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If you're starting your journey here it can be hard to leave! With mountain peaks as far as the eye can see, shimmering lakes, and crisp alpine air, Queenstown is quite simply a place of pure inspiration. Whether you have an appetite for adventure or prefer tracking down fine wine and cuisine, the region provides the perfect mix of action and relaxation.
Having experienced all the thrills of the adventure capital, it’s time to take your leave of Queenstown and head for back country charms.
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Follow the mighty Kawarau and Clutha rivers into the barren thyme and schist covered hills of the Alexandra basin. Less than an hour from town, you’ll be surrounded by the vineyards of Cromwell and Bannockburn.
Our tip: Stop and taste the Pinot Noir
Brisk cold winters and hot dry summers have helped create the unique Central Otago terrain which produces internationally-acclaimed wines. Many local wineries have tasting rooms and restaurants.
If you visit in summer, you’ll also experience the sweet aromas of ripening fruit in the orchards and roadside stalls, or the lingering perfume of thyme flowering on the hillsides.
Hidden gem: Lake Dunstan
Cromwell sits next to the brilliant turquoise waters of Lake Dunstan. Relax at a cafe in Old Cromwell Town and absorb the exquisite view.
As you pass through Alexandra, and take in the rocky landscape pierced by mountains, river and tussocks, you may also spot the clock on the hillside above town. You can walk to the top of the rocky hill face – no more than 30 minutes return – where the 11-metre clock keeps a timely eye on the locals.
Driving on through the little settlements along the road, you’ll be reminded of another time – a golden era when men seeking their fortune crowded these wild mountain valleys. In the late 1860s, when the Otago gold rush was in full swing, gold miners from Europe, China and Australia flooded into this land.
Clyde and Lawrence
You’ll hear old gold mining tales in Clyde or further along the road in Lawrence where little cafés and craft shops line the main street. At Gabriel’s Gully, 3km from Lawrence, you can visit the old mine site and try panning for a piece of Central Otago gold.
Hidden gem: Clutha River
The Clutha River is open year round for trout and salmon fishing. If you've got a taste for fresh fish, grab a rod and have a go.
When you're ready, carry on down the valley and get ready to swap the thyme studded hills for coastal views on the way to Dunedin.
Dunedin is a heritage city with a youthful vibe. This university town is filled with many grand examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, including New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle. Just out of town, the Otago Peninsula, is a natural haven for rare coastal wildlife like penguins, albatross, seals and sea lions.
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Where to Next?
Dunedin doesn't have to be the end of your South Island adventures. From here you can go north to Christchurch or back towards Queenstown via the southern scenic route.