Otago – Lakes, Glaciers, Hills and Clear Skies in One Place!
Glorious Otago, a region in New Zealand’s South Island famous for it’s rugged beauty and breathtaking scenery – come see the natural wonderland for yourself.
Otago is New Zealand’s second most southerly region, and it’s one of the most diverse. Boasting 32,000 square kilometres of mountainous regions and rolling open plains, glacier-fed rivers and deserted sandy beaches, it’s little wonder Otago is one of such magnificent holiday destinations.
located near the bottom of the South Island, Otago takes pride in a strong traditional farming heritage plus many little-known natural attractions and historic features. Where else in the world can you walk among wild seals, pay a visit to a tiny (but life-sized) castle, go kayaking through half submerged caves, and jet boat down rock-strewn rivers, all in one day? Otago definitely has it all. When you visit Otago, you can easily access and abundance of wildlife experiences, exciting adventure tourism, world class vineyard tours and unbeatable cuisine, historic sites, deserted white sandy beaches and scenic vistas of unfathomable beauty.
Otago is known for being a region of contrasts. This New Zealand region’s unique character shines through in a variety of ways, from its magnificent landscape to its diverse climate. Queenstown winters are snowy, while summers in Alexandra can sometimes be the hottest in the whole country. Snow capped mountains, lush native forests and sparkling southern lakes make up the western part of the region while dry, grassy mountains and rocky valleys punctuate this wild and rugged land.
Sutton Salt Lake
Phone: +64 3 477 0677
Head out on a self guided walk as you loop around Sutton Salt Lake, New Zealand’s only inland salt lake here in Otago. The walk suits anyone who can stay on their feet at a medium pace for roughly an hour’s time. The loop is approximately three and a half kilometres, and usually takes between forty to sixty minutes. Regrettably, dogs are not permitted, and the trail is not wheelchair accessible. This self guided loop will bring you on a walk around the lake and back, and it is an easy way to enjoy the tranquility and natural history of this gorgeous landscape. Just drive south of Dunedin to Outram, and take SH87, traveling towards Middlemarch. Turn left onto Kidds Road before crossing the railway line at Sutton. The reserve entrance is about 2.5 kilometres along Kidds Road, on the left hand side.
Herbs and grasses that easily tolerate the salty conditions occupy the lake margins, however in a dry summer the lake will dry up entirely – only to refill again once the winter season returns. A wide range of water birds and waders use the lake to feed on the little salt-adapted aquatic animals, including copepods, rotifers and water beetles. Elsewhere in the 143 hectare scenic reserve, rock formations called rock tors rise abruptly out of the landscape and provide ledge habitat for a certain type of forget-me-not, and a number of small shrublands foster species such as desert broom, parataniwha, korokio and matagouri. Grassy stretches of landscape abound, comprising both native and exotic species here in Otago. Natives include the common and uncommon speargrasses – the distinctive sharp-leaved aciphyllas.
Join in on the Five Day Goldfields and Glacier Tour
Phone: +64 3 359 3999
This five day tour takes you on a scenic trek from breathtaking central Otago all the way to Dunedin. Take the world famous TranzAlpine train starting at Christchurch and across to the West Coast of the South Island, with lots of free time at the glaciers before finishing the journey back in Queenstown.
Trip Type: Independent tour (additional days and activities can be requested)
Starts From: Queenstown
Ends At: Queenstown
Tour Duration: 5 Days
Departure Dates: Departs Daily
Know before you go: The Otago Rock and Pillar Conservation Area is a very exposed area, and cooler winter conditions can occur at any time of the year. The area is subject to snow, especially during the winter season.
- Day 1: Queenstown – Dunedin
Accommodation: Alexis Motor Lodge, Scenic Hotel Southern Cross or similar.
- Day 2: Dunedin – Christchurch
Accommodation: Camelot Motor Lodge, Chateau on the Park or similar.
- Day 3: Christchurch – Greymouth – Franz Josef
Accommodation: Bella Vista Motel, Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier or similar.
- Day 4: Free day at Franz Josef
Accommodation: Bella Vista Motel, Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier or similar.
- Day 5: Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown
Rock and Pillar Walking Trails
Phone: +64 3 477 0677
Take a different kind of scenic tour, and see some of the incredible rock formations along the hills. The Rock and Pillar Range, located in Otago roughly an hour’s drive from Dunedin, is one of Otago’s most iconic upland features. The region’s summit ridge is dominated by an impressive range of schist rock tors or rocky pillars.
- State Highway 87, 22 kilometres north of Middlemarch Otago
2 hours 15 minutes, 5 kilometres to the conservation area boundary line
The car park is signposted on SH87, 22 kilometres north of Middlemarch. To get to the marked route, turn left at the second stile and follow the markers until you reach the conservation boundary.
- State Highway 87 / Ngapuna Road intersection
2 hours, 4.6 kilometres to the conservation area boundary
The parking and toilet facilities are located by the Otago Central Rail Trail at the intersection of SH87 and Ngapuna Road, midway between Middlemarch and Hyde. Follow the trail north for 100 metres until you come to the beginning of the trail route.
- State Highway 87, 9 kilometres north of Middlemarch Otago
3 hours, 9.1kilometres to summit (on foot)
(1 hour 30 minutes to the conservation area boundary)
4WD and mountain biking are permitted along this trail. Access to the trail and parking is located at Kilmory
Station, 20 m south of Lug Creek. Due to the fragile environment, vehicles and mountain bikes have to keep to the trail. Note: Kilmary Station is a working deer farm, and it is appreciated if this access is left unused during the fawning season which is mid November to mid December each year.
- State Highway 87, 5 kilometres north of Middlemarch Otago
15 minutes, 1.2 kilometres to the conservation area boundary
Signposted from SH87 (Wandle Road), near the McKinnon Road junction, 2WD access to the parking area can be located through cattle stops on private property. Park in the designated car park and then walk the marked route to the conservation boundary.
- Gladbrook Road, northern end
1 hour 30 minutes, 3.7 kilometres to conservation area boundary
Trail access is from Gladbrook Road near March Creek Otago. Cross the stile and proceed following the markers towards the conservation boundary.
- Rock Road off Gladbrook Road
1 hour 30 minutes, 4.3 kilometres to conservation area boundary Otago
You can access the parking area and route through a farm gate by turning left at the end of Rock Road. Follow along the marked route which travels the length of the fence line to the conservation boundary.
- Gladbrook Road southern end
2 hours, 5.7 kilometres to conservation area boundary
Access is located through private property near the southern end of Gladbrook Road Otago. The access is signposted, with markers to the conservation area boundary. Note: The track is closed for lambing season, which is 1 September-31 October.
- Old Dunstan Road at Loganburn Reservoir Otago
Access from Old Dunstan Road is at a stile next to the Loganburn Reservoir.
- Old Dunstan Road via McPhees Rock Otago
Three hundred metres north of McPhees Creek ford along Old Dunstan Road, a 4WD accessible track leads to McPhees Rock and on to the summit. This trail travels across private land to the conservation boundary, be careful to respect the landowner’s property. Due to the fragile environment, vehicles and mountain bikes must absolutely keep to the trail.
- Western Rock and Pillar Conservation Area
Steep, rolling grassland with scenic vistas of the Otago Maniototo Plains. Access is obtained from the car park just south of Waipiata, via Orangapai Road and Hamilton Diggings Road. The trail is accessible to vehicles from 1 November to 1 May. In order to access by 4WD or on horseback, you will need the combination for the lock on both gates at either end of the 4WD track. This can be obtained from the DOC office in Alexandra.
Please note that Leaning Lodge Hut is closed until further notice. For further information contact the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club at firstname.lastname@example.org before heading out on any trails.
Take to the Clear Blue Skies with Central Otago Helicopter Tours New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 451 0515 or 0800 435 486 (NZ ONLY)
Address: Queenstown International Airport
1 Sir Henry Wigley Drive, Queenstown, New Zealand
The “Scenic Soaker” Tour allows you to enjoy a scenic flight from Heli Tours across Otago overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu before landing at an Alpine helipad where you are then greeted by a staff member from Onsen Hot Pools and treated like royalty. Enjoy a one hour private hot pool soak at Queenstown’s only private indoor/outdoor hot pools, as you are high on the cliffs overlooking the Shotover River Canyon. There are optional upgrades including beverages, towels & swimsuit hire.
The “Glacier, Rivers of Ice Flight” allows you to witness the Otago glaciers from a bird’s eye view. To the West of Queenstown the one hour flight will put you in the right position to take in spectacular views of the braided Rees and Dart Rivers, Mt Earnslaw and many magnificent Glaciers. These deep blue “Rivers of Ice” feature an amazing photo opportunity; experience a Glacier landing for yourself, before returning back to Queenstown. This is an extended Glacier flight, and it can be shortened if requested and prices adjusted.
The “Picnic in Paradise” Tour is one of the most popular Otago flights. Come fly with Central Otago Helicopter Tours for an experience of a lifetime, – an ideal excursion for any kind of celebration, anniversary or proposal! You will fly over beautiful Otago lakes, native beech forest, historic gold mining ruins, rivers as well as remote high country farms and ranches. Enjoy a delicious picnic in a secluded location and breathe in the fresh clean mountain air. The tour features antipasto lunch – vegetarian, meat, fish, seafood, beverages: local wine and beer, fruit, bread and cheeses. Flight duration options are for 20 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minute flights.
No matter whether you choose to tour the clear blue lakes of Otago, venture through the grassy hills and see the fascinating rock formations, or sail through the skies and find the most private, hidden secret locations Otago has to offer, you are guaranteed to have the time of your life when you come to this corner of the earth!
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