The Otago Rail Trail is one of the foremost cycle trails in the world, and is the premier great ride in New Zealand

The Central Otago Region of New Zealand : Rediscovered

Map showing where both Central Otago District and Queenstown Lakes district are on the South Island of New Zealand

Central Otago showcases the ability of an area with unique natural attributes to re-invent itself. The combination of a stunning, but rugged vista along with an interesting historic past centred around gold-mining, provides the ideal tourism settling. Today, it is an area that has evolved into a standout tourism destination with direct international flights, and a diversity in activities that matches the continental seasons its possesses. For all of that, it is still relatively easy to get away from it all and feel that you are alone with mother nature in an unspoilt paradise.

The Central's Distinctive Landscape

The Central Otago Region has distinctive rocky outcropping, rugged landscapes and sparse vegetation

The landscape of the Central Otago  is covered with wildflowers over New Zealand's summer months

Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown is perhaps one of the most photographed scenery in new Zealand

The Central Otago area itself a land of rugged beauty surrounded by mountain peripheries, with numerous transitions from a vast largely treeless land that varies from rolling hillsides to gently undulating plains. The landscape is dominated by a bronzed topography, shades of tussock, and outcroppings of grey stone, all of which is softened by hardy grasses and scrubs. Interspersed are wide meandering shingly streams and rivers that abound with willow and other vibrant trees. Central is the land of early gold mining, and old rusting machinery remains in places, and the scourings of the goldfish days have mellowed and add to the rough-hewn beauty of the area.

The neighbouring Queenstown lakes area is the ideal complement, composed of rising mountain ranges encircling a variety of mountain lakes creating some of the most idyllic scenery in the world. Lake Wakatipu, with the Remarkables mountain range along its southern margins, and Coronet Peak to its north-west is New Zealand’s longest lake at 80 km along its zigzag shape. Lake Wanaka, New Zealand fourth largest lake and for many years the bridesmaid to the former has a personality of its own with easy access to snow and water. The lakes area, possessing a near continental climate, is renowned for its skiing slopes in the winter season and water-sports in the summer.

The Main centres of Central Otago.

As with all popular destinations, Central Otago has come to take in a much larger region than its original name would imply, and while administratively the Central Otago District is a much smaller area, for visitors the area has come to take in both the Queenstown-Lakes as well. The Main centres in the greater central region include Alexandra and Queenstown on the main thoroughfare, with both Cromwell and Clyde located between them. The Queenstown- Wanaka route has the main ski-fields situated along it, while Clyde to Ranfurly possesses the impressive Otago Rail Cycle Trail.

A detailed Map of the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes Disticts showing where Lake Whakatipu, Lake Wanaka, Queenstown,Alexandra,Clyde,Cromwell, and Arrowtown are locatedAmmended from Linz (CC by 4.0)

The Start of Homegrown Tourism in New Zealand.

A view of Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu just after duskRobert Young : Flickr [Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)]

Arrowtown just outside of Queenstown maintains its old historic gold mining atmosphere, and posseses a great selection of cafes, and restaurants

For New Zealanders, especially those in the south island, Central Otago has always been the place to go on holiday and the annual pilgrimage for the Christmas break from the more populated coastal regions around Christchurch and Dunedin has a long history over many generations. Favourite holiday destinations, that for most of the year would have a permanent population of hundreds, would swell into thousands filling all the motels, camping grounds, farmers paddocks. Those lucky enough to have cribs (bachs) would be inundated with tents and cars of family and friends and for a few weeks everyone lived and enjoyed each other's company together in one big extended village.

As news about Central Otago spread, the influx of visitors has spread through most of the year, and some destinations are so popular that today tourists outnumber local residents for much of the time. While Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, is the jewel in the crown and has earned an enviable reputation for its stunning beauty and adventure activities, other lakes provide differing perspectives such as Lake Hayes in autumn with its many shades of colour, presents a spectacular sight with light and shadows.

Things to do - Adventure, History, Stone Fruit, and Wine.

Queentown boasts a wide and extensive array of adventure tourism activities, including bungy jumping, tramping, walking,cycling,paragliding, and jet boating to name a few Robert Young : Flickr [Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)]

Central Otago has always been renowned for its stone and pip fruit, producing amazing tasting plums, apricots, cherries, apples, nectarines, and peaches

The area is one of the foremost adventure destinations in the world with a network of major ski-fields, paragliding, bunny jumping, tramping tracks and cycle-trails being forever popular. Alternatively, some of the finest golf courses are located nearby, fly fishing is acclaimed, and high country horse treks available. Gold mining, having made such a stamp on the area historically is still carried out by a few.

The region’s unique clime and landscape have made it ideal for certain plantation trees and has always been noted for its stone and pip fruit around the Cromwell and Clyde areas, particularly apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, and cherries. The sight of vibrant colours of ripened fruit during the summer months provides a striking contrast to the often rugged backdrop of the surrounding countryside. Steadily, the region has become famous for its Pinot Noir wine, and significant vineyards have sprung up between Queenstown and Clyde. Growing hand in hand is a rich and innovative artisan food industry that is developing its own distinctive character, that often is organic in its nature.

Central Otago's History : The Compelling Early Years .

The Post and Telegraph office of Ophir, just outside of Alexandra built in 1886 is one of the historic buildings located in Ophir Central Otago

Remains of the Gold-rush days remain strewn over Central Otago, a reminder of the regions historic past

The extraordinary influx of miners searching for that elusive fortune in gold created the demand for fresh stone fruit, and orchards and market gardens sprung up around Clyde and Cromwell. While gold mining provided an early impetus to the region's development from the 1860’s onwards, high country farming has also provided a rich past that is unlike any other area of New Zealand.

Because of the sometimes incised terrain, building a transport network to service the needs of early enterprises provided a focus for communities. The railways proved to be critical to the existence of many towns, with new areas been developed solely due to their position to the proposed line, while previous thriving towns withered and died due to the lines being installed away from them.

Today, many objects and structures associated with gold mining, or the railways, are strewn all around the countryside. The stout wooden frames and riveted steel structures enshrine the engineering prowess of the that era. Further, a countryside that once seemed to be ravaged by hydraulic mining techniques, have now taken on a more picturesque perspective.

And Old Boiler Unit associated with a gold mining stamping battery just outside of Oturehua, along the Otago Rail Trail in the South Island of new Zealand.

An old historic timber lift tower as part of the mechanism left over from Gold Mining tunnelling near Oturehua on the Otago Rail Trail in new Zealand

After the Goldrush : A Region in Decline.

Sheep farming forms an important part of the Central Otago economy, grazing mainly on the low lands closer to the Otago coast

Sparse stands of trees grow in the various valleys over the ruggesd landscape of central Otago in the South Island.

In later years, the development of road networks, combined with increased transport efficiency provided by long-haul trucks, saw the demise of rail transport. As a consequence, following a long slow decline of both goods an passenger the Central Otago Line was closed in the 1980’s. At a similar time farm management methods changed and permanent farm staff decreased dramatically, with a consequence dwindling of the many smaller surrounding communities.

As with many heartland regions of New Zealand, families moved away, businesses shut down, and much was left as if in a time capsule. It was not until some decades had passed, that any new industry appeared, and while seen at the time as a slump in its prosperity, this has enabled the region to highlight its past, unadulterated by more recent occurrences. In fact, this stagnation has been instrumental in the subsequent resurgence of some parts of the region.

Tourism | The New Economy for Central Otago.

Paragliding forms one of the popular adventure tourism sports on Lake Whakatipu Robert Young : Flickr [Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)]

The region between Queenstown and Clyde in new Zealand's Central Otago, is becoming renowned for its Pinot Noir wine

Perhaps second only to skiing, riding the many Cycle trails is the second most popular adventure tourism activity in the greater Central Otago Region of the South Island

There is no denying that the spectacular scenery and exceptional skiing regions around the Otago Lakes District has a major catalyst for much of the tourism development in Central Otago. While the Lakes District is adjacent to Central Otago, there are many synergies and together they present a distinctive appearance to visitors. Firstly, Lake Wakatipu, and then Lake Wanaka became favourite holiday destinations for South Islanders long before the word tourism had any real relevance to New Zealand itself.

The fact that Queenstown offers a multitude of holiday activities for both summer and winter, has provided the greater region the ability to factor off its natural attributes and seize opportunities that may not have otherwise seemed feasible. The natural scenic beauty that surrounds local areas such as Arrowtown, and Lake Hayes in the subject of much photography, alongside world-class golf courses nearby. The development and success of the Otago Rail Cycle trail has given a stimulus to a far wider region and created interest in its history, and earlier goldrush days. The stone and pip fruit industry has been long-standing, but more recently world-class wines are being produced, and artisan culinary industries are making a name for themselves.

Any time of the year the Central Otago Region of New Zealand has a unique appeal to Visitors.

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