Our Place

Our Place is Something Different


There are few places in the world that leave you feeling like you’ve been somewhere really special. Central Otago is one of those few places that leaves you with a lasting sense of something different — the perfect backdrop to telling our story.

Discover the clear and simple definitions of nature in Central Otago. In landscape, it is without compromise.

Dramatic landscapes, absolutely gorgeous colours that are uniquely ours, the clear light, distinct seasons and even the silence is special in this region.

Vast uncompromising beauty

Central Otago is a place that overwhelms the visitor; we are goose bump country, where you feel humbled and privileged to be here. Nature here has its own sophistication that cannot be ignored.

Dramatic Landscapes

After eons of sculpting by the forces of nature, Central Otago’s wind-whipped landscapes, vast open spaces and treeless vistas give a sense of space and scale like no other region in New Zealand. An overpowering sense of clean, uncluttered space brings you to a reality that in this world there are still places like this.

Unequalled beauty

By the general subtlety of man’s current footprint on the Central Otago landscape, a largely structure-less imposition adds to the sense of complete sparseness, echoed in the scattered population and their call for space and not pace.

The expansive landscapes reflect the scale and form of the sky vistas – here you have room to breathe. The linear sweep of the skylines and the almost unbroken form of the land is a photographer’s paradise.

Humbling and inspiring

Massive block mountain sequences, with their interlinking valleys and plains enhance the scale and provide distinctive unspoiled landform. The near monochromatic vegetation blankets the land – its natural tones of brown, fawn and yellow add to the uniformity and an expanded sense of space. The dusk light silhouettes of layered ridgelines emphasize the vast horizons. Unforgettable and unequivocal – it etches into the soul.

Imagine...a gentle walk... you are the only one for miles...just pure space and land.

Distinctive Seasons

As New Zealand’s most inland region, Central Otago is known for its contrasting and potent seasons. The seasons give Central its character.

Its low humidity, harsh winters, hot summers and temperature extremes are described as sub continental.

Intense colours

Spring brings a surge of returned life as the land begins its transition from earthy browns to soft greens. A distinctive purple carpet of wild thyme spreads over rolling hills and the landscape softens as blossoms adorn the trees.

The roadsides are a jumble of colour in summer with wildflowers and the cloudless skies seem bluer than ever in the heat.

Then the sensational palette of autumn with intense gold and red coloured leaves signalling a seasonal change.

With the coming of winter, cloud nestles, relaxing in basins and valleys, keeping the day cool for just a little longer. Discover an eerie white landscape as the tones of winter tint the land.

Every season changing, every day unique

These harsh climates produce award-winning wines, the finest wool and intensely flavoured fruits. Central Otago provides some of the best flavours in New Zealand.

To a certain extent, the climate has shaped the character of the people. One either adjusts and adapts or relocates, but for those who chose to live here, like the landscape, the seasons make us who we are.

Silence

At first, the vastness and apparent emptiness of Central Otago echoes silence. To experience the silence is of course one of the physical things we recognise as something special to the Central Otago region.

The awe-inspiring silence fills the landscape and its interplay with expansive skyscapes can humble visitors as well as locals. Stand still, take in a breath and soak in the silence.

Sounds of nature magnified

Warm, gentle zephyr breezes turn tussocks into an ocean of waves and reflect the sound in movement. You can chime in to the soft chorus of summer cicadas ‘clicking’. Your thoughts may be interrupted by a magpies 'ca-caw' or, during a gentle walk, you hear to the side a lizard scuttering off its sunny rock to the security of 'underneath'.

You can hear the gentle explosions of the lupin pods, using the sun’s heat to sow its seeds and secure its regeneration, while the background is filled with the soothing sounds of a babbling burn.

Find time to discover these subtle sounds of silence and sense being among the natural order of things. Experience the clear and simple definitions of nature in Central Otago.

Rejuvenate the soul

light

Witness the intense natural light on this expansive striking landscape; pure blue skies, the rich reds of sunrise and sunset, the stirring blue-black of a brewing storm, hues of yellow and brown rising from hot tussock laden hillsides.

Truly inspiring

Seasonal sequences of dawn and dusk provide some truly inspiring moments in the cycle of light and life in Central Otago. Whether by chance or plan these moments of interplay between light, sky and land are fleeting but are permanently imprinted on one’s memory.

Allow the clouds to inspire the imaginative mind - an artist’s brushstrokes, the photographer’s lens, a Kārearea soaring through the air or clouds blanketing the hills. Every sky vista has its own story to tell.

A solitary white cloud whisked upward against the deep blue sky has inspired our World of Difference brand logo. The sky not only creates colours of inspiration, but it is also the key to many a daily decision.

Unique skyscape

The huge expanse allows those living off the land a few clues that only Central Otago locals could pass on. The smell of pending rain, the sense that a North-westerly is brewing - all assist in Central Otago's vast agricultural portfolio.

With low humidity and exceptionally clear uncontaminated skies, never has a starry sky been seen more clearly; this is a stargazer’s delight, a scientist’s workroom.

Clutha Mata-au River

The mighty Clutha Mata-au, taken from the Gaelic for ‘Clyde’ in Scotland, has a flow of strength and intensity as it etches its way from its outlet at Lake Wanaka, through Central Otago on a 338km journey to the coast.

Cromwell and Roxburgh balance on the terraces of the path created by its force. Yet, such a foreboding force will still allow a dragonfly to rest momentarily on its surface, will create riverside rocks soft enough for bare feet and will let you bathe quietly on the edge of its flow.

Linking our land

The Clutha Mata-au River and this powerful landscape inspire artworks, sculptures, writers and many photographs. Skim a stone, relax while reading a book or take a riverside walk beside the deep azure green of the Clutha Mata-au.

Take care however — 'Mata-au', the Māori word for this river means ‘the face of the current'. It is unforgiving if not shown the respect it deserves. You can hear its sinuous strength, sense its changing moods – with its swirling eddies and constant flow. Beautiful bridges allow you to suspend above it and appreciate the sheer volume.

Hear its sinuous strength

The Clutha Mata-au, incongruous in this dry desolate land, is distinctly different.

Flora

Central Otago’s extreme climatic conditions and weather sheltering ranges and underlying geology play host to a unique flora. Over millions of years a unique and abundant plant-life has evolved to cope with the whims of this harsh environment.

Diverse knee-high nature

The plant diversity is deep, yet the Central Otago landscape is relatively treeless, with only the occasional lone tree punctuating its spaciousness. Thyme grows in abundance. Wild flowers colour the lowlands with the blues of viper’s bugloss, and the brilliant yellows of Californian poppies.

Unique abundant flora

Central Otago vistas are dominated by the hues and colours of grassland tussock carpeting the forms and folds of schist rock ranges. Their movement in response to the wind and light is captivating. What appears to be one species is indeed varied in range, form, size and habit. On bended knee between the tussocks one can explore what only can be described as a knee high forest - home to more plants than under a beech forest.

Dry land ecosystems are one of New Zealand’s most threatened landscapes. Now many are totally confined to Central Otago, with us as the only guardians of their future survival.

The Kārearea

Central Otago is home to New Zealand’s endangered native falcon, the Kārearea. A bird small for its nature yet strong and fearless in its survival was specifically chosen as one of the symbols that represent the region of Central Otago.

In symbolic language, the falcon is associated with noble-natured people, strength, bravery, ingenuity, and high spirits, evoking freedom and pride as it soars above the land.

As proud as they are beautiful

It is this land of extremes and open tussock country that provides the perfect conditions for the Kārearea. Its unpretentious nests are simply scratched into the steep craggy hillsides, underneath rocks or on rocky ledges. Most falcons are migratory but the Kārearea stays here for life.

See with your own eyes the flying finesse of a falcon courtship - a magical 'sky dance'. Listen for its call as this sky hunter soars with a sense of freedom in its lonely, vigilant hunt for prey - scanning the stark golden land, the valleys, the vineyards, the riverbanks.

Many factors, including predators and human impact, compromise the existence of this beautiful bird. Only a resurgence of awareness and continued education will ensure they are not lost forever in the Central Otago landscape. They are a reminder of how our actions affect the delicate balance of the natural world around us.

We too can soar here

Gold


Central Otago is strongly linked to the initial discovery of gold in New Zealand. Central Otago’s gold rush is a story about determined prospectors living and dredging for their fortune – their conquests, their tragedies.

Early Māori had no use for gold, instead focused on pounamu from the Clutha Mata-au River. Pastoral farmers and stockmen chose to focus on grazing the grasslands of the wide valleys and basins. Early settlers ignored the possibility of mining gold in an effort to preserve their way of life and avoid the potential disruption, violence and social ills that reportedly accompanied the Californian and Victorian gold rushes.

Determined risk takers

That ideal was short lived once Gabriel Read discovered substantial gold deposits near Lawrence. An invasion followed! Storekeepers, coroners, doctors, publicans and miners came increasing the population to over 20,000 in the mid-1860s. After the first rush came the next rush of prospectors – the Chinese miners. Yet their unique story is one of struggle amidst unwarranted prejudice. They were hard working and harmless – patient, careful and thorough and made livings where others could not. By the end of the 1800s the gold rush had ended.

A living museum

Yet much remains today to evoke the spirit of the mining days. The countryside is littered with reminders of the miner’s quest here - water races, stamper battery, dredge tailings, impressive sluiced cliffs and original hotels still stand.

Like a living museum, Central Otago’s dry climate has helped preserve much of our rich gold mining past.