1 / 7
Sure you could jump on a bus and roll down to enchanting Dunedin from Queenstown direct - no problem. It’s a fact that the scenery is nothing short of stunning.
There’s the low lying coastal beauty of Dunedin, the great southern ‘Lord of the Rings’ outback of Central Otago and the simply sublime mountain / lakes region of Queenstown and Wanaka.
But wouldn’t you want to break the journey up a little with a few thrills along the way? Jump off the bus a couple of times and experience the land and people constantly whizzing past your window?
Well that’s what Connexions do best. They allow you to experience the land and soak up the vast and staggering landscape first hand.
Your journey takes place in a modern and comfortable coach with drivers who really know the region. They will tell you all about it without badgering you with bucket-loads of boring statistics!
But how many foot-soldiers on the front lines of their New Zealand adventure know that the Connexions service also affords you the ability to enjoy numerous other treats along the way?
Connexions understand that instead of just warming the seat on a coach you may want to have a whale of a time along the way. That’s why they have put together some really well thought out packages that provide you with some thrills whilst getting you across half of the South Island in just one day.
The key to these packages being so much fun is a couple of great attractions, the first of which is the world famous Taieri Gorge Railway. This rail line is a magnificent engineering feat constructed in harsh conditions during the latter part of the 19th century.
It was built by hardy pioneers with nothing more than pick, shovel and dynamite. This heritage trip is inaccessible by public road, traverses spectacular viaducts and meanders through tunnels carved steadfastly into the hillsides – all the way to Pukerangi, the hill of heaven.
The second delicacy on offer is the Otago Central Rail Trail cycling and walking track.
Built on the old railway line (starting where the Taieri Gorge Train stops in Middlemarch), the popularity of the trail seems to be growing exponentially as thousands of people enjoy its incredible scenery and gentle inclines every year.
I remember reading a blog where a group of cyclists made fun of the fact that the only word they could use to describe the view around each corner was simply, ‘gobsmacking’!
Connexions packages afford you the ability to cycle a 1.5 hour section of what is generally agreed to be the most ‘gobsmacking’ section of the rail trail.
All the blogs and feedback we receive seem to agree that the Aupiro to Lauder section genuinely lives up to this adjective! This ‘Poolburn section’ of the trail provides you with phenomenal views, on one side over the vast Ida Valley, and the other over Lauder and the soothing river lands that lead up to the Clyde Dam.
This journey also challenges you to venture through two tunnels carved into shear rock with just basic tools and dynamite – the chisel makes are still there to see!
You will also traverse the third highest railway viaduct in New Zealand – the 37meter high Poolburn Viaduct built in 1901 – and the Manuherikia Bridge No.1 which is the longest and only curved bridge on the Rail Trail.
Connexions understand that you will need refreshments along the way, so together with bike suppliers ‘shebikehebikes’ they have a organised a tasty little packed lunch with the added bonus of a branded souvenir water bottle (all included in the package) as a constant reminder of your stellar achievement!
A second package also includes a chance to make some money back on your New Zealand adventures! Central Otago’s wealth was initially generated from the gold rush in the late 1800s, so how could you pass through this area without trying to take a little home with you yourself?
Pan for gold in the old gold mining town of Ophir which is a photographers paradise being home to all sorts of old buildings - some beautifully restored and others quite the opposite!
Ophir is also home to New Zealand’s oldest operating Post Office which is a magnificent little building.
Don't forget to finish off your day with a Central Otago wine and Speight's beer tasting experience (part of your Track & Trail package) on the site of the authentic old Mckinnons stable - made famous by the legendary Speight's 'Deer Stalkers Ball' television commercial.
This very cool building sits right next to the beautuifully restored Omakau Commercial Hotel where they serve some of the best food in the district.
Central Otago is a wonderland to be enjoyed, and I can only imagine how Tolkien would feel now if he could see this magnificent landscape that so aptly does justice to his descriptive brilliance.
However you do it, make sure you see this remarkable land for yourself…