Central Otago Tours & Wildflower Walks

A TOUR OF THE OTAGO GOLDFIELDS

The major Otago goldfields and towns are identified in the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail that includes all of the goldfield parks. The trail is signposted throughout Otago taking in many towns; small and large, ghost towns and old diggings of historic mining significance. Department of Conservation maintains the Goldfield Parks, which presently comprise of some 23 sites.

Other goldfields that are off the signposted trail are normally high up in the Central Otago mountains and require either a 4-WD vehicle or else you will need to do some walking; Potters No 2 / Campbell’s on the Old Man Range, Three Sisters – the Old Man Range, Mt Buster at the Ida Range, Potters No1 - Carrick Range, Criffel diggings – the Criffel Range as well as lots of other smaller sites where gold was found and worked in the various Otago rivers / streams / creeks, gullies and terraces for many years.

Access to visiting these sites can be from many different routes. From the east, Dunedin either to Central Otago via Waipori to Lawrence then SH 8 following the Clutha River valley or going first through the Maniototo using SH 87 via Middlemarch or SH 85 via the Pigroot.

From the North from the Waitaki Valley via Omarama over the lindis Pass SH 8 or over Dansey’s Pass to the Maniototo. From the south, from Invercargill or Te Anna on SH 6 to Queenstown or from Gore via to Raes Junction to SH 8 and from the west over the Haast Pass SH 6 to Wanaka. One finial route is that of traveling from Dunedin to Alexandra / Clyde is via the 4-WD dry weather road (closed in winter), the Old Dunstan Road

As the majority of the first miners started from Dunedin to the interior goldfields in the 1860s, the tour starts here following a loop tour taking in most of the interests along SH 8, SH 6 and back to Dunedin initially on SH 85 and ending along SH 87 with excursions along the way.

DUNEDIN ( Edinburgh of the South) Discovery of gold in Otago in 1861 brought Dunedin the prosperity, growth and feeling of importance that is so evident in the fine old Victorian and Edwardian buildings which characterise the city. Many of New Zealand’s best know old business firms have their origins here, dating from the time when Dunedin was the commercial and industrial centre of New Zealand. Discover this rich past in visiting the Early Settlers museum, 220 Cumberland Street and at the Otago Museum, 419 Great King Street.

WAIPORI is less than an hour's drive from Dunedin. As a result of Lake Mahinerangi's flooding the valley in 1924, the lake covered the site of this early Otago gold rush boomtown. All signs of the town and from the dredging era, with the exception of the cemetery, can no longer be seen. However, two historic reserves have survived adjacent to the Waipori-Lawrence road. One, the OPQ (Otago Pioneer Quartz Co.) mine, is the 1863 site of the first underground quartz mine in Otago. The second reserve at Pioneer Stream includes excellent examples of complex water distribution systems of races, reservoirs and aqueducts. A nugget weighing 27 ounces was found at Post Office Creek or Verter Burn Creek, northeast from Waipori - the largest ever found in the Tuapeka goldfields.

LAWRENCE . Gabriel Read discovered gold in May 1861 in what is now known as Gabriel’s Gully. Lawrence is situated only 3km away from the gully and became the gold mining centre of the Tuapeka district. By September 1861, the population of the district was some 6,000 - more than that of Dunedin, Otago's capital. The peak of the gold boom was reached in 1862, when the gold escort transported out some 200,000 ounces of gold. Blue Spur, at Gabriel's Gully was the scene in 1880 of New Zealand’s first hydraulic elevator. This type of elevator enabled the gold bearing gravels to be raised using water pressure. By the late 1930s, gold production on a large scale had ended in the district.

Back on the road to Waipori is the old mining 1860’s site of Wetherstones. Today little remains except of the Black Horse Brewery ruins (1868-1923) and hectares of flowering daffodils late September / early October.

Lawrence has an excellent information centre. At the western end of the town is the Chinese Camp, which is now been redeveloped to tell how the Chinese lived and worked the Tuapeka diggings.

LONELY GRAVE - Horseshoe Bend Diggings / Horseshoe Bend Suspension Bridge Located along the Beaumont - Millers Flat Road

There are two routes to Lonely Grave. This can be either from the Beaumont Bridge (1887) end, a dry road track beside the Clutha River or down the road from Millers Flat on the true left of the Clutha River. From Millers Flat end at 11 km you will come to the site of Horseshoe Bend Diggings. No sign of the village but there is an access walking track to the swing foot bridge (1913) while the Lonely Grave just further on, is well known.

About the end of 1864, the story goes that William Rigney found a shivering dog beside the dead body of a good-looking young man. The police were notified and nobody came to claim the body. Rigney dug the grave and everyone at the diggings attended the funeral with a pine slab with these words burned on "Somebody's Darling Lies Buried Here". When Rigney died in 1912, he was buried alongside as he had wished. His stone was engraved - "Here lies William Rigney, the man who buried Somebody's Darling."

ROXBURGH. Most of the very early 1860's Teviot district mining evidence has now long gone - destroyed by land cultivation and flooding. During the dredging boom of the late 1890's /early 1900 period, some 20 gold dredges worked the Clutha River from the present Roxburgh Dam site to down past Millers Flat. Pinders Pond, an old hydraulic elevation pond, off Teviot Road is about the only major evidence left from the second gold rush that the public has accessed to. Some of the other remaining mining evidence that has survived is of old hydraulic elevation ponds, still evident in amongst pine trees on private land while in the Clutha River, remains of two dredges that can be seen when the river is low.

A good view of the town can be seen from Lookout Road, just above the bridge while the Teviot Museum is housed in the old Methodist Church (1872), Abbotsford Street.

Upriver, is the Roxburgh hydro-electricity scheme with first power generated 1956. Lake Roxburgh, as a result of the scheme, flooded many of the historic sites in the Roxburgh Gorge but fortunately did leave the major site at Doctors Point, mid way up the gorge towards Alexandra, largely untouched. Access is either by boat or from Alexandra using the Roxburgh Gorge Walk Track, starting from Graveyard Gully cemetery, ending at Doctor’s Point.

GORGE CREEK is 23 km north of Roxburgh where there is a monument commemorating the many unknown miners who perished on the Old Man Range in the 1863 July Big Snow Storm. Above the road was where the packers town of Chamonix was once in the 1860s and from here was the start of the main snow pole track to the Potters No 2 / Campbell’s diggings, one of the highest sluicing goldfields in Otago which was worked from 1863 with the last of the old miners leaving in 1923.

Getting to these diggings today is from the Waikaia Bush Road, a dry weather 4-WD track (closed in winter), which can be found back towards Roxburgh pass the Shingle Creek hotel.

Once at Potters No 2, the workings can be explored only by walking – Lonesome Grave over on a ridge top, the Tunnel Claim Settlement, Campbell’s Creek as well as breeched dams, water races and scattered stone remains of miners huts.

FRUITLANDS During the mining period 1870's -1910's the settlement was known as Bald Hill Flat and then renamed Fruitlands from an unsuccessful orchard scheme here 1915-1926.

The scars of 40 years of mining have all but gone with a few old building and scattered ruins. Surviving. The roadside Fruitlands Gallery today was once a pub, supplying travelers with food and accommodation. The 1871 stone building has now been lovingly restored and again offers food, lodgings as well as craft items.

Nearby, Symes Road leads 1km to the historic 1880's Mitchell’s Cottage. This sturdy and compact stone cottage is a superb example of the Shetland Island stonemasons' craft. Continue on up Symes Road at some 900m was where a small scale quartz mining operation (Whites Reef) tool place 1880s and then on and off through to the 1930s..

ALEXANDRA Was known once as Manuherikia and for time Alexandra South.

In the town centre, sits the 1879 Alexandra Courthouse, with its upright and of solid character but today is used as a cafe. Further along Centennial Avenue the new museum tells many stories of Central Otago. The diggings at Tucker Hill on the outskirts of the town, across the Manuherikia River to the lookout, remain much the same when mining ceased in the early 1900's.

The first dredging ventures in 1863, used a primitive spoon-bucket dredge, enjoyed some early success with one working a claim below Clyde, though the initial 30 years was not a success for the dredging industry.

However Alexandra did benefited greatly from the second gold rush from the gold dredging boom mid 1890's /early 1900's. Extensive terrace tailings line the Clutha River from Clyde down to Alexandra with the most extensive area now protected at the Earnscleugh Tailings Historic Reserve. These tailings represent the early dredging era 1896-1924 and the last dredge working, the Alexandra owned by the Clutha Dredging Co, 1951-1962.

Two old bridges have survived, well almost – the restored Shaky bridge now as a walking bridge while the Alexandra two stone bridge piers is all that was left with the decking demolished in 1962. The present bridge was opened in 1958.

To the south of Alexandra is the Old Man Range with many of its creeks and gullies been worked by both European and Chinese; Butchers Creek, Conroy’s – Aldinga’s Conservation Reserve, Omeo and along the Fraser River. Above the Fraser dam, the Shek Harn (Big Stone Ditch) Historic Reserve while the upper section of the Fraser had major workings at the Three Sisters and unsuccessful quartz mining at the Alpine Reef in 1882/1884. The water wheel that stands beside the Alexandra museum was once their till removed in 1970.

CLYDE Was once formerly known as The Dunstan, named after the nearby Dunstan Mountains when the town was the centre of the Dunstan Goldfields rush 1862.

Development of the old town has mainly by-passed the town though recent sub-diversions are now underway. Clyde is overshadowed by the Clyde Dam hydro-electricity scheme with the first power generated 1992. Lake Dunstan as a result of the scheme completely flooded all the historic sites in the gorge and as well Chinatown at Cromwell, the old Cromwell commercial buildings and the Upper Clutha dredge tailings.

Clyde ’s stone and wooden buildings, some dating back to the 1860's, line the streets of this historic town. Both Oliver’s Restaurant and Lodge, was once a miner's general store and the stables are steeped in old world charm. Dunstan House opposite was rebuilt in 1903, though the first hotel on this site dates back to 1862. Take a walk down Sutherland Street, a walk back through history and then onto the museum at the former Courthouse, followed by a visit to the first herb factory established in New Zealand in the late 1930's.

QUARTZ REEF POINT – Northburn with a walking access from John Bull Creek parking site, SH 8 north from Cromwell

This is a rich auriferous ground lay exposed by the early miners which worked these rich terraces by sluicing leaving behind tailing channels and herringbone tailings which from the air, resemble fossil ferns but still an impressive view from various advantage spots.

CROMWELL Originally known as the Junction.

Now a modern town, redeveloped because of Lake Dunstan, the lake that was formed behind the Clyde Dam in 1992/93. In the Mall, the Cromwell Museum displays gold relics while down at the upper end of the original commercial centre that has escaped the flooding, relics of Old Cromwell Town has been painstakingly recreated – either in stone, sod brick or corrugation, and now is a very attractive historic precinct.

BANNOCKBURN TERRACE DIGGINGS Across the Bannockburn Bridge, 9 km south from Cromwell, is a tortured yet beautiful landscape sculpted by the miners sluicing for gold from 1865-1910, and now stands in amongst a fast growing grapevine industry. While walking around these diggings, you will discover fascinating evidence of water races, dams, tunnels, shafts, crumbling sun-dried brick buildings and old orchards amongst the ruins of the small settlement at Stewart Town.

Vineyards and winery surround the diggings that have today changed a lot of the landscape to rows and rows of grapes but have still left the majority of the sluicing alone.

CARRICK RANGE QUARTZ MINES 1870s-1890s Further along from Bannockburn off Schoolhouse Road, is the old wagon dry weather track (either walking or 4-WD), going up past the various mining workings, the old settlement stone remains of Carricktown to the Young Australian Reserve at 1100m asl with its massive recently restored waterwheel. This 7.9 m diameter wooden water wheel was dragged up the mountain in 1874 to drive the Young Australian battery. Half of this battery, which was once beside the wheel, now stands on the opposite side of the gully, and in between, are a few abandoned huts.

NEVIS VALLEY In these two magnificent small valleys and gorge, one can still see how a Central Otago digging looked some 100 years ago.

Normally reached using the Nevis – Garston Road from Bannockburn, climbing to 1300m a.s.l., the highest public maintained road in NZ, over the saddle of the Carrick Range and dropping down to The Crossing into the Lower Nevis Valley. Both the Lower and Upper Valleys were worked using all the various mining methods; sluicing, dredging and tunneling, spanning a period from 1863 to the 1960's as well as more recent mining of the 1990's. The road through the gorge into the Upper Nevis and out through to Garston, is recommended for 4-WD vehicles and is closed to the public in winter.

The gold rush of the first few years have left few traces, washed away by the various floods, and it is the hydraulic elevators and of the some 6 dredges on the valley flats 1890' / early 1900's, leaving behind steep shingle faces, neat ponds, long races, regular heaps of tailings and stone remains of miners huts, Nevis Hotel and of some more recent buildings. Many of these, are easily seen from the road. The few remains of a dredge is believed to be that of the Nevis Crossing dredge, which lies near the mouth of Schoolhouse Creek and was probably the longest working small dredge in Otago, 1900-1939.

Because of the remoteness and access to this goldfield, these working have been largely left untouched, which now provide the best representative of any of the goldfields in Otago / Southland

KAWARUA GORGE. Towards Queenstown, just 10 km from Cromwell on SH 6, is the very successful commercially run Goldfields Mining Centre. Here you will see a range of displays, the spectacle of working gold-mining machinery of another era, including a working stamper battery, and a tour walk of the Gee's Flat diggings. You can even pan for your own gold, from pay dirt, and with a little gold-miner's luck, you may even take away a few gold flakes.

GIBBSTON VALLEY . The Kawarau Gorge and rapids barred the way to the Wakatipu goldfields via the Gibbston Valley until a road in 1866 was cut around the Nevis Bluff. The stone-piered Kawarau suspension bridge was erected in 1880. This superb structure can be seen along side the highway, just 18 km from Queenstown. The bridge is now only used for bungy jumping.

There was early mining of the sand bars, beaches, of some of the river terraces and later dredging of which only three had limited success. Today the valley floor is taken up by a growing grape wine industry.

QUEENSTOWN is a unique place where history, magnificent century and natural attractions are brought to life. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown site was first settled in 1860 by the pioneering residents of sheep drovers and later in 1862 by the gold prospectors. These prospectors flocked to the area from all corners of the world after the 1862 discovery of gold at Arthurs Point on the Shotover River in the hills northeast behind Queenstown.

The township was first simply called "The Camp" by its early residents but was named Queenstown in January 1863 at a public meeting. It may or may not be true, that at the meeting they declared the site to be 'fit for a Queen" though Ireland has a town called Queenstown which was known by many Irish miners that came to the Wakatipu goldfield. By the 1870's the gold had started to decline, as did the population and the district became predominantly a farming area.

Fortunes were made and lost, but these early pioneers left an historical legacy that is now part of today's new "gold" - a thriving tourism industry.

GLENORCHY At the head of Lake Wakatipu, 50 km west beyond Queenstown, lies Glenorchy, which is the town nearest to the starting point for the well known walking tracks, the Routeburn and the Greenstone. In the opposite direction, 18 km up the Rees Valley Road are two mining sites. An hour’s walk to the Invincible Mine gives magnificent views of Mt Earnslaw and of the Rees Valley. At the 1882 mining site, the Invincible Mine, are a unique set of seven berdans (cast iron bowls with steel balls for grinding ore) and remains of machinery; a water wheel and the framing of a crushing battery.

In the valley floor below, and a little further alongside the Rees Valley Road, is a 7.9m buddle, the remains of the 1884 extraction plant. The buddle was used as part of a method of saving gold still trapped in the tailings from the Invincible Battery, coming down from high above on the mountainside. Both of these sites have been protected to demonstrate last century's technology of milling and concentrating gold-bearing quartz rock.

In the hills above Glenorchy at Mt Judan and at Mt McIntosh are deposits of scheelite, essential for producing tungsten. These mines were first worked in the 1880s and then on and off till just after WW11. Most of the mines are on Wyuna Station. Beside Stoneburn Creek there is one piece of mining equipment, a waterwheel and stamper battery still in working order. It was not the gold, which earned Glenorchy its place in history, but the scheelite.

ARTHURS POINT on the Shotover River east of Queenstown is where gold was first discovered on the Shotover. Up river from the bridge is the Oxenbridge tunnel, which in 1906 took 4 years to complete so as to divert the Shotover River. On lowering the riverbed, they only recovered 90 ounces of gold. Today the tunnel is used by the rafters riding down from Deep Creek, situated above the midway point on the Lower Shotover Canyon.

Also from Arthurs Point is a walking track to the Moonlight Valley and Moke Creek Diggings. Both proved remarkably rich with as many as 1,500 miners were in the area 1863 but in 1864 many left to try their luck at the West Coast diggings. In the late 1860s, the Chinese came in large numbers, reworking many abandoned claims. The last Chinese left in 1914. The Moke Creek settlement was eventually renamed Sefferstown and survived till the 1930s.

Flooding and bush regrowth has either destroyed or covered up most of the mining activities though some signs still can be seen.

SKIPPERS In the hills behind Queenstown, were the richest goldfield of the Otago Goldfields and today the most visited, not only for its dramatic landscape scenery and historic romance but also an adventure playground; bungy jumping, rafting and jet boating. Today, Skippers is normally accessible on the spectacular Skippers Road in a 4-wheel drive vehicle ending at the 1901 Skippers Suspension Bridge. Gold was discovered in 1862 with just over 3,600 miners in 1863 working the whole of the Shotover region. At that time, the Shotover River was claimed to be the "richest river in the world" with very rich claims in the vicinity of Maori Point.

The Skippers area was once the home of some 1,500 people, all attracted by the 1862 gold discovery. Only three buildings survive at the Skippers settlement. Two have been recently restored, the 1879 Skippers School and 1867 Mt Aurum Station Homestead while just pass the cemetery is a walking track to the ruins of the Otago Hotel.

The walking track continues to Skippers Creek, and then by following the creek to the old mining settlement of Bullendale, a quartz mining settlement 1866-1905. The rich alluvial deposits that were found in the creek and the Shotover came from the reefs at the foot of Mt Aurum. This was the second quartz reef to be worked in Otago. Initially the stamper batteries were driven by water- power but on 6 February 1886 a trail of the companies newly installed generator had sufficient power to drive 15 head of stampers - the first industrial use of electricity in New Zealand. (The first public supply of electricity was provided by the Reefton Electrical Transmission and Lighting Co Ltd in 1888.)

 

The Upper Shotover to the Branches can be viewed from a narrow dry weather road.

Just pass the Blue Slip, the road forks – left to Skippers, while continuing straight ahead the road gets narrow but the views are spectacular with more evidence of mining and small settlements to be found all the way to Campbell’s Saddle for a grand view of Branches Flat. .

ARROWTOWN rests gently but firmly on its pass, lingering as a living memory of a substantial gold town of the early 1860's gold rush days. The town was the first mining settlement in the Wakatipu District and stringent town planning regulations has faithfully retained the historic character. Historic miners' cottages shelter under an avenue of trees. More than 50 buildings from the nineteenth century and early twentieth century remain.

Above the town, on the banks of Bush Creek, a tributary of the Arrow river, is the partially restored Arrowtown Chinese Settlement - a mute reminder and tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese gold miners and those in business to the region's gold mining, culture and business history. At the peak of the Chinese immigration, in the late 1860's / early 1870's, their population in New Zealand reached some 5000, with the majority settling in Otago and most of the others on the Westcoast. Those who lived in towns were often the victims of discrimination and lived on the fringes of European settlements. Many of the Chinese miners lived in isolated gullies close to their mining claims.

The Lakes District Museum, one of the best of New Zealand's small museums, displays the region's rich history. Each April there is an Autumn Festival, which celebrates the gold mining heritage, with the town folk donning period costumes and for all to join in the art, craft and music activities.

MACETOWN Transformed by the miners' determination in the 1860's from a severe and stark environment into a bustling mining town. Today, Macetown is now a ghost town, its demise bought about by its remoteness, the harsh climate and the mining decline. Hundreds of exotic trees grow on the once treeless landscape, amongst which were stores, smithies, hotels and humble cottages. Only two complete buildings, both been restored, remain. Just beyond the town up the Richburn catchment, are several now silent batteries, including one massive example, the Homeward Bound that has been recently restored.

Some effort is required to reach Macetown - either via the Big Hill Walkway (a 4-5 hour hike) or the 4-wheel drive of 15 km along the Arrow Gorge Road.

CARDRONA. A few remains of the Cardrona diggings can be found along the picturesque Cardrona Valley Road from Queenstown over the Crown Range to Wanaka. The spring 1878 flood destroyed the valley and most of the settlements, leaving little behind of the workings and tunnel claims. A few of the miners returned but not to work the valley floor but the higher slopes. In the late 1890s a few dredges worked the river but were all-unsuitable as were unable to bottom to their claims. The old Cardrona Hotel restored mid 1980's, and again in 2002 has on display, a few memories from the past

CRIFFEL DIGGINGS Not until 1884/85 was payable gold found on the high isolated spurs of Mount Criffel at 1200m asl, which lies between the Cardrona river and the upper Luggate catchment. These diggings were one of the highest sluicing goldfields in Otago. The small number of miners had some initial success, but it was all over by 1892. The final wash-up was likely around 1910.

Permission is first needed or else go with Criffel Safari. The track takes you to the Middle Criffel Digging and walking required to all the other sites.

 

LINDIS DIGGINGS – Alongside SH 8 below the Lindis Pass to Goodger Flat – Camp Creek area.

Though this was the first Otago goldfield rush March 1861 with some 300 miners, the field turned out to be a failure with must miners leaving in the winter of 1861 for better results at the Tuapeka Goldfield. Little evidence remains. Flooding has destroyed nearly everything though the Lindis Pass Hotel / Store (Est. 1861) ruins, beside the original Lindis Pass Road, still stand.

BENDIGO QUARTZ MINING 1868-1911 Some 20 km from Cromwell on the road to the Lindis Pass (SH 8), the Bendigo Loop Road takes you to the Bendigo goldfields. Here was one mine in particular, worked by the Cromwell Company that was one of the few successful quartz mines in Otago.

Mining in the first few years - 1862/66, was spent working the creeks with the latter years, 1868-1902 and then on and off till 1911, quartz mining. Dozens of crumbling stone cottages and huts can be found amongst the scrub or in the open, the best being at Welshtown, (lower down was Logantown), but the miners too left deep mine shafts and tunnels. From Welshtown keep to the track and watch your step on your explorations as a loop track takes you alongside Logan’s Reef to the early main battery site and to the No 2 battery / shaft site. Another interesting walk is from Logantown following the Aurora Gully track to Welshtown.

Of the towns, nothing left except of the remains of the bake house that marks the township of Bendigo 1869-1872, a few more stone ruins marks the site of Logantown (1869-1880) further up the hill, while above, the residential settlement of Welshtown (1874-1902) with their more substantial stone ruins.

 

THOMSON GORGE ROAD A dry weather road (with many gates) that links from SH 8 at the Lindis Bridge, crossing the mid-point of the Dunstan Mountains at Thomsons Saddle 900m to SH 85 at Omakau, Manuherikia Valley..

The road on the western side passes through the northern end of the Bendigo Goldfields – Come-In-Time reef with a 10-stamper battery located close to the road. Further on as the road climbs to the saddle, the road passes alongside the Rise and Shine diggings. As the road descends on the western side of the mountain, the road is for a short time alongside the Thomson Creek diggings before the creek drops down through Thomson Gorge. Once down on the Manuherikia valley a detour on the road off to the right to Naylor Road, to the old mining town of Matakanui is well worth a visit.

MATAKANUI was once known as Tinkers. Mining took place from 1863 till about 1923 working a rich alluvial claim at the foothills of Dunstan Mountains. At the township, old sod brick buildings from the 1880s have survived while a sluicing landscape with some former hydraulic elevation ponds still can be seen.

OPHIR Originally known as Blacks. Today, a peaceful town, close to the Manuherikia River, 26 km from Alexandra to Ranfurly. Its rich history comes from its many original buildings - the restored Post and Telegraph Office built 1886, the 1895 Courthouse, the 1870's Police Station (both are now private residences) with some of the cottage dating back to 1870s, while the 1880 suspension bridge makes for a most spectacular entrance. The Rev’d. Alexandra Don, a prominent Presbyterian minister administering to the Chinese miners late 1890's / early 1900's, retired here to his Bungalow in 1926.

CAMBRIAN An old Welshman's gold & coal 1863 mining settlement off St Bathans Loop Road on the way to St Bathans. Along Cambrians Road, a number of cottages still survive and used today as holiday cribs, while the rest are just ruins.

ST BATHANS. (Originally known as Dunstan Creek). Today a little rural town, where once 2,000 miners lived in and around at the claims at Dunstan Creek with two surviving operating facilities - its pub and the former Post Office. Many of the old buildings that have survived, are now used as holiday cribs. Time has stood still and it takes little imagination to picture as you stroll around the town imaging the numerous hotels, dancing girls, banks, stores, blacksmith and hundreds of diggers here in its hey-day

In January 1864, Kildare Hill then of some 120m high, was first worked by the miners by sinking shafts bringing the rich dirt wash to the surface, later sluiced away, and finally became a big hole in the 1880's by the use of an elevator to raise the gravel. Later this became the site of the deepest hydraulic mining lift in the world creating a hole some 67.5m deep. When abandoned in 1934, this enormous hole flooded to create the Blue Lake - a testimony to the miners' toil. You can still enjoy a beer in the 1869 Vulcan Hotel or visit the 1909 Post Office - "Dispatchers Shop", view the bank of New South Wales Gold Office or visit the 1860's Public Hall. When opened, inside you will see some interesting wall displays recalling the town's early days. Unfortunately you may find the Hall closed due to problems with the unstable ground that the hall has been built on.

HILLS CREEK first known, as Blackstone Hill was first a coach stop 1863 and later a small settlement. Few buildings have survived while those that do, are now unoccupied – the store 1897 and school 1881-1949.

OTUREHUA . (Originally known as Rough Ridge.) Just north out of Oturehua, off Reef Road, a short walk takes you to the Golden Progress quartz mine with the only poppet head still standing in Otago. Above a 46 m mineshaft, the 14m high structure supports wheels over which once run ropes to hoist gold-bearing ore to the surface. Close by was the battery, since removed to a site in Westland, but left behind is the steam boiler.

South of the town is Hayes Engineering Works, established 1895 and closed in 1952. Now a Historic Trust Building, opened Thursday to Sunday, December to February, 9.00am - 4.00pm or by arrangement (03 444 5801). The water-powered works with its fascinating machinery made and repaired many of the implements used both in the mining and the farming industries as well as many inventions. Their most famous invention and still in use today is the Hayes wire-strainer - an indispensable fencing tool.

NASEBY . (Originally first known as Hogburn.) Now a very popular holiday town set amongst exotic tree plantations. It has a distinctly historic quality. The rawness of the sluiced scared hills from the former gold mining days has now been softened by the spread of wilding trees. Inquire about walks and mountain bike riding through the gold workings at the forest headquarters or ask at either of the pubs – Ancient Britain Tavern (Est. 1863) or Royal Hotel (Est. 1863). Have a browse in the Early Settlers Museum and then take a step back through time in the nearby watchmakers shop.

Naseby was once the commercial and local Government centre of the Maniototo, till Ranfurly took over this roll early in the 1900s when the rail line reached Ranfurly. The town and its cottages, (today most are holiday cribs) now remain much the same from the last century. Walking through the old town area leaves little to the imagination of how the town was once liked.

MT BUSTER DIGGINGS is also known as Clark Diggings

One of the highest sluicing goldfields in Otago, worked from 1863 with the last of the miners leaving in 1914. Workings of this almost pure quartz sand started first in Clacks Gully – one of the three main gullies worked for about eight months each year when winter snow stopped their operations.

Access is only by 4-WD and only in summer and autumn months. Leave from Naseby along Mt Buster Road to the Little Kyeburn ford. The road from here is not maintained and very rough. The sluicing white quartz landscape against a blue sky makes for a striking contrast.

DANSEY’S PASS Just 29 km on from Naseby, past the sluiced cliff and high heaped tailings of the Kyeburn Diggings you will find the Dansey’s Pass Hotel. The Pass Hotel was built 1863

and for a time was the centre of all activities in the district. The present stone building was plastered in the late 1950's, with the latest addition of sod bricks in the early 1990's. A stonemason called Happy Bill who built the stone building in schist in 1863, took his payment in beer, a pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid on the thick walls. Today the hotel still offers accommodation and a stopover for travelers crossing the narrow and tortuous Dansey’s Pass from the Waitaka Valley.

At the nearby picnic area alongside German Creek, planted out is a grove of different exotic trees, a native to each homeland represented on the goldfield.

PATEARORA – Sowburn Rush 17 km east from Ranfurly

In 1864/65, good gold was found on the Sowburn and a small rush took place but the field was short-lived, lasting only a few months. A small number of miners stayed on and their evidence are from signs of hydraulic sluicing. The most significant site can be found further east towards Paerau, the New Caledonian sluicing claim.

SERPENTINE. The Serpentine wagon track onto the Serpentine Flat leaves from near the Blackball pub (site only now), Upper Taieri Plains. The track is dry weather 4-wheel drive only, in very poor repair, and users should check with the Alexandra DOC Office first. This high altitude flats at some 900m a.s.l., was a site of a small and brief gold rush in 1863 though mining did continue on during the summer months into the early years of the 20th century.

The stone Serpentine Union Church at an altitude of 930m, was once the highest church in New Zealand and still in good order. Opened in mid-winter of 1873, but there were not many services ever held in it and later was used as a miners cottage. It was said of the first service held that the minister was late in arriving. So the congregation after waiting some time, adjourned to the hotel for refreshments. When the service finally opened with a well-known Psalm, the by now lively congregation demanded an encore! The minister was not at all impressed. The building did not long survived as a church and was a miner’s cottage for some time, later a musters hut but now a historic building looked after by DOC..

The valley to the west of the flat, Long Valley (Golden Gully) was were the Golden Gully United Quartz Mining Co. set up in 1890 its water wheel and stamper battery so as to crush the quartz rock mined out of the hill above. Restoration work was carried out on both the battery and waterwheel between 1997 and 1998. In the early 1900s, small scale hydraulic sluicing took place close to the battery site.

HAMILTONS DIGGINGS from Waipiata 17km east from Ranfurly

Late 1863 gold were reported at Hamiltons. Initially in 1864 it proved very rich but on shallow ground. Some 2,000 miners first worked the area, peaking at 4,000 in 1864. By 1864 a small town became established but did not last long. Once the shallow ground had been worked most of the miners departed. The few that did stay hydraulic sluiced at the “Old Hill

The last sign of the town had gone by the early 1900s, though sluicing scares can still be seen and of the dam while alongside Hamilton Road is the stone wall Hamilton’s Cemetery.

HYDE Diggings - Along SH 87, 22km from Ranfurly

Hyde was originally called Eight Mile – eight miles from Hamilton. There were two separate rushes to the Hyde area – one to the Fullarton’s rush, the Twelve Mile, deep ground up against Mt Highlay (Highlay Reef). The second rush in 1864 was the more important and the durable at Eight Mile, about a kilometer north of the present township. Even today these main workings are still quite evident though the town is almost gone. The rail trail has put new live into the hotel / store.

MACRAES FLAT (Murphy’s Flat) Off from SH87 after passing through Hyde.

The old mining town of Macros is once again a centre of gold mining. The huge open-cast gold mine of the Oceana Gold Macros mine (former Macros Mining company) began operating 1990, the only hard-rock venture now operating in the South Island. The mining operation can be found out in the small hills near Macros. A few of the earlier open –cast pits were working has ceased, are now small lakes. As new areas are opened up, either with more open-cast pits or deep underground tunnels, the landscape is consistently changing.

More gold is recovered in one year (over 100,000 ozs) is equivalent to what was recovered at some diggings that took 30-40 years of workings.

Stanley 's Hotel, rebuilt in 1882, was and still is the focal point of the district with its popular landmark with its motto " While I live I'll crow". The proud motto refers back to the rivalry between Stanley and Griffin, the publican of the United Kingdom Hotel

The other main attraction is of the old Golden Point mine in Deepdell Creek, 5 km from Macraes. The mine was opened in 1889 and finally closed 1930. The small battery, still in working order and within its original building, was in use mainly for obtaining scheelite from the reef-quartz though a reasonable amount of gold was also extracted.

NENTHORN North over the Taieri Ridge from SH 87 at Middlemarch

1889 saw the last of the gold rushes, but not for alluvial gold but gold from gold bearing quartz. Companies were quickly formed and a new town was built along Main Street. By 1900, because of difficulties of extraction, most mines were failing to pay and the business people moved on.

Today little remains. Of the town only a few stone ruins – one being one of the seven hotels that once served the mining settlement and of the mining, some abandoned mining structures is all that is left of some 10 years the miners worked here.

PALMERSTON. The town lies on the junction of SH 1, the road to Dunedin and SH 85 (The Pigroot) - the route to Central Otago. Palmerston grew from being a campsite on the Pigroot passage as a gateway to the Central Otago goldfields. Also from the Pigroot Road, just past Dunback, is the turn left on to "miners' road" to Macraes Flat.

The journey inland was anything but easy for the early goldminers. At Dead Horse Pinch, near the Pigroot summit (45 km from Palmerston), is a roadside plaque, which commemorates the hardships faced by the travellers - miners, wagoners, coaches in those early days.

 

OLD DUNSTAN ROAD – the Mountain Road or Dunstan Trail

Miners in 1862 set out inland from Dunedin to the Otago interior to the new Dunstan Gold Field in an almost direct line from Dunedin to the Dunstan (today Clyde), a distance of 175km crossing four major ranges; Lammermoor, Rock and Pillar, South Rough Ridge. and Raggedy Range (Those at Gabriel’s Gully followed the Clutha River.)

The road still exists with sections part of the present road network but those sections over Rock and Pillar Range and South Rough Ridge are summer dry weather 4-WD tracks that are closed in winter.

Though the route is shorter than that of either SH 8, SH 87 or SH 85, because the road climbs and descends the mountains, (reaching as high as 1000m asl), gates to open and shut and small fords to slow you down to cross that more than double the time than that of going on any of the main roads. Back in the 1860s it took horse drawn drays two to three weeks to complete the round trip. Wagoners often made more money than the miners they were supplying.

Travelling from Dunedin today you would turn-off at Mosgiel, onto SH 87 on through Outram to Clarks Junction and here leave SH 87. The road now climbs from Rocklands Station over between the Lammermoor Range and Rock and Pillar Range where the trail becomes a dry weather road to Paerau – then known as the Styx. The trail then follows a country road before once again on dry weather road over South Rough ridge to Poolburn Reservoir – Lord of the Ring landscape. The trail now back onto country roads, then requires a left and then right turn with another left turn to take you over Raggedy Range down to Galloway Flats to SH 85.

Tours of the goldfields  / old mining towns of Otago, to the mountain ranges of Central Otago , wild flower walks and general tours can be arranged with John Douglas of Safari Excursions.

For more information email: jdouglas.alx@xtra.co.nz

 
John Douglas, Safari Excursions, 41 Glencarron Street 
Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand 
Phone 64 (int) 3 (area) 448 7474
Fax 64 3 448 8118

Free phone (within New Zealand): 0800 208 930
 
email: jdouglas.alx@xtra.co.nz
 
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