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South Island | New Zealand | Otautau

In the first of our ‘Small Town South’ series, we feature Otautau.

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Otautau - Western Southland

Maori place name; O (the) tautau (style of greenstone pendant).

Otautau is in the foothills of the Longwood Range. It was the hub of ‘Wallace County’ for more than a century, and some Wallace families still reside in the district.

Born during the gold rush of the 1860’s & 70’s, the town began as a wagon stop on the Riverton – Wakatipu gold route. Otautau also had a large sawmilling industry and the township has long served the local farming community.

Until the 1990’s, Western Southland was a prolific sheep farming district and tens of thousands of sheep were handled in the local sheep yards.

Now days, the local economy is driven by large dairy farms.  

The history of Otautau is apparent in its early architecture, some of which still house local businesses.  

An old hotel stands proudly in the town centre, one of two for socialising and dining. The locals are a friendly bunch, waving out and greeting each other and visitors alike. The mood is unhurried, casual and happy. The town's two hotels offer comfortable accommodation in true country pub tradition. 

Residential homes are quaint and homely, with the odd ramshackle ruin in the mix.  There’s not far to go to get a great rural outlook or splendid view of the nearby Takitimu Ranges.

Tui, Bellbirds and other native fauna frolic in residential gardens. Their songs are delightful and they are a beauty to behold.  There is easy access to the Aparima River at Otautau where you'll find several species of waterfowl foraging on the rivers edge. Take a picnic and your camera. It's really peaceful down there. 

Otautau has great amenities. Public ablutions are impeccably clean and tidy. A dump station is also handy for those travelling in self-contained motorhomes. The Alex McKenzie Arboretum, on the outskirts of Otautau allows overnight stays for those in self-contained units.

Annually, Otautau hosts a Classic Car Show which brings many automotive enthusiasts to the town. This event continues to grow and is a great family day out. 

All in all, Otautau is a sleepy but charming wee town to explore. It has all the amenities required to suit a small population and its guests.

A convenience store and small supermarket for your groceries.

A fish and chip shop.

2 friendly local hotels for entertainment and dining

Police Station


Art Gallery

Recreation Park and Local walkway

Gas station

Second hand shop

Beauty salons

Medical Centre

Gift Shop/Chemist


If you’re looking to take a wee breather from the bustle of travel, Otautau and its ‘no fuss’ atmosphere is a great place to stop. The locals are cheery, welcoming and happy to engage you in sociable conversation.

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