New Zealand in Focus
So often I hear that the best time to visit Central Otago is over the winter months and these voices are not wrong if you are in search of some of the best ski conditions in the world. I however, am going to get you into a little secret – Central Otago is next level beautiful in autumn! Think glistening lakes, brilliantly bright orange and red leaves adoring the landscape and crisp yet sunny days that allow you to get out and explore the great outdoors for hours on end.
I visited Lake Hawea, Wanaka and Queenstown with my family over the Easter break and we loved every minute of our trip. The only regret we have is that we couldn’t stay for longer. These destinations offered to the perfect mix of New Zealand’s natural beauty, a melting pot of culture and excitement that can only be experienced in a tourist mecca, and enough attractions and activities to keep the whole family entertained for weeks!
Lake Hawea is home to one of our favourite Family Parks – Lake Hawea Holiday Park. This park truly has something to suit every budget from campsites through to a fully self-contained holiday house. If you are looking for a more unique experience the Tiny House and Safari Tent, both with incredible views of Lake Hawea, will give you a glamping experience like no other.
You may have also heard that the fishing is pretty good down this way and you can try your own luck during your stay with free rod hire and fishing licences available from the camp shop. If you are lucky enough to catch your dinner the team will even give you a quick fish filleting lesson at the in-built filleting station and show you how to smoke your trout or salmon for a delectable camp meal.
Lake Hawea Holiday Park is only 15 minutes from Wanaka, the resort township situated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka with picture perfect views of snow-capped mountains, flora and fauna. Wanaka buzzes with locals and tourists dining at its vast array of restaurants and cafes and exploring the many shops and attractions that are on offer.
Aside from enjoying the natural environment our favourite picks of thing to do in the area on our visit included:
As the name suggests this place is puzzling – if you are not getting lost in the ‘super maze’ you are likely scratching your head in one of the illusion rooms. This was a great way to spend a few hours and was enjoyed by our whole party that ranged in ages from 2-64 year old!
This museum is home to the largest private collection of toys and transport in the Southern Hemisphere. Within the four huge display areas you will see over 600 vehicles including fire engines, police cars and construction vehicles; over 50,000 toys including dolls, teddy bears, Star Wars, Lego and Barbie collections, and so much more. Once you have finished your tour you can shop at the toy store or relax with a picnic and ride the pedal cars around the vast outdoor grounds. You could literally spend hours here!
Let me start by saying that one day is not nearly long enough! We were on a short time frame so made the 1 hour dash over the magnificent Crown Range for brunch in historic Arrowtown followed by half a day and dinner in Queenstown.
Once you have finished marvelling at the views as you make your way over the Crown Range you stumble across Arrowtown. It is like stepping back in time as your explore the quaint shop fronts and experience the real laid back village feel (even if it was full of sightseers when we visited!). If you have the time you can even hire a gold pan and head to the Arrow River, that is two minutes from town, and see if you can find any gold that wasn’t found in the rush!
Queenstown really needs a whole blog of its own but for now I will share the activity we chose to partake in while we were there, that suited all of our tourist desires – to see some amazing sights, offer a bit of adrenaline and only take a few hours. The Skyline Gondala ticked all these boxes. The views were incredible and we all got to have a go on the luge, even my two year old that went tandem!
Central Otago sure knows how to impress in this area – everywhere we went from Lake Hawea Hotel to Alchemy in Wanaka and Rata in Queenstown knew that food is the way to a person’s heart! We had good food everywhere we went and the coffee at Alchemy was so good that we went there every day for our caffeine hit!
So now I am back in the office daydreaming of my next little getaway you can be sure that high on the list is another visit to Lake Hawea Holiday Park so I can experience more of the natural and manmade wonders that I am get to discover in Central Otago. As for the time of year – this place has hands down won my heart as my go to autumn destination!
Contributor: Kate Blundell, Family Parks NZ
Photo credits: Kate Blundell
For more information on the Central Otago region visit centralotagonz.com
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