They came in their thousands – Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, Chinese, Italians and others – pioneers; adventurers – willing to break new frontiers and risk everything to seek their fortunes on the Central Otago goldfields.
Those hardy men ventured into mountain ranges and swift rivers, they endured searing summers and freezing winters, experienced huge thrills and tremendous sorrow, facilitated booming commerce and created technological innovations that led the world. These people shaped a landscape and left a social and cultural legacy that is part of what makes Central Otago so unique.
Discover towering sluiced cliffs, herringbone tailings and tailing piles, tunnels, water races, tailraces, dams, mining equipment, substantial machinery, impressive stone masonry, mud-brick cottages and assorted relics. The region’s dry continental climate has ensured all has been preserved, much as it was.
The range of evidence represents different types of gold mining, changing technology and miners’ lifestyles. Many of today’s towns are born of the gold rush era.
Central Otago rivers were rich with gold and the focus of the early alluvial mining of river flats and shallows during the first rush in the early 1860s. Dredging (1880s–1920s) ploughed the riverbeds and eventually the inland terraces and beyond and is responsible for most of the altered landscapes.
Hard-rock mining of the quartz reefs (most active 1860s–1880s) required different techniques and machinery. The third rush (1950s-1960s) reworked some old fields.
Some 2-million ounces of gold was taken out of Otago by June 1867. Exactly how much more was found, is uncertain. Nevertheless, richness continues to abound in the landscapes and relics that remain.
Follow in the footsteps of the adventurers before you. Marvel at their feats, be awed by their audacity and revel in the excitement of your discoveries and the historic treasures on the Central Otago goldfields.
The Bendigo goldfields were some of New Zealand’s most lucrative. Numerous walking tracks lead to the historic remains. Look for mine shafts above Aurora Creek; the Matilda and Aurora batteries; water races; pipelines and the stone remains of Pengelly’s Hotel and at Logantown.
Come in time
The Come-in-Time quartz reef was the last one discovered at Bendigo. The claim area is today an historic treasure. With easy access to the mine entrance and a fully restored stamper battery it offers a rare and almost complete picture of hard-rock quartz mining in Central Otago.
Doctor’s Point is an extensive and extremely well-preserved alluvial gold mining site. Near the lake there are well preserved stone huts an eel smoking chimney. Explore further to see substantial tailings and stonewalled races, remnants and tools of a former blacksmith’s forge site and more.
The Lonely Graves at Horseshoe Bend are a poignant reminder of the tragedies that went hand in hand with the achievements of Central Otago pioneers. A headstone that reads “Somebody’s Darling Lies Buried Here” is the starting point for this touching story which has become firmly entrenched in local lore.
The sliced hillsides and stark landscape of Bannockburn Sluicings and nearby Stewart Town offer dramatic perspectives and much evidence of gold miners’ workings. A well marked two-hour round walk takes you past the main points of interest. With great views across Cromwell and Bailey’s Gully from Menzies Terrace.
Young Australian / Carricktown
Amid utterly spectacular mountainous and valley scenery of the Carrick Range/Nevis area lies widespread evidence of the hard-rock gold mining that persisted there for decades. It includes a huge waterwheel – known as the Young Australian; and in the remote Nevis, a virtually unchanged goldfield.
Mitchells Cottage stands apart as an exceptional example of stone masonry. Its near perfect condition is a testament to Andrew Mitchell’s meticulous craftsmanship, which he learnt back in his homeland of the Shetland Islands. It sits in a landscape of schist rock tors against a backdrop of the Old Man mountain range.
The classic herringbone pattern at the Quartz Reef Point tailings are left behind from the ground sluicing method used to work the terraces. Located close to Cromwell, the Herringbone tailings offer a great photo opportunity. The sharp, angular faces of the tailings provide strong contrasts of light and shade at different times of the day.
Golden Progress Mine
The Golden Progress quartz mine is located in the Ida Valley just south of Oturehua. It has the only poppet head still standing in Central Otago. The 14-metre high structure sits over a mine shaft 46 metres deep. Concrete blocks mark the spot where the stamper battery once stood.
Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings
The immense Earnscleugh dredge tailings on the south bank of the swift Clutha River near Alexandra represents 100 years (1860s-1960s) of technological advancement in gold mining that led the world. Aside from the impressive tailings there are old dredging ponds, water races, remnants of original ground surfaces, buckets and trommels (screens/sieves).