Introducing Waitaki Valley
Wine, waterskiing and salmon-fishing are just some of the treats on offer along this little-travelled route. Coming from Omarama, SH83 passes an array of arrestingly blue lakes, each abutted by a hydroelectric power station. For a scenic detour along the north bank, leave the highway at Otematata and cross over the huge Benmore Dam, then cross over Aviemore Dam to rejoin the highway.
A succession of sleepy little heartland towns line the highway, peppered with rustic heritage bank buildings and pubs. One of the most appealing is tiny lost-in-time Kurow (population 302), the hometown of World Cup–winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. From almost-as-cute Duntroon (population 90), adventurous (and appropriately insured) drivers can take the unsealed road over Danseys Pass to Naseby.
Although they've got a long way to go to attain the global reputation that their colleagues on the other side of the mountains in Central Otago enjoy, a few winemaking pioneers in Waitaki Valley are making wine of which international experts are taking notice.