"A Dry Land with Green Hills, Blue Lakes + Penguins" Top 5 Page for this destination Otago by Kakapo2

Otago Travel Guide: 1,624 reviews and 4,330 photos

Update July 2008

I had stored so many tips about Dunedin on my Otago page, and I visit the city so often that I have finally decided to dedicate an extra page to this beautiful place. For a start you will just find the relocated tips there but I am going to add a lot of new ones. I am also starting a page about Oamaru, famous for its blue penguin colony and its white stone buildings - and some more surprising things. My Queenstown page has been established for quite some time already.

A Hot Heart with a Cold Crust

When I think of Otago - the region between the Waitaki in the north and the Clutha River in the south - my first thought is Otago Peninsula which I do not tire to visit for its wonderful green scenery, the remoteness yet so close to a city (Dunedin) and its abundant wildlife, penguins and seals calling many of the beaches their homes, the albatrosses having chosen Taiaroa Head as their only mainland breeding colony, and the incredible lots of sea birds wading and waddling in and about the two big lagoon-like inlets.

My second thought is Central Otago which starts at the spectacular Lindis Pass. The desert-like landscapes which can be so faboulously experienced in slow-motion on the Otago Central Rail Trail, a two- or three- or even more day cycling tour.

I love those tussock grass landscapes which continue around the fantastic Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka, and even in the irrigated areas of the huge fruit orchards feel hot and dry. BTW - can anybody tell me why the cherries from Otago have to cost between 20 and 25 dollars per kilo???!

Gold Rush and Golden Autumns

I know that Queenstown is the number one tourist destination in New Zealand, and I would also include it in my top ten list because the landscape is so breathtaking. But it also is a mixed bag to me, with its skyrocketing property prices which only the rich and the famous can afford, or, of course, those who have been living there forever and having become rich by owning properties before the big boom, and the amount of super-coolies who must discuss five times a day which great adventures they have already survived in our fun capital.

Otago is also a great place to follow the traces of the gold-rush of the 19th century, with Arrowtown as the most brillant remnant of this golden era, and a lot of abandoned sites which inspire your imagination. And this also is the region to travel to if you want to experience a golden autumn with trees changing their colours from green to yellow. Whereas most parts of New Zealand do not experience such contrasts because the native trees and shrubs are evergreen you will find many valleys and lakesides in Central Otago dotted with poplars and willows and the golden tint over the landscapes in autumn. Arrowtown and nearby Lake Hayes are the heart of it all.

Winter Cold - Skiing - Otago Rail Trail

And in winter, of course, the area is great for skiing, with the main centres around Queenstown (Remarkables, Coronet Peak), Wanaka (Treble Cone) and Cardrona. You might well encounter four seasons in a day, or walking from summer into winter on a trip on the Rail Trail. We once met a guy who walked on the Rail Trail in March, it was hot, somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees, and some days before when he was looking out of the window of his B&B big snowflakes fell from the sky and did not melt on the ground.

Although I am no winter person and do not like the cold I do not mind an ice-cold day when the sky is blue and the sun is shining - as long as I am outside. Inside a cold NZ house it is another story... ;-)

What really horrifies me are the yearly pictures on TV about dead lambs being shoveled away after the cold snaps in Otago - as if nobody knew that winters can be really cold-cold there... This is even a typical desert-feature in other parts of the world!

Apart from that Otago is just magnificent - with the desert in the centre and the sheep-dotted green hills around.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The rolling hills, the summer heat and the penguins
  • Cons:Winter - too cold not only for the poor lambs ;-)
  • In a nutshell:I would love to live in Otago if the winters were warmer
  • Last visit to Otago: Jul 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (35)

Comments (7)

  • ViajesdelMundo's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    I've started reading and will get back later for the rest; starting our plans........glad to see we may be there just at good time for the wine festival!

  • Russell_the_Wombat's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2008 at 2:47 PM

    Beautiful autumn colours!

  • madamx's Profile Photo
    May 12, 2008 at 11:58 AM

    Great, detailed tips, Sissi.

  • Ekahau's Profile Photo
    Oct 13, 2007 at 7:03 AM

    SISSI OK what happened to the young yellow-eyed penguin who lost his parents? You do a fantastic Page really well done with great information.

  • allikat's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2007 at 9:35 PM

    Bookmarking this page - I think you cram some wonderful info into your tips. Looking to rug up and experience Otago's winters on a long-term basis sometime in the near future :-)

  • vtveen's Profile Photo
    May 4, 2007 at 12:34 AM

    Wonderful page about Otago. We have to visit again next time.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Jan 28, 2007 at 4:37 PM

    I have to agree about Otago - it has it all. The history, romance and heartbreak of the gold rush is tangible here. Great page - leyle

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