Fruitlands is not only historically significant, but also exceptionally picturesque and one of Central Otago’s most photographed places during winter frosts and snows.
Originally known as Bald Hill Flat, it gained its current name in the early 1900s when an attempt was made to establish orchards there. Only one crop of fruit was ever exported and although irrigation was available, the hard winter frosts destroyed most of the trees.
Fruitlands has one of the best surviving examples of quality stonemasonry. Mitchells Cottage is a sturdy cottage built of locally quarried stone by Andrew Mitchell. The stone masonry techniques were those he had learned from his father in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Started in the 1880s, the cottage wasn't completed until 1904. Ten children were raised in the stone cottage, which is restored in the style of the early 20th century.
Andrew Mitchell, when not at his mine on the Old Man Range, resided in a neat iron cottage just below the present Mitchells cottage. He left another legacy – a sundial chipped out of a solid block of schist. The grounds are still used from time to time for weddings.
Four wheel drive tours up to Old Man Range in summer allow you to view remains of an 1882 stamper battery in the Upper Fraser Basin. Several old stone buildings survive in the area: Butler's Farm buildings (now Obelisk Station) and a former rabbiters sod (mud) cottage.
Only a short distance from Alexandra to the north or Roxburgh to the south, Fruitlands is well worth a stop to explore its unique historical past and the extensive vistas.