South Island trip: Part One, Central Otago

Schematic map of our trip

After considerable discussion my husband and I said ‘let’s do it! to what looked like a fabulous nine day trip to Otago & Fiordland over the Easter period – a trip which offered cycling, flights in small planes, canoeing, boat rides in idyllic places and wonderful hotel stays. Add great food to that list. How could we not go? We tried not to out-guess what we’d find, as we packed our gear, and just accept what came our way. We both felt so fortunate to be able to travel.

Okay. First stop (following the flight from Auckland) was the hotel Rees on the banks of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown. We stepped into our room, and this was the view from the window.

And another view from a different position

A very good start, that’s for sure. Our group met for a drink in the lobby, after a stroll on the lakeside path. It was tapas at Pedros’ in town and an ample amount of Central Otago Pinot Noir. What a jolly night. And what a fabulous sleep between lovely linen in the comfortable king-sized bed. Aah. All set for Day 2 and a morning in Arrowtown, an historic gold-mining village close to Queenstown.

Old cottage on the main street. Attributed: Arrowtown.com.

We walked around the town, visiting the old schoolhouse where two nuns had lived. It was tiny, with stone walls, and a vast fireplace. And although it looked ‘cute’, I couldn’t imagine the cruel cold of winter in such a place during the late 1800s. The jail was less cute, though possessing many more rooms, mostly for drunks overdoing it at the local hotels, and the odd wayward stranger. Then we were off to Gibbston Winery, for wine tasting and a platter lunch. I decided to forego the wine, as I was feeling a little tired from the Pinot the night before and just enjoyed the ambience.

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Afterwards we went to the Kawarau Gorge and the famous Kawarau suspension bridge, where A. J. Hackett Bungy established the world’s first commercial public bungy jump in 1988. Would anyone wish to jump? Not from our group, though we did watch this brave woman take the plunge into the lovely gorge.

The following morning, we were picked up by Chris from the Central Cycle Trail Co, whose base is in Clyde. He would be shuttling us between the bike tracks over the next three days.

A saunter around town, and a quick lunch, and finally I get to have a famed cheese roll. Only to be found in the South Island, for some odd reason. My cheese roll was ‘giant’ size, and very tasty, just in case you are ever down this way.

We met the crew from the cycle shop, who showed us our e-bikes with name tags on each. The bikes had been chosen to suit our sizes ( we’d given this info before the trip began). A tug of the helmet straps, and a test ride for us all. Ooh, this Kalkhoff bike was a nice smooth ride, better than my own e bike.

Clyde is a charming town, small, with delightful stores and stone buildings to suit those with an eye for history and design (lucky for my purse that I didn’t have much shopping time). The best was to come – our accommodation at Olivers Lodge and Stables; 120 years old, now renovated, well preserved and tastefully restored, where lucky travellers will find high quality rooms, delicious breakfasts, and just to top it off, the renowned Olivers restaurant next door.

Central hall in Olivers
Our room at Olivers

Every room was uniquely furnished, with a large ensuite. All tastefully decorated in keeping with an older era. A bedroom I wouldn’t have minded as my own. After dining at the restaurant we headed to bed, keen for a good sleep (how could we not in this comfort), and be bright eyed to meet Chris in the morning. This would be our first day of cycling, when Chris would transfer us to Oturehua, to ride a section of the Rail Trail. Bring it on. I love biking.

A big thanks to Gerard Murphy and Bon Voyage for making this trip a possibility.

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