NOTE: This post contains references to products on my Amazon Store site. I may receive a commission when you purchase these products from my store, though at no additional cost to you. I hand-pick and recommend only the products that I am either familiar with or comfortable recommending.
There are some amazing wine destinations around the world and the Central Otago Valley on New Zealand’s South Island is definitely one of them. It is the world’s southernmost commercial wine regions and with the Southern Alps as a backdrop, it is also one of the world’s prettiest. The region is known for its stellar Pinot noirs, but there are many white wines that are popular in the region as well.
In this Wine Guide, I am going to give you all of the information that you need to plan a successful trip to New Zealand’s Central Otago Valley. I will outline what there is to see and do in the Central Otago Valley, which wineries you can visit, which wineries I recommend, and which tours in the region are most recommended. With this information in hand, you should have no trouble planning a memorable trip to New Zealand’s most beautiful wine destination.
New Zealand’s Wine Regions
In recent years, New Zealand has quickly become one of the world’s fastest-growing wine producers with the number of wineries in the country tripling from the year 1990 to 2000 and the number of winemakers exploding from just 31 to 293. That growth has continued in recent decades and New Zealand wine is starting to get the recognition that it deserves from wine connoisseurs and travelers.
While the Marlborough wine region is New Zealand’s largest wine region and Hawkes Bay is the country’s oldest, the Central Otago Valley has the distinction of being the most southern commercialized wine region, not just the country, but in the whole world. Shielded from the coldest weather by the high mountains that line the coastline of New Zealand’s Southern Island, the Central Otago Valley may also be one of the most picturesque wine regions in the world.
About the Central Otago Wine Region
Roughly 80% of the wine produced in New Zealand is white, with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay being the country’s most notable types. However, in the Central Otago Valley Pinot noir is the most widely produced wine and accounts for roughly 70% of the region’s plantings. That isn’t to say that you can’t find other types of wine in the region as Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer are also produced by winemakers in the area.
There are a total of 33 grape growers and 136 wine producers in New Zealand’s Central Otago Valley, with some of the bigger names becoming top sellers worldwide. For a better understanding of which wineries and vineyards are available to visit in the region and where they are located, please refer to the map and table that I have included below.
How to Get There
The Central Otago Valley is located on the southern end of New Zealand’s Southern Island, with the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park comprising the western border and the Pacific Ocean making up the eastern border. If you are visiting the Central Otago wine region from outside of New Zealand, the best option is to fly into the international airport in Queenstown. From here you can arrange to take a tour or rent a car to visit the wine valley on your own.
If you are visiting the Central Otago Valley as part of a larger trip to New Zealand, you can either fly into the airport in Queenstown or you can fly into the international airport in Christchurch. The option you choose largely depends on the itinerary of your visit and what other locations on the South Island you are planning to see. Many travelers choose to do a loop of the South Island and fly in and out of either one of these airports. If you are limited on time and would like to see as much as possible, you could always fly into Christchurch and book your return flight out of Queenstown, or vice versa.
As I will outline later in this guide, you can book a variety of tours of the Central Otago Wine Region from either Queenstown or Wanaka. So if wine tastings are going to be a big part of your trip and you are trying to decide which city to stay in, these are both fantastic options. In addition to being in the Central Otago wine region, both cities also offer a variety of other tourist activities to enjoy, such as skydiving.
As for the areas in the valley that are known most for their wine, the city of Cromwell is an absolutely must-stop for wine enthusiasts. There are a number of amazing vineyards and wineries in and around the city, as well as cider producers, fresh fruit markets, and other wonderful things to see. Cromwell sits in between Queenstown and Wanaka, so planning a visit really isn’t out of the way either.
Best Time to Visit
Because the Central Otago Valley is protected from the coldest weather by the Southern Alps that make up Mount Aspiring National Park, the winter temperatures never get too cold in the valley. Whether you are taking a break from the ski slopes or taking a side excursion during a summer hiking trip, every season really is a good season to visit the Central Otago Valley to enjoy the fine wines. For a better understanding of what type of climate you can expect when you visit, I have included some weather-related information for you to review below.
Average Temperature (°F)
As I mentioned above, because the valley is protected, it never sees the really cold temperatures you find in other parts of the South Island. On the flip side, the temperatures in the valley never get too hot in the summer either. This is what makes the valley suitable for wine production even though it is located so far south in the Southern Hemisphere and what makes it a great tourist destination year-round.
Average Precipitation (Inches)
In addition to protecting the valley from the cold winters, the Southern Alps also shield the valley from getting the tremendous amounts of water that you can find on some parts of the western shore. The winter months are the driest months of the year in the Central Otago, but even during the summer you shouldn’t have to worry about planning your trip around seasonal rains.
Recommended Wineries and Vineyards
There are a lot of fantastic wineries and vineyards in the Central Otago Valley, and I have included a map above if you are interested in understanding where they are all located. In addition to providing you that map, I also wanted to touch on some of the vineyards and wineries that I have personally visited and recommend. Below you will find my top five list of wineries and vineyards in the Central Otago Valley.
Cloudy Bay Winery
The Cloudy Bay vineyard and winery are absolutely gorgeous and the wine is delicious. It is really easy to see why their wine is so popular worldwide and why so many wine enthusiasts who travel to the South Island make at stop at Cloudy Bay.
In addition to a winery with delicious wine, this estate also includes wonderful cottages that travelers can stay at if they are looking to maximize their New Zealand wine experience. With a great combo of excellent wine and comfy lodging, it is easy to see why Kinross Cottages made my list of the top wineries and vineyards to visit in the Otago Valley.
Mt. Rosa Wines
Out of all of the wineries that we visited in the Central Otago Valley, Mount Rosa has to be my favorite location. Not to mention, they produce some fantastic wine. They have an abundance of beautiful outdoor seating so that you can sit back, relax with a glass of your favorite Mount Rosa wine, and enjoy the absolutely stunning landscape around the vineyard.
Wooing Tree Vineyards
On top of having the absolute coolest name on this list, the Wooing Tree also has some award-winning wine to show off to its visitors. In addition to their delicious wine, the Wooing Tree also serves some pretty fantastic food. It is definitely a winery that I would include on any tour of the Central Otago Valley.
Carrick Wines is another winery that sits in an absolutely stunning location with an abundance of outdoor seating to enjoy. Situated near a beautiful man-made lake, visitors can enjoy their wine and some great food from the restaurant at this lovely establishment. This is why I think no tour of the Central Otago Valley can be complete without a stop at Carrick Wines.
If you don’t have your own vehicle or don’t feel like driving yourself from one wine tasting to another, there are a variety of fantastic wine tours that offer hotel pickups in Queenstown, Wanaka, and Cromwell. In case you are interested in looking into a tour, I have included a list of some of the highest-rated tours for you to review below.
|Central Otago Wine Tour from Queenstown – Including Lunch|
|Wine Tour with Wine Tasting from Wanaka|
|Zipline Combo with Wine Tasting Tour from Queenstown|
|Original Wine Tour From Queenstown|
|Heli Jeep Wine Tour from Cromwell, Central Otago|
Other Things to See and Do in the Area
While the Central Otago Valley is most well known for its wine, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in the area. Whether you are looking for some adventure or just someplace beautiful to enjoy, the Central Otago Valley has plenty of both to go around. To assist you in planning for your trip, I have included a list of some of the top attractions in the Otago region below for you to review.
No visit to New Zealand’s South Island is complete without a stop in Queenstown. Widely regarded as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is a magnet for adventure travelers from all over the globe. In addition to being a breathtakingly beautiful city, is also a plethora of things to do in and around town.
For those looking for some adventure, you will find skydiving, bungy jumping, jet boating, and canyon swinging opportunities around town. Or if you want to have a little more laid back visit, you can take a short walk to the top of Queenstown Hill or take the gondola up to the Stratosfare Restaurant and Bar and then enjoy a thrilling luge ride back down.
Just a short drive from Queenstown, Wanaka is the other exciting city in the Otago region. Because of its location between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea at the foot of the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park, Wanaka has some of the most breathtaking landscapes you will find on New Zealand’s South Island.
This is probably why it is a magnet for hiking enthusiasts from around the globe. With hikes like the Isthmus Peak Track and Roy’s Peak Track, you will be left speechless by the beauty you see. For those who aren’t as active or as adventurous, you can enjoy the many wonderful restaurants in town and take a walk along Lake Wanaka and admire the beauty of the infamous Wanaka Tree (pictured above).
The Roaring Meg
Located in the Kawarau Gorge, near the city of Cromwell, the Roaring Meg refers to the two small hydro-electric power stations that are fed by the Roaring Meg Dam at the intersection of the Roaring Meg and Kawarau rivers within the gorge. It was built by the Otago Central Power Board in the mid-1930s and has been a big tourist draw ever since then. If you are driving thru the Otago Valley from Cromwell to Queenstown, this roadside stop is well worth your while.
If you love flowers, you will love the Wanaka Lavender Farm. These stunningly beautiful fields of bright purple will blow your mind when you see them. I can think of few better locations in the Otago Valley to get that Instagram shot that will leave your friends and family speechless.
Goldfield’s Jet Boat and Historic Gold Mine
If you love beauty and history, then you will really enjoy a stop at the Goldfield’s Jet Boat and Historic Gold Mine in the Kawarau Gorge. Located just a bit downstream from the Roaring Meg Damn, the Goldfield’s Jet Boat Rides are a great way to fit some adventure into your visit to the Otago Valley. Enjoy the beauty of the gorge as you cruise up the rapid-strewn river in a jet boat designed to navigate the tricky waters. Then, after your boat ride, you can take a moment to tour the old gold mine that sits along the edge of the gorge.
Wine Shipping Tips
If you are going to visit the Central Otago Valley wine region, chances are that you are going to want to purchase some bottles of wine to bring home. If you can afford it, shipping your bottles is one way to get them home. However, this option can be rather expensive.
For instance, one winery we visited charged $99 AUS to ship 12-15 bottles to Australia, $199 US to ship 12-15 bottles to the United States, and $245 EU to ship 12 bottles and $275 EU to ship 15 bottles to the European Union. If you are planning on purchasing some wine but would like to save some money on getting your wine home, below are some products I recommend that can help you out.
NOTE: The product descriptions below contain links to my Amazon Store site. I may receive a commission when you purchase these products from my store, though at no additional cost to you. I hand-pick and recommend only the products that I am either familiar with or comfortable recommending.
Reusable Bottle Protector Sleeve
|The cheapest, lightest, and the most space-effective way to bring some bottles of wine home is to pack them in your checked luggage. Now, you could always pack them in your clothes and hope for the best. However, if a bottle breaks you are looking at some pretty nasty clothing stains. The best way to ensure that the bottles you pack don’t break is to come to New Zealand prepared. With these cost-effective wine protector travel sleeves, you can be assured that the bottles of wine you pack will survive the trip home in your checked luggage.|
|View Product on Amazon.com|
4 Bottle Travel Padded Wine Carrying Cooler Bag
|If you want to purchase wine on a tour that you plan on using for the remainder of your trip, then you are going to want to have a convenient way to carry that wine with you as you tour New Zealand. What better way to do that than with this four-bottle wine carrying cooler bag.|
|View Product on Amazon.com|
12 Bottles All-Purpose Wine Travel Suitcase
|For the serious wine enthusiasts that plan on purchasing a large number of bottles of wine, this is the ultimate travel accessory. With this wine suitcase, you can safely check up to twelve bottles of wine to bring back with you. The hard case and foam interior ensure that your wine is protected and ready to enjoy when you get home.|
|View Product on Amazon.com|
I cannot say enough great things about the Central Otago Valley in New Zealand. In addition to being one of the most fascinating wine regions in the world, it is also an incredibly beautiful place. You can see just how beautiful in the gallery of pictures I have included below.
Get My Ultimate Travel Guide
Sign-up to receive the latest updates from my travel blog and start receiving premium content that you will not find on this blog, starting with my Ultimate Travel Guide. This comprehensive guide outlines the process that I use to book all of my trips and includes tips and tricks for streamlining the travel planning process and saving you money on travel.