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Photographing Central Otago in Autumn

You’d think the best time to visit New Zealand (and Central Otago specifically) would be the middle of summer, but if you’re travelling in December and January you’ll most likely get some pretty awful weather.  You’ll also have to deal with a lot of holidaying locals so if you’re thinking of making the journey then February, March and April are the best months. Central Otago has something to offer at any time of  year, but it’s probably at its most attractive in the autumn months when the leaves change colour and the crowds are thin.


Cromwell is a popular spot for summer holidays and it gets really busy over the Christmas/New Year break, but I went back there in April and it was almost deserted.  There’s an old town (just a few old shops and ruined buildings) and one of my favourite lakes in New Zealand. If you’re heading to Queenstown from Dunedin you’ll pass just by it – it’s definitely worth at least a few hours, or a few days.

Brown trees - Central Otago in AutumnLake Dunstan, Central Otago in AutumnCromwell - Central Otago in Autumn

The Otago Central Rail Trail

Central Otago has a more interesting history than most parts of New Zealand thanks to the gold rush of the late 1800’s. One of the best ways to see the area is by cycling the rail trail, which runs from Middlemarch to Clyde. You can do the whole thing over a few days (its 150 km) or just do sections. You’ll pass by old bridges, tunnels, vineyards and some amazing scenery. There are also some nice old pubs/hotels where you can stop for the night and cafes to rest at (it gets really hot at times, another reason for skipping it in the middle of summer and doing it in autumn instead).

Central Otago in Autumn - rail trail bridge in ClydeCentral Otago in Autumn - the Rail TrailCentral Otago in Autumn - vineyards

Central Otago has so much to explore and you could easily spend a couple of weeks there. Queenstown and Wanaka are the most popular places, but Clyde, St Bathans, Cromwell and Alexandra are all worth some time. The rail trail is a great way to see some of the even smaller towns in the area, so if you have time I’d definitely recommend doing at least some of it.

Have you been to Central Otago? What is your favourite season for photography? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. August 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm — Reply

    Looks so nice! I love fall..Can’t wait until the fall colours reach Canada 🙂

    • September 1, 2014 at 9:46 pm — Reply

      Thanks, I’m sure it’s great in Canada at that time of year!

  2. Sandra @ Tripper
    November 6, 2014 at 10:30 pm — Reply

    New Zealand is so high on our bucket list and so far I don’t think I have yet seen a reason not to go. Beautiful

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