I don’t like to think I’m getting old yet but, five weeks ago I suffered a knee injury. It happened when I was hiking to the top of Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf in preparation for walking the Milford Track.
I’ve been seeking treatment ever since. Vigilant with my exercises and drugs, but to no avail.
So, a couple of days ago I waved my walking mates off as they took the bus to Te Anau to start the Milford Track. As the bus pulled out I waved a feeble goodbye and shed a tear.
With my tail between my legs I walking away from the bus depot, but with the determination to still have a good time. So I decided to discover Central Otago.
I headed for Clyde in the heart of Central Otago where I based myself at Olivers Lodge and Stable.
David and Andrea Ritchie, owner of Olivers moved to Clyde from their corporate, Remuera life eight years ago. They have transformed what was a derelict holiday house of a Southland farmer. Back then the building had no running water or heating.
Today, the lodge and stables has 11 luxurious rooms. In addition, there is a sitting room, kitchen and dining room for breakfast, surrounded by beautiful gardens. While the lodge houses the more spacious bedrooms, the old stables have been put to good use providing smaller bedrooms with the Mr Ed horse doors intact.
The lodge and stables are warm and welcoming and beautifully decorated by Andrea with no detail overlooked. A telephone sits in the kitchen asking you to call on your arrival. Within minutes Andrea or David are at your side showing where the fresh milk is and everything you need to know. Breakfast is included with home-made bread, muesli, fruit compote and best of all an egg mould, lined with ham and a topped with a cherry tomato… delicious.
Next door is Olivers Restaurant, also part of the establishment. Its reputation is as good as Olivers Lodge and Stables. A large garden with fruits trees extends beyond the bar and restaurant with a high antique door from a demolished local church connecting the two properties. I ate at the restaurant and the food was fabulous.
This is what have I found compelling about Central Otago.
Alexandra’s the hub of the Central Otago region
Just 10 km from Clyde, Alexandra is bigger than I had imagined with a KFC and other tell-tale signs that would indicate there are more than a few inhabitants.
While I photographed the clock on the hill, the river and bridges what really caught my eye were the number of great curiosity shops full of old dinner sets, crystal and more. If you are interested head to Tarbert Street and start in Acquire.
If you are looking to learn a little about the region, head to the i-site where you’ll find the Central Stories William Bodkin Memorial Museum. It showcases the unique stories of Central Otago. These stories include the early explorers, gold, dredging & mining, farming, orcharding, viticulture and more.
Clyde is my pick Central Otago’s wonderful towns
As you enter the town it is impossible not to notice the Clyde Dam, built-in the 1970 and 1980’s. While there was controversy at the time, the flooding of the Cromwell Gorge created Lake Dunstan and which is now seen as a recreational asset.
Clyde has a small historical area reminiscent of the gold rush days. Olivers Lodge and Stables, the Dunstan Hotel, Dunstan House and Dunstan Lodge dominate the street with smaller buildings in between. In addition there is a cinema, art gallery, bike shop, a lovely homeware designer shop, a high fashion women’s clothing store and Touch Yarns. This store has to be visited to appreciate the old craft of knitting.
The town is delightful and it’s easy to just potter and enjoy. I also ate at Paulina’s Restaurant and had excellent tempura prawns and delicious dumplings.
Cromwell has an wonderful heritage precinct
Cromwell is a reasonably sized town and growing, with all the amenities needed for the locals and tourists alike. While primary industries such as farming and fruit-growing provide the backbone of the economy, Central Otago has become a fashionable place to live and visit. As a result, newer industries such as viticulture and tourism are on the increase with construction and business services growing to support it.
The Cromwell Heritage Precinct is certainly worth a look reminding us of what Central Otago used to be like, in the 1860’s during the gold rush.
Bannockburn great wines
Bannockburn is a small historic gold mining town located on the outskirts of Cromwell. Like most Central Otago towns it came about because of the rich alluvial gold fields that were mined extensively in the 1860s.
While the gold sluicing is still evident with a 3-kilometre loop walk in Fenton Road, Bannockburn is now famous for its Pinot Noir wines. Fenton Road is home to many Central Otago’s finest Pinots. While most of the wineries have a cellar door, Mt Difficulty and Carrick Wines put on a great lunch, but bookings are essential.
Sitting just above Fenton Road is the Bannockburn Hotel. With Mt Difficulty booked out, I stopped here for lunch at the hotel and enjoyed good food, although the service was a little slow.
Not far down the road heading towards Queenstown is the Gold Fields Mining Centre. As well as gold panning you can enjoy a ride in the Goldfield Jet up the river. If you are a little peckish I’d highly recommend Wild Earth Winery and Kitchen. Their “Oak Stave” a shared platter for two will make your eyes water!
After my wonderful few days in Central Otago, I’m off to Milford Sound to meet up with my walking mates and enjoy the celebrations and a cruise on Milford fiord. I’m sad missed the walk, but feel all the all the richer for discovering the less well visited parts of Central Otago.