Food and Wine Walking Tour: A Taste of Cromwell
A cornucopia is an abundant supply of good things of a specific kind. Cromwell has always been known as the fruit bowl of Central Otago and has gained a reputation as one of the world’s leading pinot noir wine growing areas. In 2015, the Lonely Planet even named Central Otago in the top 10 list for the most intriguing places to drink wine. Calling the Cromwell Basin a cornucopia for stone fruit and fine wine definitely seems appropriate and one of the benefits of walking, is you can burn off your indulgent calories along the way.
As with any walk in Central Otago, you need to dress for the weather. In summer sturdy shoes, a sun hat, sunscreen and lots of water are a must. And, a backpack to carry home any goodies that you decide to purchase along the way.
Please Note: as part of this walk you will be required to cross two State Highways, please take extra care and obey the New Zealand road rules at all times.
Start: The Giant Fruit Carpark off Murray Terrace: 0 metres
Look for the carpark next to the Cromwell Mini Golf & Entertainment Centre, secure your vehicle and take the obligatory “I Was Here” shot. Built in 1989, you’ll find yourself standing under an apricot, apple, pear and nectarine that stand nearly eight metres high. The fruit sculpture was designed and built thanks to Cromwell Rotary and was officially presented to the town on the 3rd of February 1990.
Wooing Tree via Shortcut Road: 750 metres
Walk towards the Golden Gate Lodge, cross Barry Avenue (the main road through town that bisects “Old” and “New” Cromwell) and look for the concrete path that will lead you to a specially designated point to cross over the State Highway 6B. Head down Shortcut Road towards Lake Dunstan and you will find the Wooing Tree on your left.
Wooing Tree Vineyard
Named after a majestic tree where sweethearts have wooed their lovers for generations, this vineyard is both north facing and relatively flat, which is ideal for growing juicy grapes. The Wooing Tree is owned by Stephen and Thea Farquharson, and Stephen’s sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Geoff Bews. The expertise of viticulturist Robin Dicey originally helped develop the land and in 2010, Peter Bartle took over as Chief Winemaker.
The first vines were planted in 2002, with the first vintage being produced in 2005. They have been winning awards ever since, including the Cathay Pacific HKIWS Trophy awarded to the Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2013. On a hot day, you can’t go wrong with a glass of their Pinot Noir or ‘Blondie’. Although, for those who are in the know, when it comes to fine wines, the Pinot Gris, BeetleJuice and Sandstorm Reserve are also coveted. If you don’t want to sample the wine, a coffee or soft drinks are also on offer.
The Cellar Door is open 7 days from 10 am to 5 pm. You can even enjoy a platter with your wine tasting and the site is child-friendly with a fully fenced grassy area to run around on, sandpit and slide for young adventurers.
Wooing Tree to Lake Dunstan Boat Club: 1.3 km
Follow the footpath down Shortcut Road, which becomes Partridge Road until you see the Cromwell College Aquatic Centre. From here you can follow wooden posts with yellow tops around McNulty’s Inlet to the Lake Dunstan Boat Club.
From the Boat Club you can take panoramic photos of Lake Dunstan looking towards Bendigo and Tarras. The Boat Club is busy all year round and both yachties and power boat enthusiasts are welcome to say hello and use the facilities. There are public toilets on the edge of the Inlet if you need a pit stop along the way.
Lake Dunstan Boat Club to Aurum Winery & Vineyard: 750 m
Walk past the Boat Club, along the lake shore under the willow trees until you come to the carpark at State Highway 6. On a hot day, this is a favourite swimming spot amongst the locals and the yellow buoys mark out an area for swimmers only. Turn left, and walk along the State Highway back towards Cromwell, and you will quickly see an olive grove and the entrance to Aurum Wines on your left.
This vineyard is definitely a sustainable family operation. Joan and Tony Lawrence planted their first vines at Pisa Flats in 1997. Since then they have developed Te Wairere Vineyard and their son Brook and daughter-in-law Lucie joined them as winemakers in their winery that was built in 2006.
Brook and Lucie have both worked in Australia, France and around New Zealand before returning to Cromwell. Today, Lucie is the Chief Winemaker and Brook keeps his hands in the dirt with the viticultural side of the vineyard.
Beyond producing exceptional wines, Aurum’s key claim to fame is that from its inception in 1997 their operation has been committed to environmentally sustainable grape growing and wine making. Their dedication to treading lightly on the environment has been officially rewarded as they have achieved Biogro Organic NZ certification.
Two of their Pinot Noirs have been named after Brook and Lucie’s daughters Mathilde and Madeleine and you can also sample their Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris Rosé or Blanc de Blancs. For something else a little different their Port Molyneux is a liquid experience in a class of its own.
Aurum Wines to Jackson Orchard: 750 m
On leaving Aurum Wines, turn left and again head towards Cromwell and you’ll find Jackson’s Orchard roadside stall is only a short walk away. If you cross State Highway 6 by Burn Cottage Road you can walk down the grass verge beside the apricot trees. You may even find the sprinkler system provides light relief in the summer heat.
The story of Kevin Jackson and his Orchard is quintessentially Cromwell, as his original orchard in the Cromwell Gorge is now under Lake Dunstan. The Jackson Orchard of today was once a sheep station that was the first settled by William (Barry) Jackson in 1866. Set on a gentle slope, the key benefit of this land is that it is less affected by frosts, unlike other orchards on the valley floor.
It’s hard to miss the white and bright pink building that houses Jackson’s roadside stall. Here you can indulge in a real fruit ice cream and purchase some of the juiciest cherries in town. If you have the time an orchard tour is well worth doing – you can learn about how an orchard this size operates and pick your own fruit. After your ice cream or orchard tour you can make use of the toilets on the Wanaka side of the main building.
Jackson’s Orchard to Webb & Sons Orchard: 500 m
Continue down State Highway 6 toward Cromwell and you will soon see Webb’s Orchard and roadside stall.
Founded in 1914, Webb’s Orchard is now home to the fifth generation of Webb fruit growers as Simon and Trudi Webb’s children: Cameron, Brooke and Ariana all take part in the summer harvest. Webb’s is one of the few large orchards in the area that don’t grow cherries; instead they focus on producing apricots, peaches, apples, plums and pears. With over 26,000 trees on the 32 hectares of orchard they produce a lot of fruit! You will find large bags of stone fruit ready to go into your backpack at their brand new roadside stall.
Webb’s Orchard to Space @ The Base (Scott Base Tasting Room) 600m
Walk along State Highway 6 and turn right into McNab Road. Walk up the gravel road until you see the Scott Base, ‘Space @ The Base’ sign framed by the Pisa Range. The short slog up the hill to the cellar door is worth it; especially when you can have your wine tasting at a long table overlooking Cromwell.
Scott Base & Space @ The Base
Allan Scott has spent over forty years in the winemaking business and he has worked for both Montana and Corbans. He and his wife Cathy purchased land in Marlborough in 1975 and became contract growers before launching their own label in 1990.
Scott Base Central Otago was named in honour of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who, apart from being passionate about Antarctica also had a longstanding love for Central Otago. The team at Scott Base focus on producing single vineyard wines that fully express the Central Otago regional characteristics. You can also sample wines from Allan Scott’s Marlborough vineyards including the Prestige Range and Methode Traditionnelle bubbles.
Space @ The Base is open Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm and like the Wooing Tree is child-friendly. There is a leafy tree with child-sized chairs and a table under it and a sandpit for young adventurers to play in while the older members of the group enjoy their wine samples.
Space @ The Base to the Big Fruit Sculpture: 1 km
Walk back down the hill and past the main turn off so you only have to cross State Highway 6 once to get back to the Big Fruit car park. During your Cromwell Walking Tour you will have travelled just over five kilometres and enjoyed a small sample of all the good things the Cromwell Basin has to offer.
If you are feeling hungry you could always visit one of the nearby café’s or bars to celebrate your adventure. The following eateries are either in the Cromwell Mall or a short walk away.