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OK, so it went like this - would you like to drive through Central Otago in a Tesla while stopping off to enjoy some of the region’s best food and wine?
A stronger person than I might have demurred, but it is the sort of opportunity that does not come your way very often, so I accepted.
The proposal was made even better by the direction to travel the Central Otago Touring Route - my favourite way to travel to Central Otago. The expansive blue skies, craggy rock outcrops and soaring hills made famous by Grahame Sydney paintings as well as the relatively empty roads make taking this route a no-brainer.
It also seems appropriate to be driving an electric car - not adding noise or other pollution - through this beautiful landscape, along a similar path to the Central Otago Rail Trail.
If you are an EV or Tesla-novice, it pays to have spent some time researching the operating instructions of the Tesla (it has a few quirks) before you pick it up. It is also a good idea to work out where the charging stations are, and how to charge, to avoid "range phobia".
Happily though, the car can do the math for you and will tell you if you have enough range to get where you are going once you put your destination into its GPS.
Once we picked up the Tesla, a model 3 with a range of up to 400km on a single charge, tested our research on how to unlock the doors and operate the touch-screen, we packed the surprisingly deep and large boot with our overnight bags and headed out (there is also a "frunk", aka a front boot, for those spill-over purchases).
We were headed for Waipiata and the local pub for lunch, so the trip gave us the perfect opportunity to get to grips with sensitive handling of the Tesla and operating things like the heating and air conditioning and sound system, all from the touch-screen (best left to the passenger rather than the driver).
So at lunch it was one of Waipiata pub’s famous pies, the "Hogburn River Pie", featuring locally grown slow-cooked beef and pinot noir, as well as their version of an all-day breakfast, "The Davy Jones", a towering burger made with local eggs and chutney.
With the afternoon at our disposal we decided to tour around some of our favourite spots, stopping in Ranfurly for a coffee while we gave the car a top up (range phobia got to us!) and then heading to Naseby to have a look through the popular Stardust Gallery. Unfortunately we were way too full to contemplate a visit to the Black Forest Cafe, which is under new management.
As time was marching on we headed to our destination for the night, the quaint township of Ophir, and Pitches Store. The store was originally built in 1863 and in 2006 was bought by Colleen Hurd and renovated, retaining historical features wherever possible while providing luxury touches for guests.
We were lucky enough to enjoy chef Susan Goodwin’s Provenance lamb loin dish, which won Eat Taste Central’s main meal section of the competition. Goodwin also received highly commended in the chef section.
The next day we headed through to Clyde where we checked in (and dropped off the car) at another historic homestead - this time Hartley Homestead, built around the early 1900s by Jack Waldron as part of Molyneux Orchards.
There is never any shortage of things to do in Clyde. We had the opportunity to take a peak at the Eden Hore Central Otago Collection which is on display at the Clyde Historical Museum until December 18, before having lunch at Dunstan House Cafe. where we tried its beetroot and feta burger.
Luckily for us, that weekend was also hosting the Alexandra Basin Winegrowers New Release Tasting event, which gives wine lovers a chance to chat with wine growers about their season and the wines they produce, as well as taste the new season’s releases. This year there was also the chance to hear American, Rex Pickett, author of the novel Sideways speak about his time in New Zealand.
It was a sold-out crowd in the event’s new venue of the old Clyde railway station and there were plenty of wines to choose from, from Three Miners’ Rocker Box Rose and Grey Ridge’s Alchemy white pinot noir to Two Paddocks Pinot Noir and Immigrants’ Ruru Gewurztraminer.
The following day it was time to head home, but not before we got to extend our electric vehicle knowledge even more with a blat around Highlands Motor Park’s track in its electric sportscar, the Porsche Taycan - going from zero to 100 in 2.4 seconds, a feeling I can best describe as like being dropped from a free fall tower at an amusement park. There is a reason the driver makes sure your head is back against the seat before he accelerates.
After a quick trip to Highland’s toilets with a view - each toilet is creatively decorated and has a one-way window so you can see the track - I then recovered with a restorative coffee and brioche lamb sandwich at Highlands’ cafe before we hit the road again - with a quick look to see where the next charging station was, aware that unlike petrol rental cars, you only need to return an electric with 20% power. Another bonus.
- The writer was hosted by Central Otago Tourism and Gorentals.
Central Otago Touring Route
• Launched in 2020
• 341 km journey
• From the Pacific Ocean at Dunedin to Queenstown
• Takes in Middlemarch, Ranfurly, Oturehua, Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell and Arrowtown
• Designed with electric vehicles in mind
• Hiring a Tesla for a weekend away:
gorentals.co.nz $206 per day
• Central Otago Touring Route:
Places to stay
• Pitches Store, Ophir
• Hartley Homestead, Clyde,