Otago, New Zealand

Living in Otago

Iyna Bort Caruso

In Otago, in the central region of New Zealand’s South Island, one-time gold rush trails have been replaced by vineyard trails, bike trails and art trails. The scenery surrounding them is nature on an epic scale.

It is a land of extremes, home to the country’s hottest summers and coldest winters. Locals don’t complain about it. They boast about it, heading to snowy mountains in winter and glacial lakes and gorges in summer.  

Central Otago is the world’s southernmost wine-producing region. The “continental” climate and dramatic temperature variations give the grapes a distinct character that distinguishes them from New Zealand’s traditional maritime regions. 

Queenstown and Wanaka are two of Otago’s fastest-growing resort centers.

Like other areas of Otago, Queenstown was a quiet town disrupted by a mid-19th century gold rush that lasted until the turn of the 20th century. The street grid created then is still largely intact today. When the gold rush days faded, tourism took off in this four-season, lake and alpine destination on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Six golf courses are less than a half hour from the town’s center.

An hour’s drive away from Queenstown is Wanaka, a town that offers a has-it-all, do-it-all lifestyle. Wanaka is surrounded by Southern Alps and situated at the foot of Mount Aspiring National Park, making it an ideal jumping-off point for seasonal pursuits like skiing, snowboarding, hiking and yachting. Lakeside residential estates take full advantage of the scenery. A 150-kilometer long cycling trail, once a railway line, cuts across the heart of the territory and was voted New Zealand’s best place to ride.

The largest city in Otago is Dunedin, a two-hour flight from Auckland. It’s been called the Edinburgh of the South since many of its earliest settlers hailed from Scotland. The influx also explains the cluster of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, the largest collection in New Zealand. Dunedin is also a university town. The University of Otego opened in 1871 and is the country’s oldest. Twenty percent of the population is made up of students who contribute to Dunedin’s lively and creative vibe. Warm weather months are packed with performances and festivals.

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