The Must-Dos in Alexandra: The Sunny Hub of Central Otago
Located on the junction of two mighty rivers, the Manuherikia and the Clutha River, Alexandra is not to be missed on a Central Otago road trip! The landscape provides many photo opportunities with its rocky tors, high country, lush vineyards and orchards and vibrant blue rivers. As the hub of the region, Alexandra has all the modern facilities and necessities while its gold mining past is never too far from the surface, seen on the heritage buildings and bridges around the town. But if it’s the beauty of the landscapes that you seek, then the best way to discover it is also the myriad of cycling trails, such as the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Otago Central Rail Trail. Get more inspiration for your stay with this list of things to do in Alexandra.
1. Walk to the Clock on the Hill
The first thing to do when reaching Alexandra is walk up to its iconic clockface overlooking the town. After crossing the historic Shaky Bridge follow the trail up the hill toward the unmissable Alexandra Mountain Clock on the hillside. The 5-minute walk to the clock offers expansive views of Alexandra town, the Clutha River, surrounding vineyards and the Old Man and Old Woman Ranges. See more experiences like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Alexandra & Clyde.
Location: Graveyard Gully Road.
2. Cycle to Clyde
Alexandra is a hub for cycle trails including the 150th Anniversary River Track to Clyde. Hire a bike from in town (or start from Clyde, which has more bike hire options) and follow the 12km (7.5-mile) trail alongside the vibrant blue Clutha River. You’ll ride through small tracts of forest and past mining relics on this easy-grade bike trail. You can also sample the famous Otago Central Rail Trail which runs parallel to the River Track to get back to where you started. Find out more in 5 Best Bike Trails in Alexandra & Clyde. And while you are in Clyde there are 9 Cool Things to Do in Clyde.
Location: Start from under the Alexandra Historic Bridge.
3. Sample the Local Wines
With all the cycling you feel compelled to do in Alexandra, 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. See more experiences like this in the 5 Things to Do in Alexandra & Clyde for Foodies.
Location: See here for the wineries’ locations. Tours offer pick-ups from local accommodations.
4. Ride the Otago Central Rail Trail
Another one of the cycling highlights in Alexandra 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 or Alexandra 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 Alexandra thanks to the great selection of bike hire and shuttle services available, such as Central Cycle Trail Co. (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Bike it Now (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Shebikeshebikes, Trail Journeys and more. Check out one of the day rides in the 5 Best Bike Trails in Alexandra & Clyde.
Location: Little Valley Road.
5. Cycle the Roxburgh Gorge Trail
Yep, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail is another one of the must-do rides 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 can help you work out the logistics with bike hire, shuttle services and itinerary planning. Find out more in the 12 Super Scenic Cycle Trails in Otago.
Location: Southern historic bridge pier, Alexandra.
6. Visit the Nearby Gold Mining Towns
Alexandra and the surrounding area has a rich history of gold mining where prosperous buildings popped up around the region during the 1860s Otago Gold Rush. Today, they are beautifully preserved with some of the best-looking towns being Clyde, Ophir and St Bathans. These towns feel like an outdoor museum, where you can actually pick up heritage walk guides in the local information centres to learn about the buildings you are seeing.
Location: Ophir – 26km (16 miles) northeast of Alexandra, Clyde – 11km (7 miles) northwest of Alexandra, St Bathans – 60km (37 miles) northeast of Alexandra.
7. Check Out the Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery
For your museum fix in Alexandra, visit the Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery. 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 backup if you’re in town on one of the rare occasions when it’s raining.
Location: 21 Centennial Avenue.
8. Dine at Quaint Cafes and Bars
In a region awash in orchards and vineyards, you can hardly beat the freshness of Central Otago’s cuisine. One of the must-visit restaurants in the area is Olivers 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 Cafe, Deli & Bakery, and the Olivers Bar pouring beer straight from their in-house brewery. Clyde is also home to Paulina’s 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 Old Clyde Bank and The Court House Cafe & Bar. For more 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.
9. Go for a Walk in Roxburgh
A popular day trip from Alexandra is a day out in Roxburgh. After a scenic drive down State Highway 8, see the impressive Roxburgh Dam – best seen from the Spillway Lookout on the Commissioner’s Track. Travel a little further south to Roxburgh town to do the River Track or get awesome views from the Grovers Hill Track. Or if you’re looking for something more adventurous, enjoy a hike up the Bullocks Track. Find out more about each of these walks in the 6 Best Walks in Roxburgh.
Location: Roxburgh, 40km (25 miles) south of Alexandra.
9. Play Golf
Enjoy the beauty of the Central Otago region while playing a round of golf at the Alexandra Golf Course. What was once a semi-desert has been transformed into a challenging golf course for all ages and abilities. Play on treeline fairways and surrounded by thyme-clad hills on this golf course which provides easy walking and welcomes visitors. For more experiences like this, check out the 6 Luxury Activities in Alexandra & Clyde.
Location: North of town off State Highway 8.
10. 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.
11. Enjoy a River Cruise or Jet Boat Ride
A less strenuous way to experience the scenery of Alexandra is on one of the jet boat tours. Clutha River Cruises offers an array of cruise options, from their 2h30min scenic cruise aboard their pontoon craft to high-speed thrills on their jet boat. 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 cruises on Lake Roxburgh which is rich in Maori, European and Chinese history.
Location: Clutha River Cruises – 51 Sunderland Street, Clyde, approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from Alexandra. Beaumont Jet – Alexandra Boat Ramp, Dunorling Street, Alexandra. Central Water Taxis – 20 Old Golf Course Road
12. 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.
13. Go Off-Roading on a 4WD Safari
Offering bespoke 4WD tours, Rock and Tussock Safaris not only offer an alternative wine tour experience, but you can use this premium 4WD company to reach some of the best surrounding sights. Their safaris take you to the hard-to-reach hidden gems, from the short and sweet sundowner experience of the Earnscleugh Clyde Lookout to the full-day mission to Bannockburn, ascending the Old Woman Range for a picnic lunch. Additionally, Rock and Tussock offer fishing trips in summer.
Location: Pick-ups available from local accommodation.
14. Catch a Movie at One of the Boutique Cinemas
While going to the cinema might seem unimaginative, the cinemas in Alexandra and Clyde offer something a little different. Both the Central Cinema in Alexandra and the Clyde Cinema are boutique, so offer an air of charm that you won’t find in large city cinemas. Plus, the Clyde Cinema also has an on-site bistro so you can take a glass of wine or a sweet treat to accompany your movie. For similar experiences, take a look at the 6 Most Romantic Things to Do in Alexandra & Clyde for Couples.
Location: Central Cinema – 21 Centennial Avenue, Alexandra. Clyde Cinema – 6a Naylor Street, Clyde, approximately 9km (5.6 miles) from Alexandra.
15. Pick Raspberries at the Monte Christo Raspberry Cafe in Clyde
Another part of Alexandra and Clyde’s identity is its fruit-growing industry, where picking your own raspberries at the Monte Christo Raspberry Cafe is a delightful way to get involved. The cafe, which specialises in berry fruit desserts, homemade scones, Southland cheese rolls, real fruit ice cream, is set in a pretty flower garden. Plus, should you be travelling with little ones, there’s a family play area with mini golf, puzzle mats, giant board games, a miniature train and much more.
Location: 100 Springvale Road, Clyde, approximately 8.5km (5 miles) from Alexandra.
16. Go Ice Skating in Winter
If you happen to be visiting Alexandra in winter, treat yourself to a skate at Ice Inline Alexandra. Every winter, the recreational grounds of Centennial Avenue come alive with an ice rink offering public sessions for ice skating, curling and ice hockey.
Location: Centennial Avenue, Alexandra.
17. Sample Craft Beer at the Local Breweries
If you’re more of a beer drinker, then you won’t feel shortchanged in Alexandra. Treat your tastebuds to the hoppy flavours of Ferris Road Brewery’s beers, open Tuesday to Sunday for beer tastings accompanied by pizzas, wine, coffee and various bar snacks. In Clyde, don’t miss The Victoria Store Brewery inside a 125-year-old gold miners store, now a two-storey gravity-fed brewery with a bar, restaurant, cafe and accommodation on-site. More beer highlights include Manuherekia Brewery, found at the local markets and beer festivals, and Dark Horse Brew Werkz inside the grounds of the Omakau Commercial Hotel along the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Location: Ferris Road Brewery – 7 Ngapara Street, Alexandra. The Victoria Store Brewery – 34 Sunderland Street, Clyde. Manuherekia Brewery – Letts Gully Road, Alexandra. Dark Horse Brew Werkz – 1 Harvey Street, Omakau.
More Must-Dos and Things to Do Near Alexandra
That’s it for the best things to do in Alexandra. For more things to do, check out the following guides:
Finally, find more activities for your travels in the 51 Best Things to Do in the South Island.