Wānaka-based food writer Annabel Langbein loves the sharp changes of season in unspoilt Central Otago, and she’s still discovering beautiful places to explore.
What is your favourite place in New Zealand?
Is this somewhere you visited when you were younger?
When we were kids we came down one shimmery hot summer on a family road trip. We drove down the Clutha before it was flooded. I remember it was apricot season, and we stopped at a little roadside stall and ate these incredibly juicy, fragrant apricots. They were like nothing I’d ever tasted before.
When did you next visit?
I came down with my husband when we were first married. He was a mad keen skier and this was where he loved to ski when he was in New Zealand.
What do you like to do in Central Otago?
It’s all about the outdoors for me. So many walks and bike rides and places to adventure, go boating or skiing. And it’s less than two hours to the West Coast and about three hours to the south coast.
What is so special about this place?
The landscapes are so big and powerful. And you get four distinct seasons. In the summer, the days are so long – you can still be swimming in the sun at 8.30pm. In autumn, the landscape turns to fire with a parade of colour before the trees lose their leaves. In winter, everything closes in and it’s dark and bare and cold, sometimes really cold. And then the spring arrives with new beginnings.
Do you have any top tips for things to do in the area?
There are so many good hikes, both short and long. DOC has a big list, so you can choose depending on your time frames and fitness. Ditto for bike trails. Just getting out into nature makes you feel part of this extraordinary landscape. There’s no other place like it in New Zealand.
Any favourite places to eat?
Home is always a pretty good option, thanks to my prolific vegetable garden. There’s a great coffee culture in Wānaka with loads of places to choose from. One of our fave places to meet friends is at the Bannockburn Hotel. The food is great – very fresh, casual tapas style. They have a fantastic wine list and very welcoming staff. Some of the wineries in the region also offer a great lunch.
Spots to check out?
If we have visitors I often take them west to where the beech forest starts. It’s such a different landscape. I go to Kidds Bush at the neck between Lake Hāwea and Lake Wānaka or a bit further on to the Blue Pools track. Glenorchy is a great day trip.
What do you love about destinations like this?
You can access the natural environment so easily. And there are so many places to discover, even if you don’t feel like walking or biking. Right now I’m at Lake Kaniere on the West Coast. It’s so beautiful. And I’d never been here before.
What is your favourite Central Otago memory?
Making snowmen and having a snowball fight when the kids were young.
What else is special?
Rural and small-town New Zealand still has such a great sense of community. For us it’s such a privilege to be part of the community.