Ophir ranks alongside St Bathans and Clyde as one of Central Otago’s richest towns of historic buildings.
Set within the Manuherikia Valley, Ophir is just 24kms from Alexandra and a 2km detour south, off State Highway 85 at the town of Omakau.
Originally the township was known as Blacks, after Charles Black on whose run gold was first discovered. The name was changed to the more apt, Ophir in 1875 after the biblical land where the Queen of Sheba obtained gold for King Solomon. At its height, Ophir’s population surged to more than 1000 people.
The Ophir Post Office opened for business in 1886 and has changed little since its original construction. It still opens for 3 hours every week day. Most of the buildings are now privately owned, but views from the street are still very rewarding. Take a stroll down Swindon Street. A local brochure outlines the stone kerbing, the Post and Telegraph Office, courthouse and jail, bakery, cottages, church and shops.
This pretty, peaceful Central Otago holiday town is deceptive. Ophir endures extreme seasonal temperatures and has recorded New Zealand’s coldest winter temperature at -21C. It is the perfect spot for winter photography, fishing in the nearby Manuherikia River and picnicking in warmer weather.
The suspension bridge, built in 1880, was once the main means of crossing the Manuherikia River and is one of only a few remaining in Central Otago. With one end extending through solid rock, this little bridge was first made from wood then rebuilt with prefabricated steel shipped out from the United Kingdom. Located at the Alexandra end of Ophir, it is named after the Irish patriot, Daniel O’Connell and still boasts strong, stone piers.
Enjoy the local hospitality and immerse yourself in the living history that is Ophir.