Otago picturesque - but not the fruit salad

Cromwell's "spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town". Photo supplied.
Cromwell's "spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town". Photo supplied.
The Lonely Planet has again turned its attention to New Zealand, highlighting the good, the bad and the bizarre. Sarah Harvey looks at how Otago fared in the latest edition of the popular travel guide.

Naseby might be as "cute as a button", Dunedin "surprisingly artsy" and Glenorchy "set in achingly beautiful surroundings", but Cromwell has a "spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad" at the entrance to the town.

A mostly positive review of Otago, with a few insults thrown in for good measure, was released yesterday in the latest Lonely Planet New Zealand guidebook, the 14th of its kind.

The guidebook sells more than 6 million copies of its 500 titles annually.

Five authors, four of them New Zealanders, spent 27 weeks tripping around the two main islands, as well as Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands.

The main centres were treated kindly, with travellers encouraged to "rock into Wellington" to experience its "red-hot arts scene" and detractors of our biggest city, Auckland, were told "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful".

Christchurch was said to be changing through more diverse immigration, and a "cosmopolitan tinge" was adding to its traditional conservatism.

Dunedin's live music and cafe and restaurant scenes were given a significant plug, and the Otago Peninsula was said to be "rich" with wildlife and outdoor activities.

The University of Otago was given recognition for the energy it provided the city.

"The country's oldest university provides an energy that might otherwise be missing and drives a thriving theatre, live music - and it must be said - drinking scene."

Otago was said to be unhurried and "rife with picturesque scenery" with few crowds to share it with, although Queenstown was called an area with a cinematic background of mountains and a "what can we think of next" array of activities.

On a more negative note Cromwell's giant fruit listed among the country's "tackiest attractions" the "spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad" mixing it with Wairarapa's fake Stonehenge and Napier's Pania of the Reef statue: "a little Maori and a lot Disney".

The guidebook also urged New Zealand's tourism industry to protect its green status, with a "GreenDex" for the first time, listing eco-friendly operators, including tour, accommodation and eating choices.


What they said about Otago

Alexandra: "Unless you've come to Alexandra especially for September's NZ Merino Shearing Championships or the Easter Bunny Hunt, the reason to visit this rather nondescript service hub is for the nearby mountain biking."

Arrowtown: "Beloved by day-trippers from Queenstown . . . The only gold being flaunted these days is on credit cards and surrounded by a bonanza of daytime tourists, you might grow wary of the quaint historical ambience."

Balclutha: " . . . South Otago's largest town but is of little interest to travellers other than a place to stock up on supplies before heading off into the Catlins."

Clyde: ". . . looks more like a cute 19th-century gold rush film set than a real town . . . retains a friendly small-town feel . . . and it's a great place to chill out for a couple of days."

Cromwell: "There's plenty of good reasons to visit Cromwell: the sweet little historic precinct . . . and to eat (and eat, and eat) . . . Oh, and a third reason - to take a photo of yourself beside the spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town."

Dunedin: " . . . captures the hearts of locals and travellers alike. It's a surprisingly artsy town, and has more great bars and eateries than its small size deserves."

" . . . has attractions both urban and rural . . . party down in the South Island's coolest city, and get up close and personal with the island's most accessible wildlife."

Glenorchy: "Set in achingly beautiful surroundings, postage-stamp-sized Glenorchy is the perfect low-key antidote to the hype and bustle of Queenstown."

Lawrence: " . . . a sweet little town in a valley surrounded by farmland and forestry plantations. For most travellers its not much more than a place to stop for lunch."

Naseby: "Cute as a button . . . little old Naseby is the kind of town where life moves slowly. That the town is pleasantly obsessed with the fairly insignificant world of NZ curling indicates there's not much else going on."

Oamaru: "Nothing moves very fast in Oamaru: tourists saunter, locals languish and penguins waddle".

". . .eccentric gems such as the South Island's yummiest cheese factory, cool galleries and a peculiar live music venue are other distractions."

Omarama: "surrounded by mountain ranges, the Omarama area is at the centre of fabulous landscapes."

Queenstown: "The town wears its 'Global Adventure Capital' badge proudly, and most visitors take time to do crazy things they have never done before. But a new Queenstown is also emerging, with a cosmopolitan restaurant and arts scene and excellent vineyards."

Ranfurly: "Ranfurly is trying hard to cash in on its Art Deco buildings but while there are a few attractive buildings, the town itself is fairly bleak."

Wanaka: "Beautiful scenery, tramping and skiing opportunities, and an expanding roster of adrenaline-inducing activities have transformed the lakeside town of Wanaka into a year-round tourist destination."

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