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3 reasons to head out of Queenstown and visit Cromwell

We fell in love with the Central Otago town of Cromwell. Nestled in amongst the mountains, with Lake Dunstan on the doorstep and so much to see and do.

Cromwell was the place we hadn’t planned to go to. We have one on every trip, where James and I throw the itinerary to the wind and go a little rogue. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This was definitely one of the times it worked.

We decided to stay the night in Cromwell about an hour before we arrived in Cromwell. It’s the great thing about travelling in a camper van that you can pull up pretty much anywhere.

We’d been hoping to get close to Queenstown to drop of the camper the next morning and picked Cromwell out on a map without knowing much more about it than it was close to Queenstown.

We were so glad we did though.

The rain that had followed us up the lower part of the South Island that day continued. But set against the schist rock formations on the mountains around us it took on a mysterious beauty of seeing what was in front of us but only being able to imagine what lay beyond.

After a while the road gave way to lakes and we had arrived in Cromwell.

The next morning the rain had disappeared and we set off to explore.

Having no idea what was around us we very quickly found out there was a huge amount!

So here (finally you may say) are our 3 reasons to make a trip to Cromwell;

#1 The Vineyards

Cromwell and their neighbour Bannockburn are home to so many wineries and the famous Central Otago Pinot Noir.

In my head I’ve always had Napier, Marlborough and Nelson as the spots to head for vineyards but now I’m happily adding Cromwell to that list.

Bannockburn is also home to two of my very favourite wines – Mount Difficulty and Roaring Meg.

So it’s this vineyard that we chose to visit.

Just 10 minutes from Cromwell and the scenery was amazing.

It was only $2 for tastings so I let James do the driving that day!!

#2 The history

The Cromwell Heritage Precinct is quit unlike any historical town I’ve seen. I’ve found generally that they fall into two categories. Sadly in need of repair, or nestled away in a museum or historic place.

The Cromwell Heritage Precinct is neither. It’s what I’d call a working space – with all of these beautiful buildings open for business as you stroll along beside Lake Dunstan. And best of all it’s free!


While some of the buildings on the street date back to the gold rush in the 1860’s, the building of the precinct is relatively new. When the Clyde Dam was completed in 1990 Cromwell literally lost it’s main street under water. So a number of the buildings were saved or rebuilt on higher ground.

A little further out of town you will find Goldfields Mining Centre where you can turn your hand to a little bit of gold panning and explore this old gold mining settlement.

Again, it’s the authenticity of this spot that I like. Nothing is overly forced and so much is functional like the actual working battery stamper.

#3 The scenery

It’s about here that I’ll shut up and just show you the rest of our pictures so you can see for yourself…

It’s definitely worth the visit to this amazing little place and I’d even go so far as to say it’s worth making it a base as you explore the Central Otago region.

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