The Bendigo area was one of the richest hard-rock gold mining areas in New Zealand where vast fortunes were made. From 1863 until the 1930’s this area of the Lower Dunstan Mountains buzzed and hammered with activity as hundreds of miners toiled away under the hot sun or in freezing weather to extract the riches of the land. Every tree in the area was chopped down for construction materials or firewood, and all that remained was desert and little else. Today, the area stands desolate and lonely, high on the hill overlooking the Clutha Valley. Its uniqueness is the regenerated Kanuka that now cloaks most of this conservation area with a shade most welcome in summer.
There are three main walks to attract differing fitness levels or time restraints. All of them may be accessed by driving to the car park at Welshtown. From SH8 near Bendigo Station, follow the Bendigo Loop Road and branch off up the hill at the site of the Bendigo township, where there is an information kiosk. Follow this steep road a further 4km to Welshtown where more information panels and a toilet are located.
Bendigo Mine Loop
This is the shortest walk of 1.5 km, 45 minutes. Have a look at the Welshtown hut remains before continuing down through the Kanuka trees, following the yellow markers. The track passes the first of many mine shafts: this one covered with netting. All of these are dangerous and may be very deep, so care should be taken over the whole area. The track continues down, passing a blacksmiths shop and more uncovered shafts to meet a cart track leading down to the Matilda Battery site. Have an explore around this lonely spot before returning up the cart track and continuing on it to the No 2 Shaft. This is a very deep covered shaft and is surrounded by mullock (spoil) heaps and building foundations. The view from here over the Clutha Valley to the Pisa Range and mountains to the north is spectacular. Follow the markers back up the hill to the car park.
A longer 4 km 1.5 hour track for the more adventurous starts from the Welshtown car park and follows the marked track down and just to the right of the road. It winds down the open hillside to the site of Logantown, once containing at least three hotels, butchery, bakery and many miners huts scattered along the roadside. From here follow the right track and once down into the Aurora Creek follow the markers up into the gully on the right. The track gets most picturesque as now the gully closes in and the Kanuka Forest is dominant. Remains of the Lucknow Battery are passed before returning to the gully at the Aurora Battery site where a magnificent stone causeway is crossed. Information panels are there to describe the history before following an old water race back to the car park. This is a favorite track and well worth the effort.
This is a 10 km, 5 hour tramping track which, if time and energy permit, is the jewel in the Bendigo walking crown. It loops from a signposted entrance near Logantown and following orange markers traverses the School and Chinamans Creek areas to reach a high point on the skyline ridge. As the name implies, the track is mostly through Kanuka forest, although there are kowhai and other native species to be seen. The higher levels are bare of much vegetation and are a complete contrast. It is steep and very rugged in places but because of the height gained the views from the Old Woman Range through to the St Bathans Range are simply stunning. There are historic huts to be seen near Chinamans Creek and an interesting rock shelter. This is a long, steep walk so good footwear, extra clothing, food and water are recommended.