Sitting in the middle of a triangle between Queenstown (west), Wanaka (north) and Alexandra (south), Cromwell is notable for being as far from the sea as it's possible to get in New Zealand, the definitive 'mid-lands'. Located at the confluence of the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers, it used to be called 'The Junction', and was a major centre of the 1860s gold mining industry.
The building of the Clyde Dam in the 1980s and the subsequent creation of the artificial Lake Dunstan, means that this confluence no longer exists, but Cromwell still holds a strategic location between the Lindis and Haast Passes, providing an ideal stop-off point for those on driving tours, or making their way over to Fiordland and Southland.
Much of the original town centre was lost to the flooding when the dam was built, and replaced with modern buildings and amenities, centred around 'The Mall'. In addition, a short road bridge was constructed, to connect the town to SH-8, but approximately one third of Cromwell had to be relocated onto higher ground.
However, many of the oldest buildings have been preserved as 'Old Cromwell Town', a reconstructed street of how Cromwell used to look in its gold mining days, and which can be found at the end of Melmore Terrace on the banks of the Kawarau River.
The farmland around Cromwell is full of orchards, giving Cromwell the nickname 'Fruit Bowl of the South', and you'll find some very good restaurants and shops making the most of the plethora of fresh, organic produce streaming in from the surrounding countryside.
Deer farming and viticulture are also big business here, and Cromwell boasts a high population of artists and craftsmen, inspired by the beauty of the surrounding lakes and valleys. Explore the artisan shops in Old Cromwell Town, for a chance to buy unique gifts and mementos.
Nearby Lake Dunstan is a popular destination for water sports and fishing, picnicking and cruising, while the old gold mining fields of Carrick, Kawarau, Bendigo, Dunstan and Bannockburn are vivid reminders of the area's gold mining boom days - visit the Goldfields Mining Centre to find out more.
A visit to Cromwell Museum offers you a detailed history of the town, before maybe heading out for 18 holes at Cromwell Golf Club. If you enjoy touring vineyards, there's plenty of cellar doors to sample the locally produced wines in Cromwell and the nearby Bannockburn region. Some of the vineyards also include restaurants to complement your wine tasting.
Cromwell Video Guide