Kia ora: Cromwell

Elisabeth Easther gets a taste of the 'Fruit Bowl of the South'

Cromwell Old Town is on the shores of Lake Dunstan. Photo / Kelvin Reid
Cromwell Old Town is on the shores of Lake Dunstan. Photo / Kelvin Reid

Origin of name: Named for Oliver Cromwell in 1863. Before that it was known as "The Junction", "The Point" and "Kawarau".

Population: Just over 4000

Where is it: In Central Otago, beside State Highway 8B and Lake Dunstan, 50km south of Wanaka and 60km east of Queenstown.

Best reason to stop: The fruit, the outdoor activities (walking and cycling are the most popular) and the rich history. It's also considered by many to be the pinot noir capital of the world.

Best place to take the kids: Lowburn Inlet has a fine river, as well as a great playground, lake and toilets.

Best place for a drink: The Golden Gate Lodge. The lodge also provides accmmodation and is a fabulous wedding venue, as well as being great for a stroll.

Best lunch: Mount Difficulty for lunch, or Northburn Station Winery.

Indeed all the vineyards are said to be top-notch.

Best fishing spot: On the fly, go for Bendigo Reserve.

Unofficial town slogan: "If at first you don't succeed, flood it and build it again." This is a reference to the Clyde Dam and the subsequent flooding of the old town centre in the 1990s.

Town nickname: The Fruit Bowl of the South.

Town mascot: The giant fruit sculpture.

Famous locals: The Evers-Swindell sisters.

Prominent local industries: Viticulture, horticulture, farming and tourism.

Best cafes: The Tin Goose, which even has its own cookbook, The Ciderhouse Cafe and Bar and The Grain and Seed. Several locals said all the cafes are good - there's apparently no such thing as bad coffee in Cromwell.

Best local websites: centralotagonz.co.nz or cromwell.org.nz.

Source of pride: The history and the strong community spirit.

Best museum: Cromwell Museum (next to the i-Site) is filled with fascinating gems from history, including interesting exhibitions on the influence of Chinese immigrants, the gold rush and life for pioneer women.

Town competitions: National Cherry Spitting Competition (January), the Cromwell Half Marathon, the Bannockburn Gutbuster, Bannockburn MTB Classic, Lake Dunstan Triathlon/Duathlon and the Lake Dunstan Cycle Challenge. There's a 24-hour endurance race too.

Best walk: The Roaring Meg track, 10km out of town at the Roaring Meg Power Station. It's as long as you want to make it - you can end up at the Cardrona Hotel if you want.

Interesting fact: One of New Zealand's furthest town from the sea.

Best view: From Deadman's Pt, or the top of the Nevis Range - Duffers Saddle to be precise.

Best place to pull over: Jackson's Orchard. Load up on fresh fruit and also fill your bottles from a tap that's fed from a super-sweet spring.

Best park/playground: Waenga Drive Park has all the bells and whistles, including a flying fox. You'll find it near the main shopping centre.

Best-kept secret: The cycle tracks and Lake Dunstan. Ask any local or go to the information centre for directions. Some super maps can be found on goldengate.co.nz.

Best facilities: Brand new toilets opened just before Christmas, right in the centre of town.

Visiting for a short time: Lake Dunstan, the Clyde Dam, the museum and Old Cromwell Town.

Best swim: Under the Cromwell Bridge which is over Lake Dunstan, as you drive into Cromwell.

Most fabulous item of wildlife: The karearea falcon, the only remaining bird of prey native to New Zealand.

Where locals take visitors: Panning for gold at the Goldfields Mining Centre, Cromwell Gorge, Kawarau Gorge and Bannockburn.

Locals say: It's a hidden paradise, no doubt about it.

Thank you to local man Glen Christiansen, proprietor of the Golden Gate Lodge and ardent Cromwell fan, for sharing these gems.

- NZ Herald

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