Lake Dunstan, Cromwell

The Coolest Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand

Last Updated: 15th November, 2023

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Central Otago region on the South Island of New Zealand, Cromwell beckons travelers with its unique blend of history, natural beauty, and flourishing wineries! This charming town, surrounded by rugged mountains and on the shores of the stunning Lake Dunstan, is a hidden gem of the Central Otago region! Filled with beautiful biking trails, boutique shopping, and adrenaline-pumping activities, it is an awesome town to explore. Here are the best things to do in Cromwell, New Zealand!

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Cromwell is located only a short drive from the major tourist destination of Queenstown, and is a fantastic place to stop during your road-trip around the South Island of New Zealand!

The 10 Best Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand

Lake Dunstan Cromwell

1. Explore the historic Old Cromwell Heritage Precinct

  • Cost: Free!
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Accessible

Cromwell is known for it’s rich history, and one of the coolest things to do in Cromwell is to explore the Old Cromwell Heritage Precinct – a preserved and restored section of the town that reflects its fascinating gold rush heritage!

Heritage buildings in the Cromwell Heritage Precinct
Cromwell Heritage Precinct

The Old Cromwell Precinct features a collection of heritage buildings from the 1860’s gold rush era! These buildings have been carefully restored to their original character, and they now house a variety of shops – including cute cafes, fantastic restaurants, boutique craft shops, and an art gallery! Whether you are spending some time in Cromwell or just driving through on your way to Queentown, this is one of the best things to do in Cromwell while you’re here!

If you enjoy exploring the Old Cromwell Precinct and its beautifully preserved Gold Rush-era buildings, you might also like to visit the charming town of Arrowtown! Located in the Queenstown-Lakes District of New Zealand’s South Island, Arrowtown boasts a similar historical allure with its well-preserved heritage streets and quaint, gold mining-era architecture.

Location: 71 Melmore Tce, Cromwell

2. Zoom around the Track at Highlands Motorsport Park

One of the most exciting and adrenaline-pumping things to do in Cromwell is to race around the track at the Highlands Motorsport Park! This park is renowned for it’s world class racing facilities, and is guaranteed to get your heart pounding!

There are a bunch of different activities and experiences you can do at the Highlands Motorsport Park. From riding shotgun in a high-performance race car, or having the chance to drive a V8 Muscle Car around the track, this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! There is also a fantastic outdoor go-kart track, with single and tandem karts – perfect for a memorable family day out.

If you are looking for rainy-day things to do in Cromwell, an awesome option is to visit the National Motorsport Museum, which showcases the history and achievements of New Zealand motorsport! You can see rare and iconic vehicles, such as ex-Formula One cars, rally cars, and motorcycles, as well as memorabilia and interactive exhibits.

Location: Highlands Motorsport Park, Corner SH6 & Sandflat Road, Cromwell

3. Get a Photograph with some Big Fruit!

  • Cost: Free!
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Accessible

One of the most iconic and quirky things to do in Cromwell is to visit its famous Cromwell Big Fruit sculpture – an apple, a pear, a peach and an apricot! This huge sculpture is hard-to-miss, as it stands proudly in the very center of town!

One of New Zealand’s favourite, wacky, small-town traditions is to have giant, oversized ‘Big Thing’ statues, celebrating something the town is known for! Cromwell is one of these towns, and is known as the ‘Fruit Bowl of the South‘ due to the many fruit orchards surrounding it.

Central Otago, and especially the land around the Cromwell Basin, is renowned for its thriving fruit industry, thanks to its hot, dry climate and fertile soil. As you drive into Cromwell, you will see orchards and vineyards stretching for miles, as well as incredible local fruit stalls along the sides of the road!

Location: Murray Terrace, Cromwell

4. Explore Cromwell’s Walking Trails

  • Cost: Free!
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Accessible

One of my favourite things to do in Cromwell is to lace up my hiking boots and get out onto one of the many beautiful walking trails in the area! The landscapes in Central Otago are some of the most stunning in New Zealand, with golden plains and rugged mountains creating a striking contrast with the brilliant blue Clutha River. There are a number of walking trails throughout the region, giving you the opportunity to soak up some of these incredible views!

Walking and Biking trails around Cromwell, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
There are some incredible walking and biking trails around Cromwell!

5. Have a BBQ on the shores of Lake Dunstan…

  • Cost: Free
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Accessible

One of the most popular things to do in Cromwell during the hot summer months is to spend the afternoon relaxing along the shores of Lake Dunstan – swimming, boating, and having the classic kiwi BBQ!

Swimming in the river, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
A refreshing swim in the Clutha River!

There are a number of awesome picnic spots along the shores of Lake Dunstan and the stunning Clutha River, with some offering free BBQ facilities! All you need to do is fill up your chilly bin and head down to the lake for a lovely day out!

Best Picnic Spots in Cromwell

  1. Old Cromwell
    A beautiful spot with a sheltered BBQ, a picnic table, and incredible views over the river!
  2. Alpha Street Swimming Hole
    Public toilet and BBQ, as well as a playground by the river
  3. Anderson Park
  4. Lowburn
    A beautiful big campground on the shore of Lake Dunstan, with great swimming holes! Can get very busy during summer.
  5. Lake Dunstan Foreshore
    You can stop at a number of secluded spots along the foreshore for a stunning picnic!
  6. Cromwell Gorge Picnic Area
  7. Champagne Gully
    One of my favourite spots in the area! A small grassy section along the river, with stunning views over the mountains.

6. …Before Slipping and Sliding at the Kiwi Water Park!

  • Cost: $40 for 2 hours
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors

If you’re visiting Cromwell over the hot summer months, then you should check out Kiwi Water Park – the largest and best inflatable water park in New Zealand! This floating obstacle course is great fun for kids of all ages, and is the perfect family-friendly thing to do in Cromwell!

The Kiwi Water Park is found on Lake Dunstan, just a few minutes north of Cromwell town center, and it is like a floating Disneyland! It has a massive obstacle course, a climbing wall, water trampolines, and a 8.5 meter tower with a ski-jump style slide – with new activities and features being added every year! It is guaranteed to make for a memorable family day out, and you can sit and relax on the shores of Lake Dunstan with a picnic after all the excitement.

Location: Lowburn, Central Otago

7. Bike the Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail

  • Cost: Free!
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors

The Lake Dunstan Trail is a scenic and exhilarating cycling route that connects the historic towns of Clyde and Cromwell in Central Otago, New Zealand. The trail follows the shores of Lake Dunstan and the stunning Clutha River, offering magnificent views of the mountains, vineyards, orchards, and gorges that make up the Cromwell Basin!

This is a fantastic bike trail, and is suitable for cyclists of all levels, as it has a mostly flat terrain with some gentle climbs and descents. The full ride takes around 4-6 hours, however allow plenty of time for food (or wine!) stops along the way!

Cycling the Lake Dunstan Trail, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
The Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail, Cromwell

8. Go on a Winery Tour around Bannockburn!

  • Cost: $$
  • Outdoors

Cromwell is the heart of the Central Otago wine region, and boasts the most vineyards and wineries in the region – making it the perfect place to go on a tour of a winery (or two!).

Central Otago, and especially the area around the Cromwell Basin, is known for its unique grape-growning conditions! The surrounding mountains create a wide range of micro climates, allowing the wineries around Cromwell to produce a number of different style of wine, including Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvigon Blanc.

Winery tours, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
Vineyeards around Central Otago

One of the best ways to visit the wineries and vineyards around Cromwell is to join a wine tour! There are several wine tour operators that offer guided tours of the region, such as Roaring Tours, Appellation Wine Tours, and Altitude Tours. Another option is to rent a bike and explore the wineries and vineyards at your own pace! There are several bike rental companies in Cromwell, so you can hire an e-bike and plan your own winery adventure!

9. Try Some of the Incredible Fruit!

  • Cost: $
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Rainy-Day Activity
  • Accessible

As you drive through Cromwell, you should definitely stop and pick up some of the excellent fruit grown right here! Cromwell has a bunch of awesome fruit shops and stalls (often right along the side of the road) which sell some of the best fruit in New Zealand! You can also sample some of the local honey, or treat yourself to a real fruit ice cream (yum!).

One of my favourite fruit stalls (and one of the most well known) is the Jones Family Fruit Stall at Suncrest Orchard! This stall stocks a huge variety of fruits, nuts, honey, and vegetable. Even better – you can see the cherry orchards right behind the store where the fruit is grown!

Location: 489 State Highway 6, Kawarau Gorge Road, Cromwell

10. Explore the Kawarau Gorge

  • Cost: Free
  • Family-Friendly
  • Outdoors
  • Accessible

The Kawarau Gorge is a scenic route that connects Queenstown and Cromwell in the South Island of New Zealand, and one of the best things to do in Cromwell is to go for a beautiful scenic drive! It is known for its stunning views of the Kawarau River, which flows through a deep canyon carved by glacial erosion. The gorge is also a popular destination for adventure seekers, who can enjoy activities such as bungee jumping, jet boating, rafting, and wine tasting along the way!

Driving through the Kawarau Gorge, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
The stunning Kawarau Gorge, Cromwell

Best Places to Stop along the Kawarau Gorge

  1. The Goldfields Mining Centre
    This is a heritage site that preserves the history of gold mining in the region. You can explore the original miners’ huts, see the old machinery and tool, and even try your hand panning for gold!
  2. The Roaring Meg Power Station
    This is a hydroelectric plant that harnesses the power of the river to generate electricity. There is a fantastic lookout point where you can stop and admire the impressive engineering feat and the roaring rapids.
  3. The Kawarau Bridge
    This historic bridge was built in 1880 and is now the site of the world’s first commercial bungee jump operation. You can sto and watch the thrill-seekers leap from the bridge, or if you’re feeling adventerous – join then forma 43-meter plunge into the river below!
  4. The Gibbston Valley
    The Gibbston Valley is a wine-producing region that boasts some of the finest pinot noir in the country! There are some beautiful wineries throughout the Valley, making it another great place for a wine tour!
Kawarau Gorge bunge jumping, Things to Do in Cromwell, New Zealand
Are you brave enough to jump?!

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