Central Otago, South Island

including Cromwell and Alexandra

Central Otago

Central Otago

Kawarau and Clutha Rivers, Cromwell, Central Otago

Welcome to Central Otago

Central Otago

Walks and Parks

Walks & Parks

Get Outdoors!

Discover the region's walks, parks, beaches, lakes or rivers.

Just an hour's drive from Queenstown or the back yard of Dunedin takes you to the stunning, stark and rugged goldminers' country of Central Otago.  One of the most perfect ways to experience this iconic New Zealand backcountry is by biking the Otago Central Rail Trail.  The old railway has been converted to an almost completely flat, wide and easy-to-ride bike trail that is enjoyed by thousands each year and makes a great, alternative family outing.   The whole trail is approximately 150km and can be done comfortably in 3 days.  There's lots of companies that provide support and transport, bike hire and accommodation options, to make your planning easy.  The rail trail runs between Clyde and Middlemarch.  Other activities close to the Southern Lakes area of Central Otago, are focused around Cromwell, Clyde and Alexandra, and on the Clutha River.

Cromwell

A 45 minute drive from Queenstown or Wanaka and one of New Zealand's most inland towns, is Cromwell – gateway to Central Otago.  On the shore of Lake Dunstan and the bank of the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers, Cromwell is one of Otago's top wine and fruit-growing regions with a funky 'old' town to explore and the region's exciting family attraction, Highlands.  Most of historic Cromwell is now underwater – as the Clyde Hydro Dam was constructed the waters of the Clutha River and what is now Lake Dunstan, rose behind it, eventually submerging 280 homes, 6 farms, 17 orchards and 2 bridges.

In 1985 a selection of historic buildings due to be submerged were rescued and relocated to where they stand now, on the banks of the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers, and so begain Old Cromwell Town.

The Roxburgh Gorge Trail

Tour through exceptional landscape to rival anywhere in New Zealand - the mightly Clutha River's mesmerising green water, the rocky cliffs, covered in thyme with its unmistakeable sweet smell and a trail that while undulating in parts requires no particular riding experience.  Look out for the old goldmining ruins and cottage at Doctors Point, and other relics from the goldrush dotted along the Clutha.

Notes: We'd recommend the Roxburgh Gorge Trail for those with older children.  Be aware that although the trail is wide, there are steep drop-offs in several sections.

Practical Stuff
The trail splits into three sections; there is a 10km section from Alexandra to Doctors Point, then 10km of no access except via boat transfer, then a final 12km section from your boat drop-off point at Shingle Creek to Roxburgh Dam.
At the moment boat transfer is $95 per head, and takes around half an hour.  This can be pre-booked here.
Whilst the boat transfer is all part of the fun, if you don't wish to splash out on this section, you can grab the kids and ride either end of the trail as a half day (or less) ride, departing from either Alexandra or Lake Roxburgh (Roxburgh Dam).

The Clutha Gold Trail

This 73km mostly flat and exceptionally well-graded trail takes you from Roxburgh Dam to Lawrence, and up until Beaumont you're following the shores of the Clutha River.  This is easy enough to complete in a day if you're reasonably fit, but as a family outing, we'd recommend either picking a section for a short ride, or staying in some of the friendly accommodation available along the way.  The main locations for accommodation are Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Beaumont and Lawrence.  If you travel overnight, there are shuttle services available to return you and bikes back to your starting point.

Somebody's Darling
Well worth the short detour (just over 1km) is a visit to the Lonely Graves, where Somebody's Darling is buried.  I could say more, but read the story when you get there!

Map of New Zealand
  • Queenstown
  • Northland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Wanaka
  • Fiordland
  • Taupo
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • North Canterbury
  • Waikato
  • Hawkes Bay
  • South Canterbury
  • Manawatu
  • Rotorua
  • Nelson & Golden Bay
  • Taranaki
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Southland
  • Central Otago
  • Dunedin
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport

Our favourite destinations…

Auckland destination2

Auckland

New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!

Wellington

Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.

Christchurch

With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.

Queenstown

With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.

Rotorua

Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!

Northland

Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.