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Heritage Precinct A Hidden Gem

Cromwell Heritage Precinct in winter with a snowy Pisa Range at rear.

One of Central Otago’s best kept secrets, the Cromwell Heritage Precinct exudes historic charm with its warm stone walls, cottage gardens, lakeside location and character-filled stores. Created by volunteers 27 years ago when the rising waters of man-made Lake Dunstan began lapping at Cromwell’s former main street, the historic village continues to grow. It is not only a delightful and free visitor attraction with interactive historical displays and beautifully restored buildings, but also a hub for artists and craftspeople. The schist stone cottages and shops are tenanted by an arts collective, master printmaker, renowned goldsmith, highly original wire sculptor and bone carver The goldsmith, Les Riddell, has been plying his ancient trade for over 25 years, the talented Canadian reworking family heirlooms as well as crafting new pieces.  Wire sculptor Marie Velenski’s work is as original and quirky as it is intricate and plant expert and maker of herbal creams and perfumes, Karen Rhind, also adds unique character to the precinct. Unique imported and New Zealand-made giftware is found in Jan Hawkin’s ever-changing treasure-trove of a store, Sequioa.  Italian cuisine including delicious gelato at Armando’s Kitchen is one option for great eating, the other is the delightful Grain & Seed Café where visitor’s sip coffee from vintage crockery. Named last year as one of New Zealand’s best ‘hidden gems’ by AA Directions Magazine, the precinct is gradually being discovered by overseas visitors, Kiwi families, and locals. Historical displays tell the story of the frantic 1860s gold rush when sparsely populated Central Otago was suddenly inundated with thousands of prospectors.  Children love the talking ‘locals’ who tell the yarns, life-size horses and secret alleyways, as well as the ducks, fishing wharf and picnic areas. Located on Melmore Terrace, the Precinct hosts the Cromwell Farmers Market every Sunday from November to March.  The market incorporates crafts now too and is great place to grab a coffee some fresh baking and catch up with friends. Original and Innovative Arts at Hullabaloo and OCTA Gallery Quality art work of international standard can be found at both the Hullabaloo Art Space and Old Cromwell Town Art Galleries. The majority of the 15 professional artists that make up the Hullabaloo collective have been recognised in the art world with awards and other accolades. The success of the gallery, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is attributed to the group’s focus of maintaining high standards of work that is constantly being refreshed. “The gallery is rehung each month with new work and we exhibit a wide range of artistic disciplines. It’s an artist-run initiative so there is always one of us on hand to discuss the works with visitors,” collective member Lynne Wilson said. At OCTA gallery, master printmaker Chris de Jong displays fine works by international and national artists, some of whom are his former pupils.  Before he and his artist wife Gail moved to Central Otago to pursue their artist careers fulltime, Chris was principal lecturer at the School of Art in Dunedin.  Gail’s stunning landscapes, often depicting the ruggedly beautiful terrain around Bannockburn, can be found in both galleries.


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