ALEXAN­DRA

Blos­som fes­ti­val town

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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.

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