Central Otago, often referred to simply as ‘Central’, is the inland part of Otago in the lower South Island. It includes both the Central Otago District and the Queenstown-Lakes District. Also under Central’s vast blue skies is the wide open expanse of the high country Maniototo Plain lying between the upper reaches of the Taieri River and the Clutha's northern tributary, the Manuherikia.
Dominated by mountain ranges and the upper reaches of the Clutha River and its tributaries, Central Otago is characterised by cold winters and hot, dry summers. The discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully near Lawrence in 1861 brought the first significant European occupation.
Most of the area's economic activity has centred on sheep, stone fruit, and tourism, while recent years have seen economic diversification into vineyards, with Central Otago the world's southernmost commercial wine production region. Especially suitable are the cool climate varieties, Riesling and Pinot Noir.
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