On November 26, the Central Otago Touring Route was launched. Four years in the making, this 341km journey will take you from Dunedin to Queenstown through the Maniototo and Ida Valley. This driving tour is EV friendly, and traverses amazing terrain, through multiple significant heritage spots. Three to five days are recommended to really soak up this experience.
Rich with history, this route takes you through some of the journeys that were once made by Māori, and later by Pākehā. It follows part of the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail and is connected to nine Tohu Whenua sites, including: Olveston, Dunedin Railway Station, Larnach Castle, Hayes Engineering Works, Otago Central Rail Trail, Kawarau Suspension Bridge, Bannockburn Sluicings, Arrowtown, and TSS Earnslaw.
Starting in Dunedin and passing through Middlemarch, Kyeburn marks one of the first points along the route of historical significance in Central Otago, where Moa footprints were discovered in the Kyeburn River in 2019. A short drive away brings you to Ranfurly, a town filled with colourful art deco architecture.
As you enter the Ida Valley, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to stop at Oturehua, where Gilchrist’s Store has been servicing the local community since 1902. As you leave Oturehua, Hayes Engineering Works will give you a taste of what early farm life was like at this heritage site.
Head towards Ophir and stop for a wander in the heritage precinct, before driving through to Clyde. Both Ophir and Clyde have self-guided walking tours through the township, hitting significant heritage spots on the way. Before leaving Central Otago to head to Queenstown Lakes, consider heading over the Bannockburn bridge to the Bannockburn Sluicings, which highlight the impact of gold mining on the land, and includes a walk with beautiful views of the Cromwell Basin.
If you have extra time, there are plenty of opportunities to go off the beaten track, to check out other heritage sites, such as Naseby and St Bathans; both with heritage precinct areas to enjoy.
Should you find yourself instead driving through Central Otago via the Teviot Valley, the Roxburgh Service Centre has copies of the Teviot Valley Heritage Trail brochure. This is a self-guided driving trail through the Teviot Valley, from the Roxburgh dam to the Lonely Graves. The brochure contains stories of significant sites throughout the valley, and includes: Roxburgh Dam, Coal Creek, Roxdale Factory, Teviot power scheme, Roxburgh railway line and water vat, Roxburgh foundry, Pinders Pond, Teviot goods shed and loading bank, Teviot woolshed, Millers Flat Bakehouse, Horseshoe Bend and Lonely Graves.
Central Otago has 289 registered heritage buildings, places, sites and objects, and both the Central Otago Touring Route and the Teviot Valley Heritage Trail are great opportunities to visit some of these spots! For more information on either of these opportunities, visit www.centralotagonz.com.
Nikki Aaron, Community Development, Central Otago District Council