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This is a short 7 night tour through the Otago coastal and central region of New Zealand’s South Island. Dunedin and Oamaru are both beautifully preserved Victorian towns. Oamaru is a hidden food-lovers delight, full of small artisan producers and wonderful pioneers such as Fleur’s at Moeraki. Dunedin has a range of activities from wildlife excursions to excellent museums and art galleries. Wanaka and Clyde are both in Central Otago; known for sunshine, captivating scenery, boutique wineries and magnificent lakes and rivers. The Central Otago Rail Trail offers relatively easy bike riding through little old gold-mining towns, with delicious cafes and quaint small pubs along the way.
Day 1 - Oamaru, North Otago
Do: Arrive Dunedin Airport and drive north to Oamaru
Stay: Pen-y-bryn Lodge
It is an easy 2 hour drive from Dunedin to Oamaru. On the way a stop at Fleur's and Moeraki is a must. Drive off the highway and down to the small fishing village of Moeraki. Arrival at lunchtime will provide you with cuisine at Fleur’s restaurant straight from the sea to your plate. Afterwards go for a stroll along the beach to view the Moeraki boulders or climb to the lighthouse behind the village watching out for the seals enroute. Pen-y-bryn Lodge is high on a hill above the old town. The lodge gives you an insight into what New Zealand would have been like in the early days of the colony, with its billiard room and extensive formal living areas. Your hosts are superb chefs and you should book tonight’s dinner in advance.
Day 2 - Oamaru to Wanaka, Southern Lakes
Do: drive Oamaru to Wanaka (via Mt Cook)
Stay: Riverrun Lodge
Spend time in the morning exploring Oamaru, an old port town with some of New Zealand’s best preserved Victorian precincts, many of the old buildings now house local food and craft artisans. Your hosts will direct you for your drive up the Waitaki Valley. It is only 3 hours to Wanaka so you can stop enroute to discover New Zealand’s newest wine region and you may also find time to head slightly north at Omarama to visit Mt Cook Village (add one hours driving time each way) and the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre. Riverrun Lodge is just outside Wanaka township on a 500 acre merino sheep farm. Book dinner for the night you arrive.
Day 3 - Wanaka, Southern Lakes
A half-day trip up Lake Wanaka to Mou Waho island and hike up to an idyllic little lake called the Arethusa Pool with panoramic views of Lake Wanaka. Your guide from Eco Wanaka Adventures will point out buff weka, falcons, wood pigeons, bellbirds, fantails, wax eyes, greywarblers, the occasional kaka, geko lizards and wetas. If you are still feeling active in the afternoon ask your host for a recommendation on a 1-2 hour lakeside walk or mountain bike.
Day 4 - Central Otago Rail Trail
Do: Central Otago Rail Trail (Clyde to Omakau/Ophir)
Stay: Rail Trail accommodation arranged by your outfitters Shebikeshebikes
Drive from Wanaka to Olivers lodge in Clydfe (you can leave larger suitcases there for safe-keeping). Today you ride the first section of the trail to Alexandra (by the rail trail route or the Clutha river) and up Tiger Hill to Omakau. Approx 37 kms.
Day 5 - Central Otago Rail Trail
Do: Central Otago Rail Trail (Omakau/Ophir to Wedderburn)
Your second day on the Rail Trail, through river gorges and short tunnels and across railway viaducts. Approx 41 kms. At the finish, enjoy a cold beer in the Wedderburn hotel before being transported back to Olivers in Clyde. Olivers is a delighfully renovated collection of old stone buildings grouped around a pretty courtyard. A good spot from which to explore Central Otago Wine Country.
Day 6 - Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula
Do: drive from Clyde to Dunedin
Stay: Fletcher Lodge
The drive between Clyde and Dunedin takes only 2 1/2 hours via Roxburgh and Lawrence. If you are doing this in summer you can stop for fresh fruit (cherries, apricots, nectarines) enroute. Lawrence is a good place to pause for a light lunch or coffee. Fletcher Lodge is a restored Edwardian Villa, well located in central Dunedin. Ask your hosts to book dinner for you tonight at a recommended restaurant.
Day 7 - Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula
Do: explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Stay: Fletcher Lodge
The Otago Peninsula has a remote and rugged landscape rich in wildlife and human history. The Peninsula is known as the only mainland colony of the majestic royal albatross and there is a good opportunity for viewing and learning about these amazing birds at The Royal Albatross Centre. For a completely different experience take a tour of Larnach Castle, a Wuthering Heights of a stately home, set high on the peninsula hills with magnificent gardens and a melodramatic history. In Dunedin itself visit the Otago Museum and the Early Settlers Museum, as well as the Dunedin Art Gallery (which also has a good cafe).
Day 8 - Journey’s End
Depart from Dunedin Airport or link to another itinerary.
OPTIONAL GUIDED ACTIVITIES
Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony - www.penguins.co.nz
Ridgeline Tours offer a high country farm tour with magnificent views over Lake Wanaka - www.ridgelinenz.com Siberia Experience is a full day fly-in and jet-boat out hike in Mt Aspiring National Park - www.siberiaexperience.co.nz
Appellation Wine Tours offer guided tours of the wineries of the Bannockburn, Cromwell and Gibbston Valley sub-regions - www.appellationcentral.co.nz
Elm Wildlife Tours provide excellent tours of Otago Peninsula wildlife - www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz
The historic Taieri Gorge Railway offers a fascinating alternative connection between Dunedin and Middlemarch and the Central Otago Rail Trail.