Welcome to Central Otago Recreation ideas
Alexandra and Cromwell townships are good bases from which to explore Central Otago, a popular outdoor destination for mountain biking, walking, four-wheel driving, fishing and sharing picnics. The vast ‘big sky’ landscape offers a variety of adventures and places to explore.
Choosing a picnic Spot
Choosing a picnic spot Great picnic spots can be found at Lanes Dam, Alexandra (Aronui) Dam, Mitchells Cottage and Bendigo/Logantown. For picnic spots with swimming opportunities, visit Blue Lake, St Bathans and Lower Manorburn Dam. For the more adventurous, explore Hyde Rock or the Come in Time Battery.
Alexandra and Cromwell Cycling
There are a number of cycling and mountain biking options in this region: • Short trips: Millennium Track (Alexandra to Clyde), Cromwell to Pisa Moorings and Manuherikia River Track. • Pedal-grinding a-plenty: Prospect – Omeo loop, Thomsons Gorge Rd, Hawksburn Road (Pylon Track), Cairnmuir Hill Track or cycle along the tops of Kopuwai Conservation Area. • Longer or multi-day trips for beginners: Otago Central Rail Trail, Clutha Gold Trail or Roxburgh Gorge Trail.
Otago Central Rail Trail
New Zealand’s original great ride, this easy gradient 150 km trail follows the former railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch.
• Visit the Golden Progress Poppet Head near Oturehua.
• Travel through the schist bluffs, tunnels and viaduct of the Poolburn gorge.
• Stop and enjoy a coffee or beer in the cafés and country pubs in trailside towns.
Explore and experience the high country tussocklands. Four-wheel driving and mountain biking are popular in Central Otago, with tracks providing access to many backcountry places (these tracks can be done in either direction).
Above 1,000 m, temperatures can drop quickly, even in midsummer. Please take warm and windproof clothing. It is recommended that 4WD vehicles travel in pairs with recovery gear.
Central Otago is characterised by hot, dry summers and freezing winters. It has many unique species that have adaptations that help them survive in what can be a challenging environment. The distinctive blocky mountains, with their rock tors and sweeping tussocks are inhabited by the Otago skink, the mountain stone wētā, and the New Zealand eastern falcon/kārearea. Alpine flowers display their fragile beauty in spring, occasionally carpeting the tops in subtle colour. The valleys and river terraces have poor, fragile and often salty soils, where threatened cushion plants and rare invertebrates like the Cromwell chafer beetle live. Central Otago’s reservoirs and rivers are also home to rare galaxiid species (small native fish)
The first big stations were started in Central Otago in the 1850s, with run-holders driving their stock inland over untracked and difficult terrain. It could take over a year to get the sheep from the coast to inland stations. There was little timber available, so stone and sods were the main building materials for the earliest run-holders. There are many examples of old farm buildings dotted around the area, some built with such skill that they are largely intact today.
Otago Walking Tracks
Here are a few of the many walking tracks available , for more detailed information see the Department of Conservation Brochure
1. Mitchell’s Cottage
This cottage is one of the best examples of stone masonry in New Zealand. A popular picnic spot with great views, situated on Symes Road. 2. Roxburgh
2. Roxburgh Gorge Trail – 34 km, 1 day by bike
Alexandra to Roxburgh Dam. A spectacular trail that travels alongside the Clutha River/Mata-Au. The trail winds through a gorge with 350 m-high bluffs. This trail is undulating with a few steep sections. The 13 km section between Doctors Point and Shingle Creek is travelled by boat. There is access to SH8 via a steep track through Flat Top Hill Conservation Area. This trail is managed by the Roxburgh Gorge Trail Charitable Trust.
2a. Clutha Gold Trail – 73 km, 2 days
Starting in Roxburgh, this trail follows the Clutha River/Mata-Au through the beautiful Beaumont Gorge to Lawrence. Parts of the trail follow the old Roxburgh Branch railway line, and include the 440 m Bill Hill Tunnel. This trail links with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and is managed by the Clutha Gold Trail Charitable Trust.