Otago

New Zealand
Otago showing mountains, a small town or village and a lake or waterhole

Get your heart pumping as you try New Zealand’s famous adventure sports or relax in the beach towns and wineries of this mountainous South Island region.

Thrilling adventures, gold-mining history, wildlife and viticulture make Otago a major draw card for visitors to the South Island of New Zealand. This is a region of immense natural beauty that ranges from snow-capped mountain peaks and tussock-covered ranges, to glacial lakes, sprawling plains and a coastline with hidden beaches and rugged peninsulas. Otago occupies a southerly section of the South Island and while today the region is a world-famous tourist destination, it maintains close ties with its farming and mining traditions.

Queenstown is the country’s adventure sports capital, set on the banks of Lake Wakatipu in the shadow of mountains such as Ben Lomond and The Remarkables. Explore the lake by kayak and stand-up paddleboard or on fishing tours, jet boat rides and the TSS Earnslaw Steamship. Try bungee jumping, canyoning, skiing and snowboarding along with toboggan-style go-karting. Visit the spellbinding Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, where parts of The Lord of the Rings were filmed.

Bike or drive along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy to enjoy more outdoor adventures. Find numerous walking trails that lead into Mount Aspiring National Park.

Embark on a journey through New Zealand’s gold-prospecting heritage in the towns of the Central Otago region. Arrowtown, Clyde, Cromwell, Macetown and St. Bathans all reveal parts of the region’s traditional industries. Marvel at the ever-changing scenery while biking along the Otago Central Rail Trail. Stop at tourist-friendly wineries, known internationally for their production of pinot noir.

Travel to Dunedin, a vibrant university city on the region’s east coast. Browse its galleries, admire its colonial architecture and take a tour of the Speight’s Brewery. A short drive from here is the Otago Peninsula, where marine wildlife inhabits beaches, cliffs and coves. Spot royal albatross at Taiaroa Head, yellow-eyed penguins at Sandfly Bay and blue penguins at Pilots Beach.

Beach hop along the Pacific Ocean coastline, stopping at seaside towns along the way. North of Dunedin are Kakanui and Oamaru, with Kaka Point and the remote Papatowai to the south. Don’t miss the bays, caves and waterfalls of The Catlins, a stunning region accessible by the Southern Scenic Route.

Dunedin and Queenstown are the major transport hubs for Otago. The region’s laid-back pace makes exploring by bike and car a pleasurable experience. Alternatively, relax on memorable train journeys such as the Taieri Gorge Railway.

Popular cities in Otago

Larnach Castle showing a castle and street scenes
Dunedin
With heritage architecture, buzzing nightlife and a pristine coastline, New Zealand’s “Edinburgh of the South” is a seaside city for all seasons.

Reasons to visit

  • The Octagon
  • Larnach Castle
  • Dunedin Town Hall
Queenstown
Queenstown
It's no accident that this city is the birthplace of both bungy jumping and jet boating – if you're looking for adventure, Queenstown is the perfect place for you.

Reasons to visit

  • Skyline Queenstown
  • Queenstown Gardens
  • Bob's Peak
Oamaru showing street scenes and heritage architecture
Oamaru
Relive the grandeur of Victorian-era prosperity and come face-to-face with waddling penguins as you explore North Otago’s largest town.

Reasons to visit

  • Steampunk HQ
  • Oamaru Harbour
  • Oamaru Victorian Heritage Precinct
Lake Hawea showing a lake or waterhole and mountains
Wanaka
Nestled beneath a mountainous national park on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka, this resort town offers skiing in winter, water sports in summer and stunning scenery all year.

Reasons to visit

  • Puzzling World
  • Pembroke Park
  • Wanaka Golf Club
Kawarau Suspension Bridge which includes mountains, a river or creek and landscape views
Gibbston
Known as the “Valley of the Vines,” beautiful Gibbston is a playground for extreme sports enthusiasts and a delight for wine lovers. 

Reasons to visit

  • Kawarau Suspension Bridge
Cardrona Alpine Resort featuring mountains and snow
Cardrona
Nestled in New Zealand’s majestic Southern Alps, this quiet town is famous for its iconic hotel and state-of-the-art ski facilities.

Reasons to visit

  • Cardrona Alpine Resort