Blossom festival town
The dry climate makes for excellent wine growing and there are many wineries around Alexandra, making it a delicious stop along any journey, or a place to sit back and just indulge. Shaky Bridge Wines has both a tasting room and café to delight the senses. Open year-round with variable seasonal hours, the tasting room offers the chance to explore the rich flavours that the Alexandra Basin can create. Known for its Pinot Noir, Shaky Bridge Winery also grows other varieties, such as Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, along with a unique old world-new world styled Chardonnay. The Shaky Bridge Vineyard Café lies adjacent to the actual Shaky Bridge monument on the eastern side of the Manuherikia River and is open year-round. Along with a great cup of coffee they have delicious seasonal menus to accompany a glass of their wine. If wine isn’t your thing though, they also offer a selection of craft brews from Harrington’s (Christchurchbased brewery). After spoiling the taste buds there are a plethora of activities for anyone travelling to the town and surrounds, from biking trails to historic sites. There are plenty of relics from its past in the town and surrounds that are of keen interest to anyone venturing to this part of the South Island. The Shaky Bridge monument (the namesake of the winery and café) is a link to the industrious age when a bridge crossed the Manuherikia River, allowing wagons and horses across. The Central Stories William Bodkin Memorial Museum helps to put Alexandra’s place in New Zealand’s past into perspective with exhibitions of geology, social history and viticulture on display. A special feature housed in the museum is Treasure, one of only 1,400 critically endangered Otago Skinks. Associated with the museum is the Russell Henderson’s Art Gallery. An easy short walk from the museum is up to the Alexandra Hill Clock. Standing tall over Alexandra since 1968, the clock is visible from anywhere in the town both day and night (with lighting installed). The walk up to the hill top provides lovely views over the town and is suitable for any level of fitness. For garden lovers there is the annual Blossom Festival in September. The festival starts off with a Mardi Gras. The next day the big event arrives with the parade of blooms and afterwards there is family fun for all in the Pioneer Park. If all that isn’t enough entertainment; there is drag racing at the airport and garden tours for those wanting a more laid-back day. If adventure sports are more of interest, there are two bike trails that pass through Alexandra. The well-known Otago Rail Trail starts in Middlemarch and ends in Clyde. To truly enjoy the trail it is best to start the journey in Dunedin and experience the Tairei Gorge Railway. The rail journey takes in some amazing scenery whilst marvelling at the engineering feats that it took to get a railway track though this difficult terrain. The train turns around and heads back to Dunedin from Middlemarch, but if biking onwards,
this is the starting point of the bike trail. The old railway line from Middlemarch has been converted to this popular and well known trail. The route can been done leisurely with many companies available to help with biking; providing different levels of catering from simple bike hire, to all accommodations and baggage transfer taken care of. Another less celebrated biking route is the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. An amazing one-day ride between Alexandra and Roxburgh Dam it follows along the Clutha River. There are plenty of sights along the way with sheer 350-metre bluffs, old schist miner huts and other mining relics. The middle section (from Doctors Point to Shingle Creek) of the trail is still inaccessible by bike, which fortunately forces bikers on a 12km boat ride down the river. At the end of the Roxburgh Dam the trail finishes, leaving bikers with the option to return to Alexandra or to extend the biking journey joining onto the Clutha Gold Trail. Shebikeshebikes specialise in making the biking journey to Alexandra an easy one, with personalised itinerary’s and in depth knowledge of all biking trails in the region. They organise everything from accommodation, transfers, bike hire and their detailed plans have everything, even where the next toilets are on the route. If heading down the Roxburgh Gorge Trail they also take care of organising the boating section of the journey. They are the only operator that is fully family friendly, providing the recumbent IGO option. Additionally when moving from accommodations they transport those needed extras when travelling with small children (car seats and portacots) at no extra cost. Within driving distance of Alexandra is Naseby; home to the world famous curling rink (which is available year-round). Alexandra has its own Olympic sized ice rink that during the winter cater for skating, ice hockey and curling. Just 10 minutes’ drive from town is Manorburn Dam, which during the winter, the lake freezes sufficiently to provide the largest area of skateable black ice in the Southern Hemisphere. When choosing a place to stay there is a variety of options available from modest to boutique. Within Alexandra there is a selection of motels and motor lodges such Almond Court Motel or Mirabell Chalets that have the ability to cater for larger travelling parties. One boutique option just outside of Alexandra is Speargrass Inn. Speargrass Inn was the original local hotel looking after the hungry miners that flocked to the region to work on the nearby Old Man Range. Mountain and rural views are just one of the perks of staying. The spacious queen ensuite rooms have luxurious linen to make relaxing even easier. It is possible to book a fully-inclusive package that includes all meals, allowing patrons to just indulge in the local cuisine. To complement the meal is a list full of Central Otago wines, many of which are grown just 30 minutes away. There are numerous options to relax in and this includes a laundry that has been converted into a sitting room with old pictures of locals, or a well-kept cottage garden. The beautifully-restored residence was upgraded in 2009 and focuses on creating lasting memories for clientele, whilst enjoying locally grown seasonal cuisine. The onsite Speargrass Café offers scrumptious food and also makes its own cottage preserves, using the abundant local stone fruit produce that are also employed in the creation of their menu. The café courtyard provides a lovely outdoor dining experience and the walls inside display local artist’s talent. Two other boutique alternatives located in nearby Clyde are Hartley Homestead and Oliver’s. Both are in historically restored and upgraded buildings and offer a relaxed atmosphere. Clyde in itself is also worth visiting as the end point of the Otago Rail Trail, where the famous Clyde Dam that tames the Clutha River, creates nearby Lake Dunstan.
Speargrass Inn, Alexandra.