What is the Must-do in Alexandra and Clyde?
Well done, intrepid traveller, for finding yourself straying off the beaten track to the Central Otago towns of Alexandra and Clyde. Now that you’re here, what the hell is there to do?! Do you see that giant clock on the hill? Walk to that! Notice all those vineyards around? Go sample the stuff they’re making! And you might notice a few people on bikes here also… Well, you’re also in the New Zealand mecca of cycle trails, as Alexandra and Clyde are home to two (soon to be three) New Zealand Great Rides! Ask any local and they’ll tell you that riding your bike here is, without a doubt, a must-do.
What are the other must-dos in Central Otago? Find out with this list of Alexandra and Clyde must-dos!
1. Ride the Otago Central Rail Trail
You can’t come to Alexandra and Clyde and not get on a bicycle. One of the few cycling highlights includes New Zealand’s original “Great Ride”, the Otago Central Rail Trail. The multi-day adventure spans 152km (94 miles) across the Central Otago region. With a gentle gradient, the trail is accessible to just about anyone wanting to discover the beauty of the diverse landscapes and history of the region. Start the cycle trail in Clyde and travel on an old railway route to Middlemarch, passing mountainous landscapes to dry desert-like scenery to farmland to quaint towns with historic gold mining features. There’s also the option to do day rides of the Rail Trail from both Clyde or Alexandra thanks to the great selection of bike hire and shuttle services available, such as Cycle Surgery, Bike it Now, Shebikehebikes, Trail Journeys and more. Check out one of the day rides in the 5 Best Bike Trails in Alexandra & Clyde.
Location: Albert Drive or State Highway 8, Clyde.
2. Cycle the Roxburgh Gorge Trail
Yep, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail is another one of New Zealand’s Great Rides and a must-do in Alexandra! A truly remote experience down the stunning and dramatic Roxburgh Gorge, the trail is 34km (21 miles) which can either be enjoyed all together in one day with a jet boat ride connecting two sections or in shorter sections. One option is to cycle from Alexandra to Doctors Point (20km/12-mile return) to experience the breathtaking gorge scenery. Alternatively, start at Roxburgh Dam and ride to Shingle Creek (22km/14-mile return) offering expansive lake vistas and rural farmland. Again, local cycling operators, like Cycle Surgery can help you work out the logistics with bike hire, shuttle services and itinerary planning.
Location: Southern historic bridge pier, Alexandra.
3. Cross the Shaky Bridge and Walk Up to the Alexandra Mountain Clock
Whether you’re in Alexandra and Clyde to do some cycling or not, we recommend starting your visit with a short climb to the Alexandra Mountain Clock! The “Clock on the Hill” is not only a striking timepiece but offers excellent views of Alexandra, the surrounding mountains and the Clutha and Manuherikia rivers. The steep walk only takes about 10 minutes and starts from the historic Shaky Bridge, which is an attraction in itself! Read the interpretation panel beside the bridge to learn about its fascinating history. See more activities like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Alexandra & Clyde
Location: Graveyard Gully Road, Alexandra.
4. Tour the Boutique Wineries
With all the cycling you feel compelled to do in Alexandra and Clyde, it’s reasonable to reward yourself with a glass of wine or two. Luckily, Alexandra has plenty of vineyards where you can do this straight at the source! You’ll find more than 10 boutique wineries in the area, many opening their cellar doors for tastings. Visit them independently using the 10 Best Wineries in Alexandra or let someone else worry about the driving on a relaxing wine tour with Vine2Wine Uncorked or a 4WD bespoke wine tour with Rock and Tussock Safaris. Grey Ridge Vineyard, Hawkdun Rise Vineyard and Legacy Vineyard also offer accommodation in their vineyards, which tend to include at least a complimentary glass of wine to full vineyard tours for guests.
Location: See here for the wineries’ locations. Tours offer pick-ups from local accommodations.
5. Enjoy a River Cruise or Jet Boat Ride
A less strenuous way to experience the scenery of Alexandra and Clyde is on one of the jet boat tours and river cruises on the Clutha River. Clutha River Cruises offers an array of options, from their 2h30min scenic cruise aboard their pontoon craft to high-speed thrills on their jet boat tour. Alternatively, join Beaumont Jet for their thrilling jet boat ride down the Roxburgh Gorge, offering adventure tours, eco-tours to a remote island conservation area, and cycle transfers for the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. Central Water Taxis also offers cycle transfers, as well as lake cruise on Lake Roxburgh which is rich in Maori, European and Chinese history.
Location: Clutha River Cruises – 51 Sunderland Street, Clyde. Beaumont Jet – Alexandra Boat Ramp, Dunorling Street, Alexandra. Central Water Taxis – 20 Old Golf Course Road
6. Visit the Historical Towns of Clyde or Ophir
While you’ll see abandoned mining relics along the cycle trails, nothing speaks of Alexandra and Clyde’s gold mining history quite like the gold mining villages with their beautifully preserved buildings that were established during the 19th Century Otago Gold Rush. In fact, Clyde is one of them, often referred to as a “living museum” with its schist stone architecture. Similarly, the village of Ophir is home to the country’s oldest running post office and a historic suspension bridge. In both villages, you can pick up a complimentary booklet with information on all the noteworthy buildings.
Location: Clyde – State Highway 8, approximately 8km (5 miles) from Alexandra. Ophir – Ida Valley-Omakau Road, approximately 28km (17 miles) from Alexandra.
7. Cycle the Clutha Gold Trail
Did you think we were done talking about cycling?! That’s right, there’s another premium bike trail in Central Otago, this one showcasing stunning river gorge scenery and historical gold mining sites. The Clutha Gold Trail follows the Clutha River for 75km (47 miles) on this 1-2 day trail where you’ll find five small settlements along the trail where you can stop and learn about their history. The easy and undulating trail is definitely one to take leisurely. See more information in our 12 Super Scenic Cycle Trails in Otago.
Location: Commissioner’s Flat (just off Roxburgh East Road), Roxburgh Village, approximately 43km (27 miles) from Alexandra.
8. Explore the Bridge Hill Area
For enjoyment on your own two feet, cross the Alexandra Bridge to Bridge Hill where you can experience picturesque scenery and excellent walks. See native plantings and birds along the Kamaka Walkway, check out the Jolendale Park Arboretum for exotic and native trees mixed in with mining remains, rocky outcrops and a reservoir, and watch the ducks of the pretty Lanes Dam. Adjacent to the dam is Blackmore Park, great for picnicking and letting the kids loose in the play area, as featured in the 9 Things to Do in Alexandra & Clyde with Kids.
Location: Kamaka Walkway – Start halfway along Aronui Road or from Kamaka Crescent. Jolendale Park – Peterson Place. Lanes Dam and Blackmore Park – 45 Aronui Road.
9. Check Out the Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery
For your museum fix in Alexandra, visit the Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery to learn about the region’s geology, early settlers, social history, gold mining, farming, orcharding, viticulture and more. They even have an enclosure for Otago skinks, as well as art on display from local artists. What’s more, the museum is free and is a good back-up if you’re in town on one of the rare occasions when it’s raining.
Location: 21 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra.
10. Eat at Olivers, Paulina’s and the Cute Cafes
Finally, in a region awash in orchards and vineyards, you can’t miss Central Otago’s cuisine. One of the must-visit restaurants in the area is Olivers in Clyde for its charming heritage setting with three eateries in this complex: the fine dining and local fare of Olivers Restaurant, the casual dining of the Merchant of Clyde, and the Olivers Bar pouring beer straight from their in-house brewery. Clyde is also home to Paulina’s Restaurant & Bar, which draws inspiration from Spanish, Italian, Japanese cuisine to create a menu of wholesome food. Cosy cafes inside charming historical buildings are also a staple of Alexandra and Clyde, with some of our top picks including the Post Office Cafe & Bar, The Bank Cafe and The Court House Cafe & Bar. For more restaurant recommendations, head to The Foodie Guide to Alexandra & Clyde.
Location: Olivers – 34 Sunderland Street, Clyde. Paulina’s Restaurant & Bar – 6 Naylor Street. Post Office Cafe & Bar – 2 Blyth Street, Clyde. The Bank Cafe – 31-33 Sunderland Street. The Court House Cafe & Bar – 8 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra.