If you want to see some typical Central Otago scenery (think massive rocks, barren landscapes and wide-open spaces) the drive to Fraser Dam is a great option. You’ll head into the hills above Alexandra to Fraser Dam, a manmade lake created in the 1930s which provides water for irrigating the farms and properties in the area.
Driving to Fraser Dam
From Alexandra you’ll need to find Fraser Dam Road, and from there it’s a winding gravel road all the way to the top. You’ll come to a gate early on (make sure to close it after you pass through) and from there all you’ll see of civilization are some farm animals and a very far off view of Alexandra. It’s advised that you have a 4WD vehicle for this drive but if it has been dry recently (which is a good bet as parts of Central Otago are essentially deserts) you should be OK with a normal car. Don’t blame me if it goes wrong, but I’ve definitely driven on worse roads in my Ford Mondeo (not on this trip though – I went in my dad’s 4WD). There are some great views to be had from several points along this road. If you’re feeling more adventurous (and it’s summer and you have a proper 4WD), you could head up to the Kopuwai Conservation Area / Old Man Mountain Range.
Once at Fraser Dam we took the road which headed to far end of the lake. There’s a cool little picnic spot there and you can get some nice views of the lake from the road above it.
From there we went around to the “dam” part, which wasn’t that interesting as there was no water running down it. I’ve been to a couple of other Central Otago dams (Butchers Dam and Conroys Dam) when the water was running, and it looks really cool (like a big man-made waterfall). There isn’t much else to do at Fraser Dam (unless you want to explore more on foot) other than turning around and driving back the way you came!
Fraser Dam is around 20 km from Alexandra, and it should take around 35 minutes to drive there (one way). I visited in late September and the road was in great condition – there were a couple of bumpy bits but it won’t cause any problems for 4WD users and you should / could get up there in a normal car (again, don’t blame me if you can’t as conditions do change).
Are you planning a trip to Central Otago? Check out my other posts! Also check out my posts on Wanaka and Queenstown.
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