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Travel Guide

Alexandra attractions and things to do

  • 7 minutes
In this Article

Alexandra visitor attractions range from outdoor adventures, absorbing the extraordinary beauty of the landscape of Central Otago, finding unique personalised art and crafts in creator studios, joining in the festive fun at the annual blossom parade and hopping on a bike to cycle four shared trails including the iconic Otago Rail trail. Central Otago, discover the difference and find a place where holiday memories are created.

Alexandra, New Zealand
Alexandra

What is the best reason to go to Alexandra, Central Otago?

A great reason to visit Alexandra is its location. Unpack your bags for a few days and explore the neighbourhood. Within one hour drive is Arrowtown, Queenstown, Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Ranfurly, Naseby and St Bathans.

Nearby things to do are within a 30 minutes drive. Cromwell and Roxburgh are just down the road with the Clyde Gold Cycle Trail and the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

ALEXANDRA

Four seasons, four trails, stay and explore
Visitors are spoilt for choice.

In this Article

Today Alexandra is the hub for orchards and vineyards. Walk, cycle or stroll gold miners trails in the hills above Alexandra. Sample and sip in Pinot Noir vineyard cellars and discover gold mining stories in the local museum.

Cycling trails

Alexandra Anniversary River Track to Clyde

The 150th Anniversary river track to Clyde is a reasonably short 12 km flat ride (one way) following the Clutha River.  The Alexandra River Track to Clyde runs parallel to the well known Otago Central Rail Trail. The Otago Central Rail Trail is an alternative return route for cyclists looping back to Alexandra.

Alexandra to Clyde River Track, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand @CentralOtagoNZ
Alexandra to Clyde River Track @CentralOtagoNZ
Two young people cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail with horses grazing by the side of the track, Middlemarch, South Island, New Zealand
Otago Central Rail Trail

Otago Central Rail Trail

Ride it, walk it, experience it, the Otago Central Rail Trail. Find out about the original rail trail from Clyde to Middlemarch. The train that followed the gold prospectors into Central Otago. The trail is 150 km of shared trail. Cycle, walk or even ride on horseback. Highlights include river gorges, stunning schist tors, valleys where orchards and vineyards flourish and the folded tussock clad hills of Central Otago.

… read more about Otago Central Rail Trail.

Outdoors

Quietly slumbering in the Central Otago landscape is Flat Top Hill Conservation area. Central Otago is semi-arid with low rainfall. Indeed Central Otago is the driest region of New Zealand, receiving less than 400 mm of rainfall annually. Otago | NIWA.

Lush vineyards and orchards are reliant on irrigation. Behind the modern water systems is a dry land where water is a scarce resource for native plants. Visit Flat Top Hill Conservation Area  and find out what pre-European Maori, 19th century settlers and gold faced when traversing the plains and hills of Central Otago. It is an excellent place for families with kids as there are a number of short walks. The interpretative panels describe historic gold mining activities, the effect of introduced pests such as rabbits and current conservation efforts. The views are stunning.  Definitely a photo moment or two.

Flat Top Conservation Reserve, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand
Flat Top Conservation Reserve
Jolendale Park, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand @CentralOtagoNZ
Jolendale Park, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand @CentralOtagoNZ

Jolendale Park is six hectares of naturalised park situated on Alexandra’s Bridge Hill. The park is New Zealand’s first covenanted semi-arid exotic woodland Reserve. The unassuming native sedges and hardy shrubs are thriving.  Plants are named with a short description of their characteristics making it a great walk for families. The specimen trees range from snow gums, cedars, nut pines and crabapples. The Aronui Reservoir is part of the park. Schist outcrops, steep bluffs are accessible with trails, walkways and lookouts. There are toilets, picnic areas and signposted walks.

WALKS – ALEXANDRA

The Department of Conservation has a superbly detailed brochure for dedicated walkers intent on exploring gold mining trails as well as absorbing the gorgeous landscapes. See Alexandra and Cronwell tracks, DOC) in the Travel Pack Section.

Highlights for Alexandra, Central Otago walking trails

  • Conroy Creek historic gold mining sites in the Aldinga Conservation Area
  • Swim and picnic in Conroys Dam
  • Witness evidence of the sheer destruction of a powerful water gold mining dredging and water cannon. Earnscleugh Tailings Track mining tailings are nationally significant as the only complete record of dredging activity from 1863 to 1963. They’re an awe inspiring sight, hundreds of metres wide like a giant’s ploughed field.
  • Walk along shared cycle Otago Rail Trail
  • Explore the lesser known Clyde River shared track
  • Flat Top Hill Track with its outstanding town and country views of Central Otago
Otago Rail Trail cyclist, New Zealand
Otago Rail Trail cyclist

Art & heritage

Visit the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery is a glorious place to attend a workshop on printmaking, check out the excellent gift shop showcasing local artists, the rotating exhibitions of emerging and established local artists as well as brush up on your history of Central Otago.

Central Otago, Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery opening hours.

Monday – Friday 10am to 4pm, Weekend and public holidays 11am to 2pm.

Vallance Cottage, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand
Vallance Cottage, Alexandra

VALLANCE COTTAGE

Vallance Cottage mud brick tiny house originally the home of 11 people. “The historic significance of Vallance Cottage lies in the fact that it provides a largely original and therefore valuable example of a late nineteenth century, vernacular domestic home. The materials, plan form and natural site development all combine to provide authentic and historic insights into the construction and everyday living experiences for first and second generation pioneer families in the post gold rush era of Central Otago. Another facet of the cottage’s historic significance is the in-depth and highly personal family history that is intertwined with the cottage building, its development and use over the 20th century.”

There is an annual fair in February on the site. Check with the museum for up to date information on opening hours. Vallance Cottage

CLOCK ON THE HILL

Clock on the Hill is a rite of passage for visitors. Follow the well marked trail up the hill towards the very large, unmissable clock on the hillside. The view is a favourite for landscape photographers with views of Alexandra, Clutha River, vineyards and Old Man and Old Woman Ranges. The location of the clock has an evocative address, Graveyard Gully Rd. And to get there, cross the historic Shaky Bridge suspended over Manuherikia River.

Clock on the Hill, Central Otago, New Zealand @Otago Daily Times
Clock on the Hill @Otago Daily Times
Shaky Bridge, Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand @Tripadvisor
Shaky Bridge, Alexandra @Tripadvisor

SHAKY BRIDGE

This historical suspension bridge was built for the early gold rush. Wagons, horses and pedestrians formerly used this bridge. Before it was built the Manuherikia River was a hazard, a risky operation especially when the river was in flood. Today the bridge leads to a short steep track to the clock.

PIERS OF CLYDE RIVER BRIDGE

Old Bridge. The old bridge, 1882 connected Bridge Hill to Alexandra business centre. The bridge spanned the Clutha/Mata-au River. All that remains of the old bridge are the piers, abutments, and towers. These are listed as a Category I historic place by Heritage New Zealand. Now the abutments make for a great selfie location.

Clyde river bridge, Central Otago, New Zealand @Shellie Evans
Clyde river bridge @Shellie Evans
Pioneer Park, Central Otago, New Zealand @Trip. com
Pioneer Park @Trip. com

PIONEER PARK / MUSEUM

There’s a museum located at Pioneer Park, a big green space close to downtown Alexandra. I can’t remember going in but I’m sure it’s interesting (heaps of history in these parts). The park itself is interesting enough, but you’ll definitely want to visit if the blossoms are out (September). There’s also a market there during the summer (Saturday mornings).

Central Otago Seasons

It’s known as the hottest, driest and coldest town in New Zealand, and it’s because of those extremes that Alexandra, in Central Otago, is a popular destination for national and international visitors. Whether it be during the heat of summer or the cold, crisp winter days, Alexandra has four distinct seasons and is a unique place to visit at any time of the year.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN WINTER, ALEXANDRA, CENTRAL OTAGO?

In winter, Alexandra, Central Otago has a very popular Ice Skating Rink with nearby ski fields attracting visitors. Cardrona, Remarkables, and Coronet Peak are within an hour’s drive from Alexandra.

Visiting in winter, Alexandra has Iceline Skate Rink for aspiring winter skating or ice hockey fans. The winter only attraction is the largest ice skating rink with an Olympic sized hockey area. There are classes for beginners making Alexandra a favourite weekend escape for South Island locals.

Iceline Skate Rink, Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand @Tripadvisor
Iceline Skate Rink @Tripadvisor
Manorburn Dam, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand
Manorburn Dam, Alexandra

NATURAL SKATING ARENA

The Lower Manorburn Dam is a well known natural space for ice skating in New Zealand. People have been skating on the Manorburn Dam since its construction in the early 1900’s. Care needs to be taken to ensure the safety of skaters. The Dam is a local summer favourite for water sports and bird watching (Little Shag found in raupo swamp areas.

What to do in Alexandra, Central Otago in summer?

In summer Alexandra, Central Otago offers visitors juicy fresh orchards to roadside stall fruit, fascinating gold mining trails to walk and hike, unique semi-arid alpine landscapes, crafty people open their galleries for visitors and the iconic Otago Rail Trail is open for cyclists and walkers to soak up the sights.

Eat & drink

Ferris road brewery. Vineyards, wine tasting and all those delicious platters brimming with the goodness of Central Otago are truly the hallmark of an indulgent holiday. Nothing like a cool chilled tall glass of craft beer. Alexandra delivers with Ferris Road Brewery. Pop in and check out the place.

Ferris Road Brewery, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand @Harcourts Alexandra
Ferris Road Brewery @Harcourts Alexandra
@Alexandra Blossom Festival
@Alexandra Blossom Festival

FESTIVALS

  • Alexandra Blossom Festival is a stalwart of New Zealand. Alexandra Blossom Festival is the longest running community festival of its kind in New Zealand. Hosted on the fourth weekend of September since 1956, it is Alexandra’s annual celebration of Spring blossom heralding a promise of stone fruit and juicy apples.
  • Central Otago Craft Beer Festival. Annual celebration of local craft beer, cider, wine and food. Held every first weekend of February and a chance for the whole family to soak up the Central sun whilst listening to local bands.

GOLD PANNING CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 2022 Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust New Zealand Gold Panning Championships is now held in Alexandra in conjunction with the Blossom Festival. Organised by Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust.

VALLANCE COTTAGE HERITAGE WEEKEND

Annual heritage faire at Vallance Cottage, check website for details.

MERINO SHEARS CHAMPIONSHIP

The Merino shears in October. The people behind the beautiful merino clothing and accessories start with the hard graft of shearing. Find out what it’s like to shear a sheep at speed.

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust, Central Otago, New Zealand @OGHTrust
@OGHTrust

Unusual & Fascinating

INTERESTING FACT

MOTHS, two rare species, are found in the Chapman Road Scientific Reserve. Central Otago definitely goes in for tiny, unique life forms that are underrated visitor attractions. Rare native moths are best seen during daylight hours in the summer. The moth’s habitat are salt pans creating a glare with the light.  While you are peering at the landscape a slight form will flit in front of you.  It is oddly fascinating to be on holiday quietly observing moths.

@Alexandra Golf Club
@Alexandra Golf Club

Alexandra Golf Course

The award winning Alexandra course provides an easy walking, well groomed, championship layout with narrow, tree lined fairways and reminders of the old arid landscape in the areas of rough. It is a challenge for any level of golfer and draws many visitors keen to experience the course and the many attractions of the unique surrounding area.

Visitors are sure of a warm Central Otago welcome, check out our weekly club days and event programmes in the Members Area. Check out the website for  more details.

TIP

For golfing buffs who want a course with a difference check out Roxburgh and the challenge of golfing uphill among rock tors.

Central Otago Arts

The Central Otago District Arts Trust promotes performance artists, music and dance groups, film and theatre, along with the literary arts. For festivals, book  ahead for accommodation to avoid disappointment. For more information about upcoming events, check out the Central Otago events calendar. For trip ideas Otago art and culture trail – Best Bits is the way to go.

@reneewaldenart
@reneewaldenart

Where does the name Alexandra come from?

Alexandra Bridge over the Clutha River, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand
Alexandra Bridge over the Clutha River

Alexandra has a golden history dating back to the 1860s when gold was discovered and extensively mined until the 1930s. The town was originally known as Lower Dunstan, then Manuherikia and then the Junction. It was renamed Alexandra in 1863 after Princess Alexandra by John Aitken Connell who surveyed the town.

The original orchards served the mining community, but it was around the turn of the century that orchardists realised the potential of the dry climate and fertile soil combined with the irrigation available from the mining races. The gold rush has subsided yet Alexandra continues to thrive on viticulture and tourism.

Day trips

CROMWELL TO ROXBURGH DAY TRIP

Day trips, a popular local destination is Roxburgh. The impressive might of the Roxburgh Dam, detour to Spillway Lookout for a closer peek leads to Lake Roxburgh. The lake and Clutha River are popular recreational spots for fishing, lazing on river beaches and by the lake, water sports and impromptu picnics.

Roxburgh Hydro Dam, Clutha River, New Zealand
Roxburgh Hydro Dam, Clutha River

Getting around Alexandra and what to do nearby

ALEXANDRA has an active social media presence, Alexandra webcam and the local weather forecast is worth a peek.

Travelling distances between Alexandra and nearby Otago towns:

Alexandra Cromwell 33.5 km, via SH8
Alexandra Roxburgh 41 km, vai SH8
Alexandra Clyde 7.5 km via SH8
Alexandra Queenstown 92.8 km, via SH8, SH6
Alexandra Naseby 90 km via SH58
Alexandra St Bathans 60 km, via SH58
Alexandra Dunedin 191 km, via SH1, SH8

SH = State Highway

Where to stay in Alexandra, Central Otago?

@Alexandra Heights Motel
@Alexandra Heights Motel

Alexandra Heights Motel is the perfect place to stay for a central Otago summer holiday, It’s not just the beautiful towering mountains and natural undulating landscape. It’s just the whole package. It’s a great place to base yourself, be it for work or a vacation. We are surrounded by amazing wineries, restaurants and of course all of the new local cycle tracks and walks.’

Four star accommodation with the amazing Nicola as your host. Functional, practical with a classic motel vibe. Well maintained premises.

FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN ALEXANDRA CHECK OUT

Weather in Alexandra

Alexandra weather forecast

Alexandra is one of the farthest towns from a coastline in New Zealand and experiences cold winters and warm summers relative to the rest of the country.

Temperatures regularly drop below zero in winter and can rise above thirty degrees Celsius in the summer months.

You can find out the current weather via Weather Page, (Information supplied by NIWA)

Alexandra location

Best time to visit Alexandra, Central Otago is year round, check out what to do in seasons.

Getting to Alexandra

The best way to get to Alexandra is by private vehicle. While the intercity bus does stop in the town it is once a day. Getting around Central Otago, cycle or vehicle with the option of local walking trails to explore the area further.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

  • Chapman Road Scientific Reserve, “Two rare species of native moths are active on the hottest days of summer from October to March. Look carefully over the barest salty areas on sunny days to see them flying low over the salty crust where their larval host plant Atriplex buchananii One is a small geometrid moth about 12 mm in wingspan and conspicuous with its orange hindwings. Paranotoreas fulva delights to sunbathe on the barest salty soils and the females lay their eggs on the host plant.The other moth is a crambid which was first discovered on these salt pans in the 1980s and is still undescribed in the genus Loxostege. It is also a day flying species over the barest saline patches where again its larvae feed on mats of Atriplex. Both are only found on Central Otago’s salt pans. They are rare and threatened as this once extensive habitat has dwindled in both extent and quality.”
Butcher Lake, Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand
Butcher Lake, Alexandra
  • “A dry land ecosystem, Flat Top Hill supports a diverse range of animal and plant life, including examples of regenerating native plant species that previously covered much of the lowland valleys of Central Otago. Dry land ecosystems are one of New Zealand’s most threatened ecosystems. Flat Top Hill is important for observation, recording and management of such ecosystems. The area also includes some interesting historical evidence of European and Chinese settlement.” Flat Top Hill Conservation Area walks
  • VALLANCE COTTAGE – The cottage is situated on a high, level terrace above the Manuherikia River valley, which slopes away from the rear (south) of the cottage. Historically, the cottage site had a close relationship with the nearby gold diggings of Tucker Hill that lay immediately southwards, on the far side of the river. The cottage is on a grassy reserve adjoining the Alexandra Holiday Park and close to the Otago Central Rail Trail. It is a single storey colonial cottage of a form typical from the 1860s – symmetrical façade with a central front door flanked by multi-pane double hung sash windows and a lean-to gable at the rear. Vallance Cottage has been extended to the rear as required. The 1990s restoration team for the cottage recycled existing bricks, and made their own mud bricks in the repair of the internal walls of the cottage, which demonstrates a continuity of construction method and material not always found in other restoration projects. In 2017, Vallance Cottage was owned by Central Otago District Council, who opens the cottage to visitors by appointment.
Stoddarts Cottage, Canterbury, New Zealand @Francis Vallance
Stoddarts Cottage, Canterbury, New Zealand @Francis Vallance

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Best Bits travel guide is published by nzjane.com. Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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