde and Cromwell in 1862, when thousands of miners travelled to the district along the Old Dunstan Road from the Taieri (the entire route can still be followed from Clarks Junction to Alexandra by four wheel drive vehicle).

After four hectic years, the easily-won alluvial gold was gone and the population dwindled. The development of the gold dredge revitalised the settlement, and soon there were dozens of noisy machines operating along the river. Evidence of their activity can still be seen in the hectares of tailings to the north-west of the town.

Businesses originally sprang up to serve the mining community. The first orchards were off-shoots of the market gardens which provided the miners with fresh fruit and vegetables. At about the turn of the century, the advantage of a dry climate, fertile soil, and irrigation water from the mining races were recognised. Orcharding expanded rapidly when the railway reached the town in 1906.

Today Alexandra is a thriving service centre, with a population of over 4 500, catering to the needs of a prosperous orchard and sheep farming district. Its pleasant parks, spectacular spring blossom, fine gardens, unique scenery, and proximity to the Lakes and skifields of the Southern Alps make it the ideal holiday destination.

Location

In the heart of Central Otago with a population of around 4 500, Alexandra is 190 km from Dunedin, 93 km from Queenstown, 88 km from Wanaka and 30 km south-east of Cromwell.

Climate

Semi-arid Summer Hot & Dry Temperatures 15° - 35°C Winter Crisp & Cool Temperatures ¯6° - 15°C

January and February are the warmest months with temperatures reaching into the 30's and July has the lowest average. Although the winter season is very bracing, dry conditions generally prevail underfoot and clear sunny skies compensate for the low temperatures. Alexandra experiences an average rainfall of 300-400 mm and an average of 2 046 hours of sunshine each year.

Landmarks

Clock on the Hill ~ The construction of the clock on the hill was instigated by the Alexandra Jaycees in June 1966. The clock, 11 metres in diameter, is constructed of six vertical steel columns averaging 7.3m in length firmly supported in concrete foundations and fastened into the rock face with steel supports. At night the time can be clearly read up to eight kilometres away.

Shaky Bridge ~ This bridge was once used by wagons and horses. Before it was built the only way was by punt, a risky operation when the river was high. The bridge was opened in 1879 at a cost of $1,949 and was later sold for $2.00 to two settlers living across the river. The bridge fell into a state of neglect and was eventually repaired by a specially formed committee at a cost of $1,800. It was at this time the bridge was narrowed to foot traffic only.

The Old Bridge ~ The old bridge was opened in 1882 at a cost of $32,222. The piers were constructed of local schist stoned quarried at "The Half Mile", each stone being numbered before it left the quarry. The total height of the piers is 29.48 metres with 6.8 metres lybing beneath the present water level. The construction of the bridge was a task of great magnitude when you consider the size and the current of the river and the tools available at the time of construction. The very first method of crossing the river was a packing case on a cable. This method was superseded by a punt on two attached pontoons which ferried people across for what they considered was an exorbitant toll fare.

Old Courthouse Centennial Avenue. One of the oldest stone buildings in Alexandra, the old courthouse played an important part in the day to day life of the Central Otago goldfields. It opened in 1879 and operated until 1972. An audio programme recreates court cases of the boisterous gold days. Open weekdays 10am - 4pm.

ALEXANDRA'S CLOCK ON THE HILL

Set on a rock face high above the town, Alexandra's clock measures 11m in diameter, and its physical size is a constant source of amazement to visitors. Its construction was instigated by the Alexandra Jaycees in 1966. At night the time can be clearly read up to 8km away. More about the Alexandra Clock

VALLANCE COTTAGE - Samson Street. This quaint mudbrick cottage, built around 1896, was gifted to the community by the Vallance family. Restoration was completed in 1996; the cottage's decor represents life in the early 1900s. Open weekends and holidays (or by arrangement - contact Alexandra Museum).
 

 

FRUITLANDS

An early goldmining settlement, Fruitlands was originally known as Bald Hill Flat. Several old stone buildings survive in the area and Fruitlands Gallery (originally the Speargrass Hotel) has been lovingly restored. Offering food and crafts, it is a popular lunch or tea stop on the journey between Roxburgh and Alexandra. The current name dates back to the early 1900s when an abortive attempt was made to establish orchards there; only one crop of fruit was ever exported, and although there was ample summer irrigation water available, the hard winter frosts destroyed most of the trees. Fruitlands is one of the most picturesque and photographed places in Central Otago during winter frosts and snows.

MITCHELLS COTTAGE

A sturdy cottage built in locally quarried stone at Fruitlands by Andrew Mitchell, who applied the stone masonry techniques he had learned from his father in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Started in the 1880s, the cottage wasn't completed until 1904. Ten children were raised in the stone cottage which is restored in the style of the early 20th century. It is an excellent example of quality stone craft. Take Symes Road from Fruitlands about 1km. Open public holidays and school holidays, or by request. A key is available from the last red brick house on right on Symes Road before the cottage, or phone (03) 4492140.

Alexandra Visitor Services

Most major banks are represented in Alexandra. Medical, dental and other related health facilities, including a hospital, are easily accessible. Alexandra Information Centre is able to help the visitor with visitor enquiries.

Sports Facilities

Alexandra has a well-groomed 18 hole golf course, situated just off the main road beyond the Pines. Clyde has a fine 9 hole course in O'Reilly Avenue.

Other sports activities to be enjoyed by the visitors include windsurfing, sailing and canoeing on Butchers Dam, croquet on Kenmare Street greens, gliding at the airport, tennis at Pioneer Park, bowls and squash at Molyneux Park.

During the winter skating, ice hockey and curling are well catered for at the Alexandra Olympic-sized artificial ice rink. The artificial ice ensures skating activities are enjoyed all winter but if the Manorburn Dam, (10 minutes from town by car) freezes sufficiently, it provides the largest area of skateable black ice in the Southern Hemisphere and is a unique venue to skate on.

Four of New Zealand's major skifields are within 1½ hours drive of Alexandra/Clyde. Jet boating is popular in the area and 4WD tours enable visitors to experience the rugged hill country. The Alexandra/Clyde district also has some of the best mountain biking terrain in the country and hosts the Mountain Bike Gold Rush Weekend each year.

see also the following web pages:
Picnics in the Alexandra region
The Alexandra Clock
Walks and hikes

see also the following websites:

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail
Otago Central Rail Trail



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