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Central Otago, New ZealandCromwell History

Cromwell | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Cromwell is a region touched by history, with a powerful landscape of ancient mountains, weathered rock formations, alpine herb fields and fast rivers.

Cromwell History Overview

Cromwell was originally known as "The Junction", as it was at the confluence of the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers.

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Road Through Central Otago, New Zealand
Road Through Central Otago
Photographer: Mark Smith
(mrmrsmith@clear.net.nz)

More recently, in the 1860s, Cromwell was the scene of a gold rush. Trails used by miners can still be seen winding over the hills. Stone cottages, a haunted hotel, cleverly engineered water channels, mines and machinery are other relics to discover. You can still try your luck with a gold pan, or be satisfied with the golden sweetness of a Roxburgh apricot.

Nowadays, Cromwell is a place of wineries and stone fruit orchards.

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Old Cromwell Town

In 1992 the Clyde Dam was completed and the valley behind the dam was flooded to create Lake Dunstan. As the Cromwell township was located in this valley, dedicated volunteers painstakingly moved the buildings from Cromwell's original town centre to higher ground.

Today you can explore the past in Old Cromwell Town, a reconstructed historic precinct on Melmore Terrace. Wander through historical buildings dating between 1860 and 1900. Historical buildings include:

  • London House Stables
  • Captain Barry's cottage
  • Cobb & Co Store
  • Belfast Store
  • Jolly's Seed & Grain Store

Artists and craftspeople feature in Old Cromwell Town and have the chance to show off their talents and wares at a variety of events, including Captain Barry's Summer Fete, Junction Function Easter Fair and Labour Weekend Market Day.

From the wharf, the 1929 kauri launch MV Waitika takes passengers on a leisurely cruise on Lake Dunstan, exploring rugged gorges and gold mining remnants.

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail

Like a giant outdoor museum, the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail combines exciting walkways and mountain biking trails with opportunities to see the weathered remains of human endeavour from the 1860s.

The discovery of gold in Cromwell and the Otago region in 1861 caused a gold rush of thousands of miners. It began in Gabriel's Gully and within seven months 10,000 miners had flocked to this goldfield. With mine names like Dead Horse Pinch, Serpentine and Lonely Graves, the hardship and bleak optimism of gold fever is apparent. The Golden Progress Mine and Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings show how technology evolved during the rush.

By 1867, around two million ounces of gold had been taken out of Otago. This prosperous time had a major impact on the young New Zealand economy—the grand buildings of Dunedin city are one example of how Otago's riches were spent.

As the gold ran out, Cromwell became a service centre for farming and stone fruit growing.

» Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail Information

Cromwell Accommodation

Cromwell is a popular tourist destination and offers a wide range of accommodation options:

View more Cromwell Accommodation options.

Useful Cromwell Links

To help plan your Cromwell holiday choose from the main categories below:

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Cromwell Region Information

Cromwell Tourism Operators

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Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

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Featured

 
Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

Mainstay NZ Hotels

Large collection of independent hotels.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels

Holiday packages for any occasion.

Distinction Hotels

Distinction Hotels

Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.