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12 Best Things to Do in Cromwell – a Hidden Gem in the South Island

If you’re on the hunt for the best things to do in Cromwell on your next trip to the South Island, we’ve got you covered. Including everything from paintballing to panning for gold, we’ve hand-picked several unique activities you’re bound to enjoy!

Most people visiting New Zealand for the first time focus on the larger towns and cities like Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown.

But it’s always worth exploring those lesser-known towns that boast gorgeous hiking spots, old-school boutiques, glimmering waters and aesthetic golfing greens.

And that’s what makes Cromwell a surprising gem in the South Island.

It offers visitors everything from unique local sculptures to adrenaline-pumping activities and next-level wineries.

With all of that in mind, it’s unsurprising that this spot is starting to gain traction with tourists visiting Aotearoa. And we recommend you add this historic gold mining town to your list of places to visit too.

We promise that this bumper list of things to do in Cromwell will have you excited to put your New Zealand travel plans into action.

12 memorable Things to do in Cromwell

1. Check out the famous Big Fruit sculpture

You simply can’t visit Cromwell without visiting its enormous fruit sculpture!

It’s tucked between Murray Terrace and State Highway 88, so it’s easy to pull off the road as you’re travelling around the area for a few photographs.

The sculpture depicts a pear, a peach, an apricot, and an apple, and it towers 26 feet/8 metres above the ground.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new Instagram grid shot or want to marvel at the vibrant artwork in this part of the South Island, this sculpture is a must-visit spot.

Murray Terrace, Cromwell 9310, New Zealand

Huge fruit sculpture outside Cromwell.
Photo: Avenue.

2. Pick Up Some Fresh Fruit from a Local Orchard

With a huge sculpture that represents the area’s reputation for growing excellent fruit, #2 on our list is barely surprising.

We recommend you check out the famous Mrs Jones’ Fruit Stall (where you’ll also find delicious real-fruit ice cream) or Webb’s Fruit.

Pick up apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums, apples, cherries, pears and more, all fresh straight from the orchard.

3. Go paintballing

If you’re looking for an adventurous Cromwell activity, then you might want to give paintballing a whirl!

Paintball Central is the perfect place to visit for anyone over the age of 5 as it’s packed with adventure and promises to get your adrenaline pumping.

We recommend wearing old clothes and keeping your wits about you to avoid tripping and falling, but anything else goes!

The entire site spans an impressive 10 acres, so there’s no danger of running into other groups or feeling overcrowded.

We think it’s a fun way to let off some steam before enjoying the more relaxing side of Cromwell.

Just remember to keep those safety goggles firmly on during each round as competitions can get vicious.

Oh, and bookings are essential. So, don’t forget to call ahead before driving down.

1 Bannockburn Road, Cromwell 9384

The fuselage of an old plane with paintball markings with players around it.

4. Hit the nearby wineries

The South Island is known for its next-level wineries (just look at the amazing wineries in Queenstown) and Cromwell is no exception!

This spot is home to some of the most incredible wines in Central Otago, and you can essentially bop from vineyard to vineyard on foot.

They’re that concentrated in this region.

You’ll mostly find Pinot Noirs in this part of the country with rich and earthy flavours. So, bear that in mind before heading down for Chardonnay.

We highly recommend checking out Misha’s Vineyard, Georgetown, O Naturel Wines, and Wooing Tree while you’re in town.

And be sure to visit Scott Base if you’re after rugged landscapes, rolling hills, and charming service.

A Scott Base employee showing his harvested grapes to female tourists in the vineyard.
Photo: Scott Base.

5. Visit Old Cromwell (the Heritage Precinct)

Next on our list of things to do in Cromwell is the stunning area of Old Cromwell – also known as the Cromwell Heritage Precinct.

We’re not kidding when we say this spot promises to catapult you back to the 1800s.

This small part of Cromwell allows you to explore old-school stores, stables, and stone buildings that once characterised the area.

It’s said that many of the completely original buildings were destroyed by Lake Dunstan. But fortunately many others were either rescued or built on higher ground to preserve this area’s fascinating history.

In addition to the awesome heritage buildings and the gorgeous views of Lake Dunstan, you’ll also be able to grab artisanal goodies, bakes, and carefully curated homewares from Sequoia Finewares.

Whatever you choose to do here, it’s worth going for a hike around the lake and grabbing a fresh brew to make the most of the breathtaking vistas.

Cromwell Heritage Precinct, Melmore Terrace, Cromwell 9310

Old Cromwell town that preserves the design structure of the place, taking you back to the 1800s.
Photo: Geof Wilson.

6. Explore one of the many hiking trails

Thanks to its natural beauty and wide-open spaces, it’s unsurprising that a good hike (or two!) has made it onto our list of recommended Cromwell activities.

Mount Horn is one of the most challenging hikes in the area. It offers impressive views of Clutha River and the town of Cromwell from above.

If you’re looking for something harder still, try the aptly-named Mount Difficulty (yep – that’s the mountain’s real name).

Although it’s an intimidating challenge for most people (the hike runs between 30km and 38km depending on the route), it’s a perfect choice for avid trekkers and nature lovers.

For beginners, the Old Reservoir Trail is ideal. It takes just 20 minutes to reach the top from the town centre and doesn’t feature any ridiculously steep climbs or unstable paths.

Whichever hiking trail you choose to try, make sure you pack plenty of water and water, a power bank, and something to snap pictures with.

Someone walking on a dusty path, wearing sports shoes.
Hit the trails in and around Cromwell.

7. Try to catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights

It’s not one of the easiest things to do in Cromwell, but it’s worth trying to catch the Southern Lights while you’re there.

Often called aurora australis, these incredible lights are a natural phenomenon that occurs when solar particles collide with gas.

If you’re lucky enough to spot them, you’ll see a sky filled with glorious pinks, purples, and greens as you kick back with a warm cup of hot chocolate.

You can sometimes see them from Lake Dunstan between March and September.

Heading out to the likes of Butcher Dam or Bendigo will give you an even better shot at catching them away from the lights of town.

Southern lights glowing behind the mountains during the starry night.
The lower South Island is your best shot at seeing the southern lights in New Zealand.

8. Try panning for gold

Although panning for gold might be one of the more bizarre things to do in Cromwell, it’s tons of fun!

The Goldfields Mining Experience has been the go-to company for this activity for years.

Their mining centre is located near Cromwell and gives visitors the chance to strike serious gold (literally!)

You can make anything from $50 to $300 if you find a great nugget, so it’s worth sifting away to make the big bucks.

Even if you don’t find anything of worth, this experience on the Kawarau River is super-unique and always great fun for families.

It’s also just a 7-minute drive from Cromwell, making it an easy addition to your itinerary.

State Highway 6, Cromwell 9384, New Zealand

A miner showing tourists how to pan gold using a basin and a canal.

9. Ride a Jetboat

Goldfields Jet is located right by the perviously-mentioned mining experience.

Situated on the eastern end of the Kawarau Gorge, this exciting ride is fun for the whole whānau! You’ll enjoy racing up and down river, all in the capable hands of your expert jetboat driver.

Then, when you’re done, relax in the on site safe before heading off for your next local activity.

Highlands Motorsport Park – Corner of SH6 and Sandflat Road, Cromwell

Tourists riding a speedboat of Goldfields Jet.

8. Hit the green with a round of golf

If you fancy stretching your legs, then you’ll want to add Cromwell Golf Club to your list of things to do in the area.

It offers year-round tee-times to locals and visitors, with genuinely amazing views of nearby mountains.

It’s a championship course that also offers coaching, equipment, and food onsite. So, it’s a great spot to check out for newbies and pros alike.

Or if you’d like to cart the kids along for a putting session, why not check out Cromwell Mini Golf instead?

With 18 challenging holes and plenty of colourful scenes, it’s an affordable way to introduce little ones to the sport.

Cromwell Golf Club: Cromwell 9310, New Zealand

Cromwell Mini Golf: Murray Terrace, Cromwell 9310, New Zealand

A golf club about to hit a golf ball on the grass.

9. Take in the stunning views at Bruce Jackson Lookout

The Bruce Jackson lookout is easy to find as it’s tucked away on the side of the Clutha River.

Not only does it offer seriously beautiful views over the waterfront, but it takes just under an hour to walk the a loop.

It’s just a short drive from Cromwell over State Highway 8, making it an ideal pitstop before or after you head into town.

Address: Northburn 9383, New Zealand

Guide sign on top of a hill in Bruce Jackson Lookout overlooking a lake and the small town.
Photo: Benjamin Ho.

10. Enjoy Lake Dunstan – Grab Your Bike or Pack a Picnic

The shores of Lake Dunstan in Cromwell are perfect for a casual picnic during New Zealand’s balmy summers.

Pack a few sandwiches, snacks, and a bottle of bubbly, and we guarantee you’ll come away feeling rejuvinated.

If you’re looking to burn off some of those lunchtime delights, why not check out the nearby Lake Dunstan Trail to get your 10,000 steps in?

This trail starts right in Cromwell (or Clyde!) and offers glorious views of the lake while educating you about the area’s mining history.

It is also a popular cycle trail, with bikes available for hire locally.

The man-made Lake Dunstan surrounded by hills with trails near the waters.
Lake Dunstan, near Cromwell.

11. Watch the Stock Cars Race

Central Motor Speedway is a surprising find in a town as small as Cromwell, but as one of New Zealand’s top speedway tracks, this is a fun family-friendly outing.

Head along to see the stock cars battle it out for supremacy.

We suggest visiting with hungry tummies, as food trucks and vendors are available on site. Outside food is welcome though, if you’re keen to keep your costs down.

7 Sandflat Road, Cromwell 9384

Various cars with colourful and different designs racing along the racetrack of Central Motor Speedway.
Photo: Central Motor Speedway.

12. Get Behind the Wheel of a Racing Car

If you’re not content watching others have all the fun behind the wheel, head to Highlands Motorsport Park.

There, you’ll find a number of different options to self-drive racing cars. They also have go-karts and insanely quick hot laps with professional drivers.

When you’re finished out on the track, you might also like to check out the Highlands Motorsport Park Museum and the famous ‘loo with a view‘ toilets.

If you’re a bit of a petrol head, this should be top of your list.

A red racecar speeding along its track.
Photo: Highlands Motorsport Park.

We hope that this list of top-notch things to do in Cromwell has helped you plan your next trip down south.

If you’ve been to this part of the country before, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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