Central Otago
           

General Information


Central Otago, a place where you can leave the stresses of work behind, relax and soak up the atmosphere and get close to nature in a inspiring and timeless land. You will notice a change of pace when you come here. The district is one of the farthest from a coastline in New Zealand Where you get to know the locals. Alexandra is the largest town in the Central Otago district located on the banks of the Clutha River.

History


The Waitaha Iwi (tribe), are the first Māori settlers of the South Island. Due to the climatic seasons the people would follow the life cycles of the environment, gathering food from hunting, fishing and gardening while moving around the South Island in a similar fashion to the American Indians of the Great Plains. Central Otago was a good region for the Waitaha Iwi to hunt and travel through during the summer and autumn season. There are several archaeological sites that indicate the cooking ovens and hunting sites of the early occupation of Maori in Central Otago.

European settlement came about in Central Otago in the 1850s when blocks of land were leased. The development and foundations of the communities that make up Central Otago came about with the gold rush where the riverside townships and the mining towns on the rims of the basin were established.


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Attractions and Activities


There are multitudes of attractions and activities for you to choose from. Historical Museum and Art Gallery, Tucker Hill lookout, the original suspension bridge known as ‘Shaky Bridge’, Dredge Tailings Reserve, The Hillside Clock, Arts and Crafts Studio's, mountain biking, horse trekking, cross country four-wheel drives, the Dunstan Trail.

During winter there are the cross country ski trips, ice skating on the local lakes and snow skidoo, you can also retrace the steps of the hardy pioneers who carved their living from this harsh and often unforgiving environment. Try your hand at the ancient Scottish game of Curling, or take time out with trout fishing or maybe the Otago Central Rail Trail is more to your liking.

Geography


Central Otago affectionately called ‘Central’ by those that know it well, covers an area of 11,000km² and is dominated by mountain ranges and the upper reaches of the Clutha River, which is the second longest river in New Zealand, and has fewer than 16,000 permanent residents

Shopping


Despite the low population density all of the major retail chains are represented and there is a thriving, and growing café and art scene. The district abounds in wineries and is the source of a number of world-renowned wines, especially pinot noir, the local specialty.

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