Places to Live

The population of Central Otago is approximately 17,900 (according to 2013 Statistics NZ Census data).  This represents 0.4 percent of New Zealand’s usually resident population.  Central Otago also has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, population densities per square kilometre in the country. This, together with the landscape, gives Central Otago its particular character. 

The roads are long and straight and are seldom crowded. The wide-open spaces and vistas are a particular source of pride and pleasure to the locals. But the population is not so thinly spread that the main centres do not offer the same retail and entertainment infrastructure as a found in other New Zealand centres of the same size. Even if it is necessary to go to a main city Dunedin or Invercargill are only two to three hours drive away. The Central Otago community consists of a variety of small towns which offer a wide range of services.


Alexandra, with a population of 4,800 is Central Otago’s largest town and the administrative centre for the district. It is situated at the confluence of the Clutha and Manuherikia Rivers. Alexandra was the site of several early settlements arising from the gold rush of the 1850s, but was not given the name Alexandra until 1863. Alexandra is now a thriving agricultural servicing centre and stopping place for visitors with a wide range of accommodation.

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Clyde, population 1,011, is just 10 minutes up the Clutha River from Alexandra and the site of the massive Clyde hydroelectric dam, is a particularly well preserved town dating back to the gold mining days. The town has been experiencing significant growth with several new subdivisions being developed in recent years and is a popular holiday place with first-rate restaurants, cafes and accommodation.

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Cromwell is 30 minutes drive from Alexandra at the northern end of the Cromwell Gorge and is renowned for its big fruit sculpture at the entrance to the town. Cromwell was built at the junction of the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers but with the completion of the Clyde Dam now sits on the shores of Lake Dunstan. Cromwell’s population is 4,146 and it has a rapidly growing commercial centre with its location being central to Queenstown, Wanaka and Alexandra. The area is a recognised viticultural area producing world class pinot noir. It is also known as a holiday destination with many activities being based around the lake.

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Roxburgh, with a population of 522, is a 30 minutes drive south from Alexandra, downstream on the Clutha River. Roxburgh is the main servicing centre for the Teviot Valley (population 1,041) which is situated at the southern end of the Central Otago district. The area is known for farming and horticultural enterprises especially growing cherries and apricots. It is a popular stopping place for visitors because it is about half way between Dunedin and Queenstown, and because it is the starting point for both the Roxburgh Trail and Clutha Gold cycleways.

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Ranfurly is the main service centre for the Maniototo which is at the northern end of the Central Otago district. Ranfurly, with a population of 663, was originally established as a railway-servicing town but is now an agricultural servicing centre. It is also a growing tourism destination once again linked with the railway – now the Otago Central Rail Trail. Ranfurly is the venue for the annual rural art deco festival held in February each year. Ranfurly is close to two other famous old gold mining towns, Naseby and St Bathans, which are significant heritage centres and holiday destinations in their own right.

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Omakau (with a population of approximately 260) is on State Highway 85, between Alexandra and Ranfurly, 27km from Alexandra. The town is the product of the Central Otago railway which reached the district in 1904. It is a service centre for the farming industry in the Manuherikia Valley, with a general store, hotel, garage, police station, sports domain, golf course and camping ground. The railway line, closed in the 1980s, is now part of the Otago Central Rail Trail which is popular with walkers and cyclists.

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Ophir is 2km from Omakau, across the Manuherikia River by either a modern bridge or the 1880 stone suspension bridge a kilometre downstream from Omakau. The village (with a population of approxinately 40) was originally named Blacks when gold was discovered there in 1863, drawing 1000 miners. It was renamed Ophir in 1866 after the unknown biblical country (1 Kings 9:28: "...and they went to Ophir and brought from there gold."). Some of the original 19th century buildings remain in the main street and Ophir is a popular holiday town.

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Naseby (with a population of 120) is 92km from Alexandra, at the foot of the Mt Ida Range and on the edge of Naseby forest. It was a gold rush town in the 1860s with a courthouse, several churches, primary school and several large hotels. Mining had finished by about the 1920s and it became a service centre (now met by Ranfurly, 13km to the south.) for the Maniototo area. Naseby is renowned for gold mining relics, heritage buildings and is a popular spot for mountain biking and curling - the latter enhanced recently by a new indoor international ice rink.

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This is a great place to play! Central Otago is renowned for outdoor pursuits from adventure sports to gardening. Such a lifestyle is possible because of the climate, rivers and lakes and mountains. Whether your interest is walking, fishing, golf, mountain biking, or more gentle pursuits such as the arts and heritage trails, it is readily accessible. Read More

Places to Live
The Central Otago community consists of a variety of small towns which offer a wide range of services. Whether it is the bigger townships of Alexandra or Cromwell or the smaller service towns of Roxburgh, Ranfurly, Naseby, Omakau or Clyde, each town has its own unique style and lifestyle. Read More
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Food & Wine
Food & Wine Central Otago is a place of sheer indulgence – whether it’s fine dining, a casual al-fresco lunch or café culture. You will be spoilt for choice when enjoying local fare and award winning wines at the great selection of cafés, restaurants, cellar doors and country pubs. Read More
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