The Central Otago Regions
Central Otago is a place for all seasons, since each season has its own special flavour. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alexandra. Here they celebrate the arrival of spring with New Zealand's original Blossom Festival, and in summer welcome the crowds who come for a holiday in the Mediterranean sunshine amid hills fragrant with wild thyme. In autumn the landscape is at its best as the willows and poplars turn gold and amber along riverbanks and roadsides. The extraordinary clarity of light and cool, blue days that winter brings are the ideal backdrop for sightseeing or outdoor activities.
Stay a while to taste fruit from trees planted by some of the earliest pioneers, or local wines the produce of some of the region's newer connoisseur settlers. Or leave people behind and head for the hills on horseback, mountain bike or on one of the many walking tracks.
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For a perfectly-preserved pioneer town of the 1860s, head upriver to Clyde. Here buildings of stone, timber and cob are unchanged reminders of a golden heritage that's still reflected in the relaxed pace of life. Take the time to meander and the charm of Clyde will work its magic. Choose from visiting the unique local museums or gardens, depending on your interest for history or horticulture. Make the most of the many opportunities for water sports and recreation afforded by nearby Lake Dunstan. Linger over local cuisine at the fine restaurants and cafes housed in buildings over 100 years old.
Then, wherever you choose to lay your head at night luxury lodge, motel, homestay or holiday park your dreams are sure to be sweet.
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"Curling Capital of New Zealand"
If nature were a painter, then the Maniototo plains would surely be some of her finest work. And it's here, on this moody, dramatic landscape, that some of Central's best-kept secrets are waiting to be discovered. From the picturesque appeal of St Bathans and Naseby to the sheer magnificence of the Ida Valley, nature's palette takes your breath away.
The Maniototo formed part of the Dunstan trail, the route from coast to hinterland used by Otago's early pioneers and gold prospectors. Today the remnants of this busy past mud brick cottages, original pubs can still be visited in places like Patearoa, Paerau and Oturehua. But history is also preserved in the villages of Naseby and St Bathans, satellite townships, born of gold.
Recreational opportunities abound in Naseby, where mountain biking, golfing, curling, ice skating, swimming, and walking are just some of the options. The main street of St Bathans remains much as it did more than a century ago, but pays tribute to its heritage in a truly spectacular way with the famous Blue Lake, formed by mining sluices, where windsurfing and waterskiing can be enjoyed in summer.
Maniototo's attractions including some of Central's prime fishing locations are all within an easy drive of Ranfurly, a friendly township which provides a handy focal point for services and supplies.
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At the head of the Teviot Valley, just above Roxburgh, the aqua water of the Clutha river emerges from the Roxburgh Dam to continue its journey to the sea. On either side of this swift current lies some of the most fertile land in New Zealand, and it's from orchards on these banks that our best cherries, apricots, peaches and plums are distributed across the country and around the world.
But Roxburgh can justifiably lay claim to a lot more than world-leading stonefruit, good as it is. Within a short distance are some of the region's best fishing, swimming, boating and four wheel driving spots. Or, for the less actively inclined, choose from a selection of stunning picnic locations where there's little to do but lie back and enjoy the peace, scenery and excellent local produce.
The area is unspoiled by modern trappings but thoroughly indulged by the weather, which has created a dry microclimate that most of us can only dream about. But there's also something more an indefinable magic which makes you feel all is well in the world, that can only be felt when you're there. All the more reason to stay a while, explore the historic buildings and show gardens, and enjoy some real Roxburgh hospitality.
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Fortune shines on Cromwell and the nearby settlement of Bannockburn. Once these centres were the focus of a thriving goldmining trade. Today they still draw people from far and wide, thanks to the other, equally precious resources with which they have been endowed.
Summer fruit, ripened to perfection in the area's Mediterranean climate, is a large part of this new gold'. Equally celebrated is the local wine, the product of Bannockburn's sun-bathed rocky slopes, which somehow captures in a bottle the warm flavours and enduring spirit of this distinctive corner of Otago.
Cromwell, on the shores of Lake Dunstan, is the ideal base for exploration and adventure. Take your pick from fishing, boating, water skiing or, in winter, any one of the many ski fields handy. Ramble among the town's historic precinct, where local arts and crafts can be enjoyed.
Try your luck at gold panning, or venture into the scarred landscape around Bannockburn, where tailings and tumbledown cottages are a fascinating monument to the former golden era.
Here, as in the rest of Central, the land is rich in character. To fully appreciate its grandeur, spend some time walking in the dry schist ranges or head up to Bendigo, an old gold town where time seems almost to have stopped. Here the bones of buildings represent what was once New Zealand's frontier, but you can feel Central's spirit of adventure still very much among the hills.
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see also the following websites:
Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail
Otago Central Rail Trail