The Bendigo goldfields were some of New Zealand’s most lucrative. Terrific fortunes were made here; and today it remains richly endowed with remnants of those backbreaking, golden days.
The entrance to the Bendigo Historic Reserve is on the Bendigo Loop Road, about 20km from Cromwell on SH8. There are information panels in the car park at what was Welshtown and numerous walking tracks lead to the historic remains. Look out for mine shafts – there are particularly impressive ones above Aurora Creek with narrow roads linking them; the Matilda and Aurora batteries; water races; pipelines and the stone remains of Pengelly’s Hotel and at Logantown.
Gold was first discovered in Bendigo Creek in 1862. This accessible alluvial gold brought some rich yields of 15-50 ounces a week, but declined after 1866. In 1863 Thomas Logan discovered gold-bearing quartz reefs stretching into the hills. The subsequent hard-rock mining transformed the area with an estimated 52 mine shafts.
Early business alliances and attempts to gain financial backing to facilitate the costly extraction of the gold were disappointing. But Logan’s persistence paid off, and in 1869 the Cromwell Quartz Mining Company’s first crushing of 238 ounces in 10 days, got everyone’s attention. The company continued to gain extraordinary yields. Early on it recovered £4000 worth of gold in an eight-week stint and investors reaped a grand first dividend of £6,000 each, which continued for some years. By 1875 the Bendigo reef was considered the richest in Otago.
In the ensuing rush other quartz reefs at Bendigo were mined with limited success. At its height there were at least 50 shafts. The thriving township of Logantown sprang up, but by 1875 it had been superseded by Welshtown further up the hill.
Mining at Bendigo continued for more than 40 years with declining success.
Find out more about tracks and walks in the Bendigo area here