Central Otago’s heritage is rich with gold and thoroughly unique. This is not only because the region was once the pivot of the country’s fortunes, but also because of the copious historic riches that endure, all preserved by Central Otago’s harsh, dry climate. So much is still there and it’s all so accessible.
During the 1860s some 2 million ounces of gold were taken out of the region in just six years, that’s almost 2.7 billion US-dollars worth in today’s terms. It’s an era irreversibly and impressively scored into the landscape with towering sluiced cliffs and deeply gorged rivers.
You only have to follow in the footsteps of those early gold-seeking adventurers to discover tangible evidence of Central Otago's gold mining heritage – mine shafts, old quartz-mining stamper batteries, herringbone tailings, tunnels, water races (long, short, hillside), tailraces, dams, stone masonry, mud-brick cottages, equipment and assorted relics, plus beautifully crafted engineering feats like suspension bridges with schist stone pillars.
There are many places to explore for free, from the Bendigo Goldfields– with their deep shaft mines and stone remains of Logantown and Welshtown, to the township of St Bathan's with its rumoured, ‘haunted’ hotel and amazing Blue Lake. I suggest you pick up a Goldfields Heritage Trail brochure from a Visitor Centre and select the sites of most interest to you.
Along the way you’re likely to pass some colourful old pubs that date back to the miners’ days – they’re great places to stop in for a cool beer on a hot Central day!
There are also a multitude of cycling and walking tracks in and around many former iconic gold mining sites and landscapes.
Alternatively you could take a cruise exploring the rich gold history of the Roxburgh Gorge with Clutha River Cruises or take a guided tour of the Bannockburn Sluicings or pay a visit to Goldfields Mining Centre.
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