This section of the Otago Central Rail Trail runs through irrigated farmland of the lower Manuherikia Valley. The Dunstan Mountains rise up 1650 metres in the north-west and the Raggedy Range, which separates the Manuherikia and Ida Valleys, is in the south-east.
A notable feature is the trail’s sweeping ‘S’ bend, which was specifically designed to maintain a gentle gradient not exceeding 1 in 50, to get trains up Tiger Hill. It is the steepest part of the Rail Trail.
The water races scarring the slopes of Tiger Hill provide irrigation to local farmland. Some were originally dug by gold miners to get water to their claims.
At Thomson’s Creek just before the township of Omakau, there is an ideal picnic and rest spot. Omakau was named after a local Maori chief and means ‘place of Makau’.
A quick 2km side trip from Omakau, across the Manuherikia River to the once bustling town of Ophir is a treat. Ophir is a well-preserved village of the gold rush era with mud-brick and stone buildings, many of which are in use today, including the post office. It is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of the past.
Return to Omakau via the 1880 Daniel O’Connell Suspension Bridge (5km round trip). For those staying over in either township, consider visiting the gold mining ghost town of Matakanui.
Lauder has a long farming history. Its nearby rock pit was quarried to provide foundation ballast for the railway.
Key Information & Distances
Chatto Creek to Omakau - 12km
Omakau to Lauder - 7km
Car parking: Chatto Creek, Lauder Station sites; Omakau township
Information Panels: General – Lauder Station site, Historic interpretation – Chatto Creek, Lauder Station sites, Tiger Hill Gangers’ Shed