Central Otago is a magical land carved out of solid rock by ancient Ice Age glaciers.
A land of big skies, wide open spaces, deep silent lakes, wide braided rivers, rippling golden tussock and primeval beech forests – all set against a background of New Zealand’s highest mountains.
The Southern Lakes District combines nature’s most powerful elements into a grandeur of breathtaking vistas that leaves the visitor speechless. The district has New Zealand’s only true Continental climate, so extremes of temperature and landscape are common here. Summers are sizzling hot and dry, autumn signals a blaze of colour and winters are cold and crystal clear. Whatever the season, the light is crisp and clear, skies are often star-studded and towering mountains almost seem within arms reach.
This is our own Middle Earth, where you can really become lost in space among the lakes, rivers, rocks and mountains. The Lakes District was first visited by moa-hunting Maori who created many tracks in their search for the highly valued greenstone (jade). These early tracks have now become scenic walkways and tourist roads.
The New Zealand economy was founded on sheep farming and grew dramatically when gold was discovered in the 1860’s. Now tourism is the driving force, along with farming, stone fruit and wine – grown in the world’s southernmost vineyards.
The legacy of the gold rush is written on the land in the form of ghost towns, ruins and relics. The atmosphere of hardship, despair and sometimes staggering wealth, is palpable in these isolated places. Towns like Queenstown and Wanaka, that occupy lake edge sites with breathtaking views, have prospered and grown. Others like Alexandra and Cromwell, have developed with the ‘edible gold’ of the stone fruit industry. But even with recent growth The Lakes District still feels uncrowded and peacefully isolated from mainstream New Zealand life.
There are many ways that visitors can appreciate the big blue glacial lakes and stately mountains like Mt Aspiring. Scenic flights by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft operate from most main tourist resorts. A network of tramping tracks and alpine huts provide access to many remote areas. Cruise boats ply the waters of Lakes Dunstan, Hawea, Wanaka and Wakatipu. Guided tours in 4WD vehicles are also popular. The District has some of the finest water sport and winter sport facilities in the country.
The Lakes District provides the true solitude of a timeless land like no other place in New Zealand. It’s much more than a region on a map – rather a place that remains in the heart forever. Don’t miss it.