Cycling through Central Otago

With its remarkable landscape and stunning views, Central Otago offers so much to see and do in an environment that will leave you wanting to stay forever. Grape production is a major industry in the Central Otago Wine Region, with Pinot Noir a speciality. It’s home to some of the country’s most award-winning wineries, not to mention some of New Zealand’s best tourist-attracting experiences.

Painters, potters, jewellers, print makers, bead workers and sculptors are dotted throughout the Central Otago region, and the newly-developed Arts Trail gives you the opportunity to visit artists in their own workplace.

Cycling the Otago Central cycle trails are an incredible way to explore the region’s finest. The Rail Trail is a 150km-long trail usually takes around four days to complete at a leisurely pace. There are many stops along the way for taking photographs, and generally taking in the views. One end of the Rail Trail is in Clyde which is an old gold-mining settlement, with old buildings clustered together. There is a brochure available in the town detailing the history of the buildings – well worth checking out.

The Roxburgh Gorge Trail offers more of a remote wilderness experience whereas the Clutha Gold Trail offers a real rural heartland experience combined with a wealth of gold mining history.

Alexandra, just down the road from Clyde, is positioned on the banks of Clutha River and is known as Central Otago’s business and political capital. There are numerous markets – on Saturday mornings during summer and autumn – and eateries to enjoy here. In fact, the Alexandra Courthouse, which operated from 1879 to 1972, now functions as a café and is worth a visit if you love feeling like you’re dining in a part of history.

Cromwell is a good base from which to explore the Heritage Trail and appreciate the golden heritage of the Central Otago region. The Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail stretches in a triangular shape from Lawrence in the south across to Glenorchy in the west, and to Golden Point Battery to the east.

Central Otago1

Gold was discovered in Cromwell in 1862 and once that gradually fizzled, the town became a service centre for the farming and fruit growing that followed (make sure you stop for a photo with its giant stone fruit statues). When the Clyde Dam was built in the 80s and 90s, the old town centre was flooded, but a group of forward-thinking local citizens moved many of the old buildings to the current site. Old Cromwell Town historic precinct is now a tourist destination where visitors can browse the shops or have a coffee in the wonderful old buildings.

If you love your wine, be sure to make time to stop in at The Nose Restaurant & Wine Adventure. With its own vineyard, the surrounds make this the perfect spot to enjoy al freso dining (even in winter next to its open fire in the outdoor lounge). The Aroma Room on offer is like no other wine tasting experience, which is both challenging and fun.

A few minutes’ walk from The Nose is Highlands Motorsport Park – home to the 101 race format. The 101 lap endurance race was first developed for the opening of Highlands 101 in 2013 when Highlands’ owner Tony Quinn wanted to create a race that rivalled the famed Bathurst 1000. Jump in for a ride, or just enjoy the adjacent museum or sculpture park.

Ranfurly is a town approximately one hour’s drive from Cromwell. Established in 1898 as a railhead for the Central Otago railway line, the neighbouring town of Naseby was the main centre of Maniototo. Because the railway bypassed Naseby, Ranfurly gradually took over as the administrative and economic centre of the area. In the early 1930s, several suspicious fires created a demand for a large number of new buildings. Art deco was the architectural style of the time, a trend that continues to this day.

For those willing to splash out, there are many companies that offer scenic helicopter flights across the region. The breath-taking views will leave you with one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And Golf lovers will also be in heaven as they explore some of the most scenic courses in the country.

With everything you can see and do in Central Otago, you’ll need as much time as you can spare.

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