This is the story of a region that has gone from being prosperous to forgotten. During the lucrative gold rush that New Zealand experienced at the end of the 19th century, the Maniototo region was greatly prosperous but once that era was over, it struggled to reinvent itself.
Being a part of the Central Otago district, which is largely dominated by Queenstown and Wanaka, the Maniototo region is neglected by both international tourists and New-Zealanders. Only cyclists who are doing the famous Otago Rail Trail discover this region – by the way, we strongly encourage you to try this experience.
Maniototo is a real journey back in time, the villages testify to its former prosperity: Clyde, Ophir (just to name a few) are beautifully untouched, and many villages or buildings are classified as New Zealand heritage.
I was able to discover Maniototo in-depth during my first 4WD discovery trip. I arrived by the exceptional Danseys track, at the end of which I enjoyed a beer at the Danseys Pass Coach Inn Hotel built in 1862. I wouldn’t say the building remained as it was, but it definitely kept its character! If you are ready to spend a night in somewhat basic conditions (in a room with ensuite bathroom), this will for sure be a real immersion in your journey.
At the end of the track is Naseby, where you can find the only international curling ground in the country. Even if, like us, you are new to it, you definitely have to give it a try, we can guarantee this will be a fun moment of laughter.
Don't miss a detour to the Wedderburn Tavern, built in 1885 with stones from the Central Otago region. Very secluded, at the north-west of this region, you will find the tiny village of St Bathans, which was for me one of the most striking discoveries of this country. The Vulcan Hotel seems to be a movie set, while the Blue Lake is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.
Continuing further west, Ophir or Clyde can be your overnight stopover, if you didn’t opt for Danseys. Finally, if you are wine connoisseurs, make sure you taste a few as you are in the heart of the region producing the best Pinot Noir in the country, Bannockburn.
Whether it is to avoid the crowds of Wanaka and Queenstown in high season, or to make a stopover from Dunedin, we strongly recommend to discover this region, a symbol of an authentic New Zealand.
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