Central Otago Gold Tour
8 day South Island Self Drive, from Queenstown to Queenstown
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

Central Otago Gold Tour

Your adventure begins in Queenstown, nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here, you'll be captivated by the stunning alpine scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits. Next, travel back in time to the historic gold mining town of Clyde, where the charming streets are lined with beautifully preserved heritage buildings. Continue your exploration to Wanaka, a hidden gem nestled beside the tranquil waters of Lake Wanaka. Immerse yourself in the serenity of the surrounding mountains, or indulge in world-class wine tasting. Finally, journey to Arrowtown, where the rich history of the gold rush era comes to life. This tour promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you enchanted by the magic of New Zealand's South Island.

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Itinerary details at a glance

South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$4,413 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Queenstown, finishes in Queenstown

8 days/7 nights

Boutique Lodges & Hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 32 times in the last 7 days

Tour at a glance

Day 1: Welcome to Queenstown
Accommodation: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel

Day 2: Explore Queenstown and enjoy a cruise on Lake Wakatipu
Accommodation: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel

Day 3: Collect a car and travel to Clyde via Kawarau Gorge
Accommodation: Olivers Central Otago Accommodation
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 77 kms / 48 miles : 1.0 hours

Day 4: Bike Lake Dunstan trail and then relax at winery
Accommodation: Olivers Central Otago Accommodation

Day 5: Enjoy a cruise on stunning Lake Wanaka
Accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 68 kms / 43 miles : 0.8 hours

Day 6: Admire Wanaka magnificent scenery with experienced guide
Accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Day 7: Visit enchanting Arrowtown, explore the town or bike to Gibbston Valley
Accommodation: Arrowtown House Boutique Hotel
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 52 kms / 32 miles : 0.8 hours

Day 8: Depart Queenstown

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 15 kms / 9 miles : 0.2 hours

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 1
Queenstown

Known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is home to many adrenaline-inducing activities. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this alpine town is surrounded by towering mountains. Each of the seasons has its own special vibe, and most adrenaline-filled activities can be accessed year-round. Queenstown is home to jet boating, bungy jumping, rafting, skydiving, paragliding, and even indoor thrills. If you want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon Swing, or Zip line the Gondola. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, there are plenty of recreational activities, including hiking and biking trails to explore, guided tours, boat cruises, scenic flights, or spa and wellness options to help you get away. Head to the lakefront, eat at one of the al fresco eateries, and soak up the local vibes; catch a ride on the iconic 100-year-old steamship the TSS Earnslaw; or take the Skyline Gondola and enjoy bird's-eye views of the Remarkables mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu. Pack a picnic and go for a hike, only 20 minutes from Central Queenston, Coronet Peak opens for summer sightseeing. You can ride the Peak Gondola to the top for panoramic views and hike the trails, or go for a bike ride on many excellent biking trails. In winter, Queenstown becomes a world-class winter resort, with four ski areas and a range of activities, bars, restaurants, and ways to relax and unwind.

Welcome to Queenstown

Renowned for its adrenaline inducing activities Queenstown is synonymous with adventure. Parked on the shores of Lake Wakatipu this small alpine town is nestled below soaring vistas of The Remarkables Mountain Range. While arguably the brightest gem in New Zealand’s crown, Queenstown offers far more than an action-packed getaway. Spend time on the Gibbston wine trail and end with a meal at Michelin star chef Josh Emett’s restaurant, Rata. Take a trip down memory lane on a 100 year old steamship the TSS Earnslaw. Soak in the scenery on your walk around the lake, or venture further afield into Fiordland National Park. Head over the hill to resort town Wanaka, or re-live scenes from Lord Of The Rings by four wheel drive. But - if you really do want that rush - head out on the Shotover Jet, dive off the Nevis Bungy, freefall on the Canyon swing or Zip line the Gondola. Just be sure it's done on an empty stomach  – don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Gondola and Buffet Dinner with Skyline Queenstown

With breathtaking views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, the Skyline Complex is a must-do. Catch the fully enclosed gondola to the summit for a remarkable panorama of the city surrounds. Wander the outdoor viewing decks then enjoy a gourmet buffet meal in the Stratosphere Restaurant.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Jet Boat the Shotover River

Take a ride on ‘Big Red’ through the spectacular canyon walls of the upper Shotover River.  Shotover Jet Boat is the only company allowed to operate in this remarkable location and their skilled drivers will take you on a wet and wild ride you’ll never forget.

Your accommodation: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel

Queenstown Park Hotel is a boutique hotel with a modern romantic style in the heart of New Zealand’s adventure capital. Set in peaceful parkland, savour views of Queenstown’s majestic mountains. Enjoy easy access to the vibrant town centre where shopping, cafes and nightlife nestled on the shores of spectacular Lake Wakatipu.

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 2
Walking tracks in and around Queenstown

Queenstown is well known for its adventure sports and activities but it also a great network of walking tracks and trails to suit all abilities and time frames. The department of conservation office located on Shotover Street can offer local advice on the conditions of walking tracks.
Some of the more popular walks are listed below.
Queenstown Hill - around 3 hours return (4 kilometres). Gravel path and then trail. A 500 metre climb through pine forest to the summit of Te Tapu-nui (mountain of intense sacredness). The climb is well rewarded with 360 degree views of Remarkables Mountain Range, the Kawarau River, Cecil Peak, and of course Lake Wakatipu. The track starts on Belfast Terrace which is just 1 km from the city centre.
Ben Lomond - around 2 hours (4 1/2 kms return). Take the Skyline Gondola ride to the terminal and the track is signposted from here. This is quite a steep climb and not recommended for children. Also take note of weather forecasts as the summit sits at 1748 metres. The effort is rewarded with spectacular views and on clear days you can see Mt Earnslaw and Mt Aspiring.
Bobs Cove - 20 minutes of easy lakeshore walks. Bobs Cove is 14 kilometres from Queenstown along the Glenorchy Road. Take the drive along the road and Bobs Cove is signposted.

TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak including gourmet BBQ dinner and a farm tour

Enjoy a quintessential Kiwi experience, a delicious gourmet BBQ buffet meal and a farm demonstration in a stunning lakeside setting. Take in the stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and its surroundings as you cruise across the lake to the historic Walter Peak high country farm aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship.
Enjoy the ambience of the heart of the stately homestead while your Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant chef prepares a gourmet BBQ dinner. Your seasonal menu includes an extensive selection of local New Zealand produce, including succulent meats and a selection of delicious vegetables and salads. Complete your meal with your choice of delicious desserts, New Zealand cheeses, tea and coffee.
After dinner, watch the farm dogs in action with a sheep-herding demonstration and say hello to the other farm animals. Finally, cruise home under the southern stars and enjoy the fresh night air as the lights of Queenstown draw ever closer.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Appellation Boutique Wine Tour

Experience a tasting journey through three of Central Otago’s incredibly scenic and varying wine sub-regions; Gibbston, Bannockburn and Cromwell. Visit three boutique vineyards, tasting their unique cool climate wines and discover why the Central Otago region has become world-renowned in its own right.
Indulge at a fourth vineyard restaurant for a platter-style lunch, savouring the finest and freshest produce, accompanied with a wine flight.
There will also be an opportunity to retrace history when you stroll through the charming historical settlement of Old Cromwell.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Outdoor Onsen Daytime Session

Onsen Hot Pools is located high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, providing views over the breathtaking alpine scenery and the perfect vantage point to watch the Shotover Jet boats on the river below. The idyllic cedar-lined hot tubs have long been a highlight for Queenstown visitors and locals alike. A unique kiwi twist on a Japanese tradition, these exclusive use pools are filled with pure water from the surrounding mountains which is heated to approx. 38.3 degrees. Ideal for individuals or groups of up to 4 people, all guests receive towels plus a complimentary drink and snack to enjoy during your rejuvenating soak.

Your accommodation: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel

Queenstown Park Hotel is a boutique hotel with a modern romantic style in the heart of New Zealand’s adventure capital. Set in peaceful parkland, savour views of Queenstown’s majestic mountains. Enjoy easy access to the vibrant town centre where shopping, cafes and nightlife nestled on the shores of spectacular Lake Wakatipu.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 3
Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday

Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.

Queenstown to Clyde

Leaving Queenstown you'll pass through wonderful Gibbston and its many wineries. Make sure you time your trip for a spot of lunch and a tasting. You will also pass by two famous bungy jump sites (The Nevis and the Kawarau Bridge Bungy). Next, the Kawarau Gorge takes you to Cromwell, famous for its stone fruit orchards and in the right season you can purchase this fresh fruit from the many roadside stalls.
Pass through Cromwell and over Deadman's Point  Bridge which crosses Lake Dunstan. This lake was formed on the Clutha River as a result of the construction of the Clyde Dam. Between Cromwell and the Clyde Dam, the lake passes through the beautiful Cromwell Gorge. Arriving into the small historic gold mining town of Clyde you will notice many of the original buildings that have become iconic to the town.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump with AJ Hackett

Queenstown is where bungy jumping was pioneered by AJ Hackett and the first commercial jump started in 1988 at the Kawarau Bridge (on the main road into Queenstown from the east). If a bungy jump is on your 'to do' list them Queenstown is the place and the Kawarau Bridge  is a 43 metre jump from an historic bridge with an optional 'dip' in the Kawarau River.

Clyde

A small town in Central Otago, Clyde is tucked into a sheltered basin at the foot of a gorge now flooded by a large concrete hydro-dam. Born out of the 1860’s gold rush, Clyde is a historic precinct. Many of the original buildings continue to stand and have become iconic to the town. Located in an area renowned first for gold, then for it’s stone fruit orchards, Clyde is a popular summer destination due to it’s hot, dry days and the addition of renowned wineries in the surrounding regions.
 

Your accommodation: Olivers Central Otago Accommodation

Eleven rooms, divided into Stables and Lodge accommodation, superbly blend the old with the new creating a contemporary ambience integrally linked with bygone days. Schist walls, stone floors, rough sawn timber beams and stable doors enhance the 1860s theme while the six Lodge rooms showcase elegant contemporary interiors.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 77 kms / 48 miles : 1.0 hours

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 4
Lake Dunstan Discovery with Kiwi Journeys

The Lake Dunstan Trail has you cycling through unique and fascinating landscapes of Central Otago, while following Lake Dunstan, the Kawarau River, and the mighty Clutha River linking townships Clyde to Cromwell on an awesome 1-day adventure.

Monte Christo Winery

In the heart of New Zealand’s Central Otago region, a long-forgotten tale of vinous history dating back to 1864 has been unearthed - a story interwoven with gold, ambition, and a passionate legacy that thrives today in the distinguished wines of Monte Christo Winery. Unwind at the cellar door, taste the sense of place, and savor premium wines that reveal the secrets of the land, its past, and its future. Enjoy the wines made with 100% estate-grown fruit, yielding a depth of flavor evocative of their origin. You can relax in the outdoor garden, and explore culinary delights or platters to share.

Your accommodation: Olivers Central Otago Accommodation

Eleven rooms, divided into Stables and Lodge accommodation, superbly blend the old with the new creating a contemporary ambience integrally linked with bygone days. Schist walls, stone floors, rough sawn timber beams and stable doors enhance the 1860s theme while the six Lodge rooms showcase elegant contemporary interiors.
Meals included: Breakfast

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 5
Clyde to Wanaka

A short journey along the Clutha River and you arrive into Cromwell. The giant fruit sculptures pay homage to the towns reputation for producing stone fruit. A detour to 'Old Cromwell Town' (well signposted) is worthwhile. Then follow the shores of Lake Dunstan north to Queensberry and the small township of Luggate before rising onto the terraces of the Clutha River. It's here where you pass Wanaka Airport. The airport offers a superb variety of scenic flight options such as Harvard Fighter planes and Tiger Moth vintage aircraft. The Warbirds and Wheels museum and cafe make this an aviation enthusiast’s delight. Next door is the Transport and Toy museum, another hidden gem displaying a vast private collection of toys from all eras, cars, firetrucks, planes, motorbikes and much more. From here it's just a few minutes further to the alpine lakeside township of Wanaka.

Wanaka

The alpine village of Wanaka sits on the shores of the third largest lake in the Queenstown Lakes District and is surrounded by the southern alps. Wanaka draws those seeking adventure, spectacular scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.
During winter the town's population more than triples as snow sports enthusiasts flock to the local ski fields of Treble Cone and Cardrona. Known as the gateway to the Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka is a walker's paradise of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. For those seeking an adrenaline rush try skydiving, rock-climbing, jet boating or choose a scenic flight over Wanaka in a historic Tiger Moth aeroplane.

Cruise and Island Nature Walk with Eco Wanaka

Lying close to the centre of Lake Wanaka is Mou Waho Island Nature Reserve. A unique glacial remnant of the last ice age, the island is also the historic site of early shipbuilding and used to be a stopping place for the steamers and log rafts that once plied the lake. Accessible from Wanaka by a 35-minute boat cruise, the landing is on the eastern side of the island where the remnants of the early settlement remain; a stone wharf and a hut. A well-formed track leads from the landing and climbs steadily through native bush to near the top of Tyrwhitt Peak. Just before the top, we see Arethusa Pool, a small lake on the island with small islands in it - very intriguing! From the top, we have a sweeping 360-degree view of Lake Wanaka, its surrounding mountains and valleys, and below Arethusa Pool. The perfect spot to stop for tea or coffee. Going back down the track gives us more time to take in our surroundings, listening to and watching the lively bird-life, and just enjoying this unique wildlife reserve. You will feel well rewarded as you re-join the boat for the cruise back to Wanaka. Total cruise time is 1.5 hours. The trip runs subject to weather and lake conditions. Depending on the planting season, you can help The Reforestation of Mou Waho by planting a tree.

Walking tracks in and around Wanaka

There are some excellent walks in and around Wanaka. The information below is provided by the Department of Conservation. Located in Wanaka is a Department of Conservation information centre and you can get updates on track conditions and suitability plus you can learn about the area, its natural history and its people. Listed below are a selection of short walks but check with the Department of Conservation information centre for weather conditions, track suitability and conditions first.

Outlet Track
This is a local favourite as it is an easy walk suitable for all ages and abilities. It begins from Wanaka town centre and takes you around picturesque Lake Wanaka to the outlet to the Clutha River and on to Albert Town. This track can also be explored by bike.
Distance: 3 km one way. Completion Time: 1 hour one way.

Mount Iron Track
This very popular, close-to-Wanaka-town loop walk suits all ages and abilities and offers great views from the summit.
Distance: 4.5 km. Completion Time: 1.5 hour.

Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain walks
These two excellent walks in the Diamond Lake Conservation Area give wonderful views of the surrounding alps and Lake Wanaka.
Distance: 2km - 7 km depending on trail. Completion Time: 45 minutes - 3 hours depending on trail.

Rob Roy Glacier Track
Rob Roy Valley is a good entry point to an area of spectacular alpine scenery, snowfields, glaciers, sheer rock cliffs and waterfalls. The road to this track is unsealed and unsuitable for rental cars, but transportation to the beginning of the walk can be arranged.
Distance: 10 km.  Completion Time: 3 - 4 hours return. There is avalanche danger during winter and spring (June-November) on the Rob Roy Track.

Roy's Peak Track
The most famous walk in the Wanaka area, this steep walk climbs 1,500m on a well-formed track with the most spectacular views of Lake Wanaka, its islands, bays, and the mighty snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, including Mount Aspiring.
Distance: 16 km return via the same track. Completion Time: 5 - 6 hour return. This track is closed from the 1st of October - 10th November each year. In winter alpine equipment (such as crampons) are required.

Isthmus Peak Track
A long, steady climb that rewards walkers with spectacular, panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea as well as the mountains of the Southern Alps.
Distance: 16 km return via the same track. Completion Time: 5 - 6 hour return. This track is closed from the 20th of November - 20th December each year. This track is not recommended in winter due to snow and ice build up on the track.

Your accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Set on a ten acre estate just outside Lake Wanaka, Lime Tree Lodge offers luxury boutique accommodation with stunning 360-degree uninterrupted mountain views.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 68 kms / 43 miles : 0.8 hours

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 6
Guided Scenic Walk with Aspiring Guides - Lunch Included

Wander through Wanaka's breathtaking rugged landscapes and enjoy being surrounded by stunning scenery, mountain tops, and glaciers in Mount Aspiring National Park with an expert guide beside you. This day hike will be tailored to your abilities and will include a packed lunch to be consumed somewhere off the beaten track.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Rippon Vineyard Private Wine Tasting

Situated on 15 hectares of North facing escarpment along the shores of Lake Wanaka, Rippon Vineyard has been in the Mills family since 1913. With all of the Rippons wines being produced from their Lake Wanaka vineyard, this truly is a local wine tasting experience. Join the team for an intimate private wine tasting at the cellar door and sample the latest in Rippons fantastic selection.

Your accommodation: Lime Tree Lodge

Set on a ten acre estate just outside Lake Wanaka, Lime Tree Lodge offers luxury boutique accommodation with stunning 360-degree uninterrupted mountain views.
Meals included: Breakfast

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 7
Wanaka to Arrowtown

Leaving Wanaka you head over New Zealand's highest sealed road, Crown Range Road before dropping down to the Gibbston Highway. Leaving the main road you follow Centennial Ave towards the historic goldmining village of Arrowtown.  Arrowtown has many charms, including the idyllic walking track on the Arrow River, the large number of quaint historic buildings and a fantastic range of excellent cafes and restaurants.  For those interested in the history the Chinese settlement and the Lakes District Museum are a must.

Explore Arrowtown

One of the most picturesque settlements in New Zealand, Arrowtown sits alongside the gold-bearing Arrow River. Established in 1862 during the height of the Otago gold rush, the settlement grew quickly as pioneers constructed cottages, shops, hotels and churches, more than 60 of which can still be seen today. A special highlight is the Chinese settlement at the edge of the river. Built by Chinese miners from 1868, this area of restored shelters and buildings paints a picture of earlier times. It is a living historic settlement with many stories to tell. Wander the tree-lined streets of restored cottages and explore gold mining sites. In April and May Arrowtown ignites with colour as deciduous trees prepare for winter and a festival held in the last week of April celebrates the town's seasonal beauty and glittering history.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gibbston Ride and Wine Self-Guided Tour with Arrowtown Bike Hire

Arrowtown Bike Hire are renowned for providing quality mountain bikes and comfort bikes for your enjoyment. With a dedicated bike yard and plenty of room to test ride their bikes, you will be provided with a bike that fits you perfectly.
This popular self-guided tour starts in historic Arrowtown. Equipped with a quality bike and trail map, you will start this beautiful riverside ride under a canopy of spectacular Willow trees. Crossing purpose built suspension bridges you will ride through open farmland with stunning mountain views and pass over breathtaking canyons until you reach the historic Kawarau Bridge, home to AJ Hackett Bungy. A short ride then takes you to your final stop, Gibbston Valley Wines. Here you join a wine expert and sample some fabulous local wines. Transport is then provided for you and your bicycle back to Arrowtown.

Your accommodation: Arrowtown House Boutique Hotel

Arrowtown House Boutique Hotel offers stylish accommodation in the heart of the historic village of Arrowtown. You're just a short walk from award winning restaurants, spectacular river walks and the charms of Arrowtown village.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 52 kms / 32 miles : 0.8 hours

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Central Otago Gold Tour - Day 8
Arrowtown to Queenstown

From Arrowtown its just a short drive to Queenstown, along the way passing Lakes Hayes before you catch your first glimpse of Lake Wakatipu and the bustling tourist mecca of Queenstown.

Return your rental car

Return your rental vehicle to your designated depot before your next adventure.

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 15 kms / 9 miles : 0.2 hours

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