Introducing Waitaki Valley
The little-travelled Waitaki Valley includes some unique sights and scenery between the turn-off at SH1 and Omarama. The valley is also an outdoors paradise, and is a good place to catch trout and salmon, or waterski on the strikingly blue hydrolakes. This is a possible route to Wanaka and Queenstown if you’re heading south, or to Twizel and Mt Cook if you’re heading north.
After following SH83 almost to Duntroon, detour left at the turn-off to Danseys Pass. Nearby on the left, under an impressive limestone overhang, are the Maraewhenua Maori rock paintings. The charcoal-and-ochre paintings date back several centuries, tracing everything from pre-European hunting to sailing ships.
Follow the road another 4km then turn left towards Ngapara. Two kilometres further on are Elephant Rocks. Sculpted by wind, rain and rivers, the huge limestone boulders of this bizarre landscape were utilised as Aslan’s Camp in the NZ-filmed Narnia blockbuster (2005). If you’re feeling adventurous, continue over Danseys Pass to Naseby from 2km back at the intersection.
Back on SH83 at Duntroon is the Vanished World Centre, with interesting displays of 25-million-year-old fossils, including NZ’s shark-toothed dolphins and giant penguins. Pick up a copy of the Vanished World Fossil Trail map outlining 20 different locations around North Otago. Just west of Duntroon is the Takiroa Maori Rock Art Site, with more drawings dating back many centuries.
Tiny Kurow is at the junction of the Waitaki and Hakataramea Rivers. For good coffee, stop at the Te Kohurau Restaurant & Café. Pop into the Kurow Heritage & Information Centre, which has an interesting museum, including a mini-shrine to local boy Richie McCaw, captain of the mighty All Blacks when they won the Rugby World Cup in 2011.
Instead of continuing west from Kurow on SH83, take the 21km scenic detour over the Aviemore Dam, around the northern lake shore past walking tracks and scenic campsites ($10), then over the huge Benmore Dam earthworks. Rejoin SH83 just west of Otematata.
Alps to Ocean Cycle
Spectacular cycling from Mt Cook down towards the vibrant coastal town of Oamaru