Guide12 Hours Central Otago

Dramatic landscapes and enchanting seasons abound in Central Otago. Enjoy a slice of it in 12 hours. 

The Central Otago Rail Trail.

Your guide to the best things to do in Central Otago

Otago is packed with powerful mountains, flowing rivers, historic buildings, and renowned fruit growing, so it’s no wonder the locals are so friendly. Who wouldn’t be happy to call Central Otago home?

Morning

Breakfast and coffee at Fusee Rouge café

64B The Mall, Cromwell

Do as the locals do and head to Fusee Rouge café for great coffee, great food, and great vibes. With the honour of being the first espresso machine and café in Cromwell, Fusee has been keeping locals caffeinated, using Supreme beans, since 2003.

For food choices, picture an endlessly changing selection of cabinet food, championing locally grown produce. Their Cromwell apple crumble muffins, seasonal soups, pulled pork wraps, and jam-filled donuts are just some of the items that could greet you upon entry. There’s always plenty of locals hanging around, so it’s a good spot to hear what’s happening in town or glean some advice if you’re a tourist.

Close up of a plate of food.

Culture at Cromwell Heritage Precinct

Melmore Terrace, Cromwell

Definitely the best kept secret of Cromwell, and even Central Otago is the Cromwell Heritage Precinct. Located on the shores of Lake Dunstan, this unique heritage attraction is a mix of original and reconstructed buildings dating back to the gold rush of the 1860s. Nowadays, artisan businesses populate some of the buildings and restored museum heritage offerings occupy the others.

A must-visit among the galleries, shops, and cafés is OCTA Gallery - located in the Belfast Store Building. OCTA showcases limited edition original prints and works by a mix of local and national artists, all curated by Chris de Jong. Chris will also happily share his vast knowledge about the artists and his history in printmaking. If you happen to be around on the weekend, make sure you check out the Cromwell Farmers & Craft Market held there every Sunday 9am - 1pm.

The old post office in Cromwell.

Wine tasting at Carrick Wines

247 Cairnmuir Road, Bannockburn

It wouldn’t be a trip to Central Otago without visiting a winery, and while it’s hard to fit many in 12 hours, it is important to experience the region's crowning glory - pinot noir. For a relaxed, boutique experience, visit Carrick Wines. Founded in 2000, Carrick Wines is a small winery with a focus on quality Pinot Noir and Organic Farming.

Specialising in small production, organically-certified wine, Carrick is about creating wines that are expressive of the land and season. You need to book a tasting throughout the week or call in Friday to Sunday when the restaurant is open.

Next, make your way to Alexandra for lunch.

The vineyard with snow capped mountains in the background.

Lunch

Lunch at The Courthouse Café

8 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra

A bit of an institution in Alexandra is The Courthouse Café, set in Alexandra's original Courthouse built in 1876. Reopened and refreshed in 2009, The Courthouse is all about comfort food done well in a relaxed dining experience. They offer an array of delicious in-house baked goods and menu items options like brisket burger, chicken and leek pie and pork spare ribs.

A large burger on a plate.

Afternoon

Shaky Bridge Short Walk

Shaky Bridge

Leaving Alexandra township, this short walk to the iconic Alexandra clock, which has served the town since 1968, is a great way to walk off lunch and take in the local sights. It also crosses over the historic Shaky Bridge (the name says it all) and then passes through vineyards before heading up the hill. The return journey should take around one hour.

Next make your way to Clyde.

Wander the historic streets of Clyde

Clyde

Moving on to the small historic and beautiful town of Clyde, take the time here to wander the streets and explore the rich gold mining heritage and historic buildings. As well as being known for its gold, Clyde also includes a number of stone fruit orchards, vineyards, and a backdrop of the Clutha River.

There’s a number of cafes, retail stores, and galleries to peruse too, including Folklore Fine Goods which opened in 2016 and inspires customers with a range of artisan quality home goods and accessories, sourced from local makers and around the world. A stone's throw away is Eade Gallery, a space that represents mainly Central Otago artists with a focus on the beauty of the region's landscape. As well as paintings, the gallery includes jewellery, ceramics, photography, and more. 

The historic streets of Clyde.

Evening

Dinner at Olivers Restaurant

34 Sunderland Street, Clyde

Occupying the original Victoria Store, which dates back to 1863, Olivers restaurant is one of three businesses, including Merchant of Clyde - a café-bakery-delicatessen - and the Victoria Store Brewery, that inhabit this historic spot. The restaurant is set between the original stone walls and the roaring fire and local produce dishes created by Head chef James Waite, are hard to beat on a cold Central Otago night. To wash it all down, The Victoria Store Brewery produces a range of craft beers in the custom-built brewery next door.

The exterior of Olivers Restaurant.

Culture at Clyde Cinema

6a Naylor Street, Clyde

To finish off what will have been an epic day, head to Clyde Cinema and sit back and relax with a drink in hand. Catch one of the latest flicks at this boutique 42-seater cinema that dates back to the more recent times of 2013. 

The exterior of Clyde Cinema.

All Guides