One of the fun things for me about traveling around Central Otago, was the place names. Roxburgh, Bannockburn, Hampden, Ettrick, Clyde…all Scottish, all fun to see so far from ‘home’.
Our first stop on day five of our trip was Cromwell (named after Oliver Cromwell so I read). We drove past Lake Dunstan, a man-made lake and reservoir formed on the Clutha River after the construction of the Clyde Dam. The lake provides irrigation for the local stone fruit orchards and vineyards as well as being used for recreation.
This part of New Zealand was primarily first settled by Europeans because of gold, and there are many monuments that you pass by while driving dedicated to various gold exploits. It is also far from the sea: there is a point near Cromwell that is 119km from the sea, the farthest anywhere in New Zealand.
When in Cromwell, it is essential to visit the Cromwell Heritage Precinct. The area has original and reconstructed buildings from the 1860s, from the old gold town of Cromwell. Now it is filled with craft shops, cafes and other shops as well as a display of artifacts in the old newspaper office.
Coming into the old part of the town
One of the preserved buildings
We also spent a short time in the main part of Cromwell, which is home to a some Big Fruit (an apricot, apple, pear and nectarine), constructed in 1989 and rising to a height of 13m.
Local apricots – what the area is famous for
After all that, we headed to Bannockburn, not the site of the battle in 1314, but an area with many vineyards, so not a bit like the other Bannockburn by any stretch of the imagination. The area is famous for its pinot noir wine, and I have to say that of the different wines I tasted that day, by far and away this grape varietal was the best. We visited three: Akarua, Bannock Brae Wines and Domain Road Vineyard, sampled some wine and bought some to drink later. It’s well worth doing a wine tasting tour should you be in the area.
View from Bannock Brae Wines
From there our final stop was at Wanaka, a summer and winter tourist resort on the banks of Lake Wanaka. It was extremely busy, and full of visitors, but we did take a short walk around before driving back to Lake Roxburgh.
Relaxing at the end of the day
Where we stayed: Lake Roxburgh Lodge. Situated in the village of Lake Roxburgh, the lodge has a fully licensed restaurant and a great terrace to sit on and sip a glass of local wine in the sunshine. Each room has its own balcony/terrace too. It is a lovely quiet place, the food really good (they even offer boiled eggs and toasted soldiers at breakfast) and friendly and informative hosts, Kim and Phil Winterbottom. It is a bit away from Roxburgh and Alexandra if you want to eat elsewhere in the evening, but we found the choice and food fine at the lodge. The venison cooked with wine, herbs and cranberries and covered in puff pasty with a port wine sauce was a delight, and served with more vegetables than you normally get in restaurants.