Rail Trail > Introduction to The Otago Central Rail Trail

The Otago Central Rail Trail

The Rail Trail can be walked, cycled or horseback ridden and has the advantage of no cars or hills and is free. You can take as little or as long as you like to complete the Rail Trail and with so many great places to see along the way, it is well worth taking a leisurely tour. There are numerous small towns along the Rail Trail that all contain their own unique history and attractions for you to explore, and most come fully equipped with accommodation and satisfying food at the end of a long day. The Rail Trail itself provides a wonderful and unique insight into railway engineering of the early 20th Century with fantastic bridges, viaducts and tunnels to see and explore. The Rail Trail is also very flexible in that if you have little time, day trips can be made as access to the Rail Trail is easy from the main highways.

The Otago Central Rail Trail follows the 150km long Otago Central Branch Railway Line from Clyde to Middlemarch through the Central Otago, Maniototo and Strath Taieri regions. The railway line was constructed between 1879 and 1921 and was used for 83 years. It travelled 235km, from Wingatui, 12km south of Dunedin, through to Cromwell in Central Otago. It was closed in 1990 due to diminishing usage, from the increase of cars and decreasing truck restrictions. The Taieri Gorge Railway Limited bought 60km of the railway line for excursions from Dunedin to Middlemarch, while the rest was taken over by the Department of Conservation and opened in February 2000 as the Otago Central Rail Trail.

An Overview of the Otago Central Rail Trail

The Rail Trail takes around 3-5 days to bike and 5-7 days to walk.

For the super fit and adventurous, take part in the Rail Trail Duathlon (cycle/run), which occurs annually in February.

Guided trips of the Rail Trail are available and provide bike hire and transportation to and from destinations on the Trail. Accommodation is also organised for you. Trips are flexible – half or whole day trips and can include a kayaking or boating component depending on the provider. Customised trips can be organised to meet the needs and fitness of individuals and groups.
Check out these websites:

For those going it alone or unguided, bike hire and transport for pick up/drop offs of gear at various destinations is available. Accommodation and car parking is available in most towns and camping sites can be found in some places. Check out the Otago Central Rail Trail website below for equipment needed and what to expect while on the Trail.

More Information Websites:

Outline and Attractions of the Otago Central Rail Trail

Clyde – Chatto (25km)
Towns to see along the way: Alexandra and Galloway

  • Muttontown Viaduct – 1 of 2 wooden trestle bridges on the Rail Trail
  • Tucker Hill Gold Diggings
  • Chatto Creek Railway Station
  • Landscape of schist rock and wild thyme
  • Facilities:
  • toilets near Dunstan Race Course, at Galloway and at Chatto Creek Station
  • Side Trips:
  • The section from Clyde to Alexandra can be combined with the 150th Anniversary Walk that is a circuit around Alexandra and Clyde.
  • Chatto Creek – Lauder (19km)
    Towns to see along the way: Omakau and Ophir (side trip)

  • see the Dunstan Mountains (1650m)
  • Tiger Hill
  • historic Ophir
  • Facilities:
  • toilet and picnic spot at Thomson’s Creek (just past Omakau), toilet at Lauder
  • Lauder – Oturehua (23km)
    Towns to see along the way: Auripo and Ida Valley

  • Longest bridge, the Poolburn Viaduct (111.8m long, 37m high)
  • Two tunnels
  • Idaburn Dam
  • Look out for New Zealand Falcons
  • Facilities:
  • toilets near Lauder Bridge and at Auripo
  • Oturehua – Ranfurly (25km)
    Towns to see along the way: Wedderburn, Naseby (15km from Ranfurly – side trip)

  • Golden Progress Gold Mine
  • Highest point of the Rail Trail – 618m above sea level
  • Cross the 45 degrees south latitude line
  • Facilities:
  • toilets at Oturehua, Ranfurly and near Wedderburn
  • Ranfurly – Hyde (32km)
    Towns to see along the way: Waipiata, Kokonga, Daisybank and Tiroiti

  • Original stone bridge over the Cap Burn
  • Former site of Taieri Lake (was 3km wide, now silted up)
  • Facilities:
  • campsite and toilet between Daisybank and Tiroiti, toilets at Ranfurly and near Waipiata
  • Hyde – Middlemarch (27km)
    Towns to see along the way: Rock and Pillar, Ngapuna

  • Rock and Pillar Range (1400m)
  • Lots of bridges
  • Price’s Creek Tunnel (152m long)
  • Price’s Creek Viaduct (32m high)
  • Facilities:
  • toilets at Rock and Pillar and at Hyde
  • Middlemarch – Dunedin
    Travel via the Taieri Gorge Limited to complete the experience! The Train takes you all the way back to Dunedin via the start of the Otago Central Railway at Wingatui. It leaves either from Middlemarch or Pukerangi (19km south of Middlemarch) and runs several times a week. Transport can be arranged from Middlemarch to Pukerangi. Travelling by train is by far the best way to travel and the scenic route includes the 437m long Salisbury Tunnel and the 197m long Wingatui Viaduct, to name a few of the many attractions along this route.

    Distances in Kilometres (also see map)

  • Clyde to Alexandra – 8km
  • Alexandra to Chatto Creek – 17km
  • Chatto Creek to Omakau – 10km
  • Omakau to Lauder – 9km
  • Lauder to Auripo – 13km
  • Auripo to Ranfurly – 35km
  • Oturehua to Wedderburn – 11km
  • Wedderburn to Ranfurly – 14km
  • Ranfurly to Daisybank – 21km
  • Ranfurly to Waipiata - 19km
  • Waipiata to Kokonga - 10km
  • Daisybank to Tiroiti – 5km
  • Tiroiti to Hyde – 6km
  • Hyde to Middlemarch – 27km
  • Kokonga to Middlemarch - 17km

    For a perfectly preserved pioneer town of the 1860’s, head upriver to Clyde. Here buildings of stone, timber and cob are unchanged reminders of a golden heritage that’s still reflected in the relaxed pace of life. Take the time to meander, and the charm of Clyde will work its magic. Choose from visiting the unique local museums or gardens, depending on your interest for history or horticulture. Make the most of the many opportunities for water sports and recreation afforded by nearby Lake Dunstan. Linger over local cuisine at the fine restaurants and cafes housed in buildings over 100 years old. Then, wherever you choose to lay your head at night – luxury lodge, motel, homestay or holiday park – your dreams are sure to be sweet.

    Activities and Attractions
    This historic town has superb examples of colonial architecture built with schist stone from the surrounding hills and valleys. Little changed from the 1860’s when gold was first discovered in the mighty Clutha River, this caused 10 000 miners to pour into this wild unknown country. When the gold was gone many of these miners turned back to their trades leaving us a legacy that no amount of re-construction or re-creation can replace. Take a walk through Clyde, past timeless cottages, hotels, churches and post office. A visit to the museum will satisfy your curiosity of the history of the area and its buildings, and will entertain with its collection of fascinating stories of the goldfield pioneers. See New Zealand’s first herb factory, where green thyme, sage and mint among others were processed. Challenge yourself to a game of golf on the 9-hole Dunstan golf course.

    Central Otago is a place for all seasons, since each season has its own special flavour. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alexandra. Here they celebrate the arrival of spring with New Zealand’s original Blossom Festival, and in summer welcome the crowds who come for a holiday in the Mediterranean sunshine amid hills fragrant with wild thyme. In autumn the landscape is at its best as the willows and poplars turn gold and amber along riverbanks and roadsides. The extraordinary clarity of light and cool, blue days that winter brings are the ideal backdrop for sightseeing or outdoor activities.

    Activities and Attractions
    Stay awhile to taste fruit from trees planted by some of the earliest pioneers, or local wines – the produce of some of the region’s newer connoisseur settlers. Or leave people behind and head for hills on horseback, mountain bike or on one of the many walking tracks.

    Visit the many historic buildings that give Alexandra its wonderful character and history. The courthouse from 1879 allows you to relive the disputes from the goldmining days via an audio programme. The Vallance cottage is a restored house dating back to 1896. The museum displays many relics from the goldmining days so you can visualise the miners at work in the gold mines.

    Take a walk to the Tucker Hill goldmining sites, so called as the gold found here was only enough to buy food and was mined during winter when it was impossible to reach the higher goldmining sites. See the various mine shafts, tailings and a tail race carved out of rock.

    Jolendale Park was established in 1961 as a scenic reserve. The area was used to investigate the impact of the dry local climate on a variety of trees grown in exposed conditions. You can see these trees today and the best time to view them is in late October/early November and late April.

    For the more energetic, there are horse treks, an 18-hole golf course, where you can of course hire and buy equipment, mountain biking, tramping and many day walks to suit all fitness levels. Guided trips are available for mountain biking, tramping and day walks. A walk to the clock on the hill is a satisfying achievement with great views at the top. The clock is 11m in diameter and was built by Alexandra Jaycees in 1966.

    Chatto Creek
    Chatto Creek, 15 minutes from Alexandra, was established in 1886 and contains original buildings, providing character to this pioneering settlement. A walk along the Manuherikia River takes you along the river bed and includes several crossings of the river, which is usually low during summer. There are several great swimming holes along the way to stop at for a swim and a picnic (3 and 3/4 hours return).

    The historic gold town of Ophir is 25km from Alexandra and 2km from Omakau, making it an ideal side trip while on the Otago Central Rail Trail. This perfectly preserved town contains many interesting features that will enhance your experience of inland Otago. Ophir was originally called Blacks Diggings or Blacks after the discovery of gold here by Charles Black, a grazier, in 1863. The name was changed to Ophir in 1875 but the old name is still alluded to in some of the businesses around town. At its height, Ophir was home to around 1000 people.

    Activities and Attractions
    Drive over one of the few suspension bridges left in Central Otago, the Daniel O’Connell bridge over the Manuherikia River, which was opened in 1880.

    Take a walk around the town and see all the historic buildings, built around the time of the goldrush. The Post Office, over 100 years old, is still operational. Other historic places to see include the courthouse (built in 1884), policeman’s house (built in the 1870’s), the cottage hospital, a number of miners cottages including the restored MacTavish’s hut, a bank and the Union Church. A lot of the early buildings were built of schist stone or mud brick (adobe).

    Ophir offers a number of sports including bowls, golf and fishing.

    Named in 1883 by John Turnbull Thomson, the first Surveyor-General of New Zealand, Lauder is situated on the 45th Parallel and is part of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

    Activities and Attractions
    There is fantastic trout fishing to be had in the nearby Manuherikia River and also at Poolburn and Manorburn Dams. Mountain-biking, tramping, swimming and golf (at Omakau) are other sports in the area.

    Visit the Lauder Railway Hotel, which opened in 1904 and still reflects the era in which it was built. The Lauder Railway School, which is now a Bed and Breakfast was built in 1906 and closed in 1986. The Lauder Service Station was opened in 1932 and still operates today. Stay at the Old Stone Cottage, built from local schist and now a Bed and Breakfast.

    Things to do in Becks include curling, duckshooting and fishing in Dunstan Creek or the Manuherikia River.

    St Bathans
    Once home to 2000 people, St Bathans is a peaceful town at the foot of Mt St. Bathans, surrounded by remnants from the gold mining days. Gold was discovered in 1864 in Kildare Hill, and mining continued in the St. Bathans area until the 1930’s. St. Bathans was founded by a mainly Irish community.

    Activities and Attractions
    Visit Blue Lake, which was once Kildare Hill (120m high). The blue colour of the lake is due to the mineral content of the surrounding cliffs. The lake is a 69m deep hole, the deepest mining hole in the Southern Hemisphere. The Blue Lake is also the site of the deepest hydraulic elevator in the world, 68.8m.

    Take a tour around the town and visit the many historic buildings from the gold rush. Visit the mud brick Vulcan Hotel, which contains many photographs and goldmining paraphernalia. The first Vulcan Hotel opened in St. Bathans in 1869. See the Public Hall with its matai (black pine) floor, photographs depicting the formation of the Blue Lake and mural of the main street in 1869. Other places to see include the bank, post office, jail house and church and many cottages made of mud brick.

    There is a walking track and numerous idyllic picnic spots around the lake for you to enjoy a sunny afternoon. The lake provides excellent swimming, boating and water-skiing opportunities. Challenge yourself to a spot of fishing in the Manuherikia River, or try your luck at gold panning. There is a golf course nearby and horse treks available around the various gold diggings and the surrounding countryside. 

    Oturehua services the Ida Valley where it nestles at the head of the valley at the foot of the Rough Ridge Range. Originally known as Rough Ridge, Oturehua was a goldmining town and contains many interesting historical sites.

    Activities and Attractions 
    Visit Hayes Engineering Works (2km south of Oturehua) 

    From Small Beginnings
    Hayes Engineering Ltd was established in 1895 in a small shed, 3.1 by 2.5 metres. Later it grew into a complex with a world-wide reputation. Today the works and the exterior of the homestead can be seen almost as they appeared when work was in full production. 

    Ernest Hayes was born in Warwickshire, England, in 1851 and served five-year apprenticeship in millwrighting and engineering. In 1882 he came to New Zealand in the Taranaki with his wife, Hannah and their baby, Llewellyn. Two years later he set up a flourmill in Oturehua (then called RoughRidge which he managed until 1900, at the same time running his own farm. 

    Hayes invented simple tools to help him on his 60 hectare farm, at Oturehua, Central Otago. In 1895 he started making cutters for cutting up pollard, a bran mixture used for poisoning rabbits. The cutters consisted of a series of disc knives spaced about 1.3 centimetres apart. Two years later Hayes turned from manufacture by hand to the use of a hand-operated lathe made from a gate post and chaff cutter wheel. Hannah Hayes went out travelling for orders on a push bicycle all over the Maniototo and Vincent counties and the Lindis Pass and Mackenzie Country areas. 

    After he had built the stone section of the present workshop in 1902, Hayes began a more serious production of engineering items. In 1905 he rigged up a small forge - twice, as the original one burnt down - and began production of the standard lifter, the ‘Monkey’ brand wire-strainer, a cart jack and a wire coiler. The following year Hayes invented his best-known product, the parallel wire strainer for farm fences. This was soon in demand on farms all over New Zealand, being simple to use and very efficient. 

    Windmill Power
    In 1910 Hayes built his first successful windmill to produce power for his own works. The windmill with a tower 12 metres high and sails 6.7 metres in diameter, was thought to be the largest of its type in the country. The power was taken to the machines by an ingenious system of overhead shafts, belts and pulleys which remain in working condition today. A standby oil engine was installed in 1910 but the disadvantages of intermittent wind power finally resulted in the dismantling of the windmill. In 1927 it was replaced by a water-driven Pelton wheel which used the existing drive and shaft system. A reservoir, built on top of a nearby hill, provided the necessary amounts of water.

    In 1912 the first of the Hayes windmills for farm pumps was produced and sold to W Becker of Oturehua. This windmill now stands in the works complex. Among later products developed were pulley blocks, cattle stops and a standard lifter. The lifter was a lever device for lifting fence standards. All were simply and strongly made, easy to use, and carried the stamp of ingenuity. Ernest Hayes retired in 1926 and died in 1933. The works, then at the peak of production, were carried on by his sons.

    Transfer to Christchurch
    In 1952, because of rising transport costs, the business was transferred to Templeton, near Christchurch. This meant the removal of 80 tonnes of machinery, materials and stock. The firm then started exporting the Hayes Chain Grab Wire Strainer which now sells in some 20 countries. The buildings at Oturehua were bought by Clive Hayes, a grandson of Ernest Hayes, and Doug Smith. They replaced essential machinery and kept the works open, selling hardware and doing general repairs. Doug Smith had worked for the Hayes from an early age, and after Clive Hayes moved north he continued to live in the house built by the Hayes family in 1919-1921. In 1975 he sold the works to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

    The Works Today
    The Hayes Engineering Works at Oturehua are preserved as a semi-working complex which is open to the public. Although the original workshop has not survived, structures still standing include the original family homestead of 1895, the stone workshop of 1902 with its sun-dried brick additions of 1908 and 1909 and the galvanised iron wing built in 1914. The first office and the stables, both built about 1912 of sun-dried brick also survive. These bricks, used for the present homestead too, are peculiar to Central Otago and last well in its dry climate. Also standing is the base for the windmill of 1910. The Pelton water-wheel of 1927 is in working condition, and until recently the generator provided the electricity for the complex. Together these structures and working machinery form a picturesque reminder of New Zealand’s early engineering and agricultural industry. 

    Works are open Saturday and Sunday 11.00am to 4.00pm August until May and at other times by arrangement. Phone (03) 444 5801 or (03) 444 5817 or 027 221 1736.

    The New Zealand Historic Places Trust exists to identify, protect and preserve New Zealand’s historic places and to foster public interest in them. It does this by opening its own properties to the public; by protecting historic sites, traditional sites and archaeological sites; by encouraging owners of monuments and old European and Maori buildings to preserve and restore them, and by fostering public interest in historic places through plaques, noticeboards and publications.

    If you want further information about the Trust or would like an application form to join the organisation Phone 0800 802 101 or use website www.historic.org.nz

    The Golden Progress Mine, 2km north of Oturehua, is unique in that it contains Otago’s only remaining poppet head. It is 14m high and supported the head wheels, which passed the ropes used for bringing the gold-bearing ore to the surface. A track takes you around the mine and campsite, which has many interesting sites to see. The mine opened in 1868 and closed in 1896. It was re-opened in 1928 when the price of gold increased, until 1935.

    Other historical places in Oturehua include Blackstone Hill School (1870-1950), Idaburn Coal Pit (1870-1997) and the Presbyterian Church (1925). Many historic buildings still in use today include Oturehua Tavern (1899), a store containing historic artefacts, and Beckers Transport, which was originally a coach and horse stable.

    The Idaburn Dam is an exciting place to be every June as the annual Brass Monkey Motorcycle Rally occurs here. The Dam was built in 1931 for irrigation purposes but today provides many exciting activities for locals and tourists. In summer the Dam is a great place for some pleasant trout and perch fishing, while in winter, the Dam is used for ice-skating and curling. If conditions are right, then this is also the site of the Bonspiel, a tournament for all curling clubs that can only be held on natural ice.

    Wedderburn is a pleasant stopover, 14km from Ranfurly that contains the first golf course in the world to open in the new Millenium. Once a busy small town, the remaining businesses are a shearing contractor and an apiarist.

    Activities and Attractions
    Wedderburn offers an array of outdoor activities including their fantastic 9-hole golf course, fishing in the nearby lake and river, mountain biking, walking, hunting and in winter, take part in a game of curling.

    The Wedderburn Tavern provides some great meals and refreshments and the local backpacker’s offers comfortable accommodation for visitors and rail trail travellers.

    Naseby, only 15 minutes from Ranfurly, was the original main centre for the Maniototo. Full of history, you can view the Victorian architecture and mud brick houses in the town. Naseby was born when gold was discovered in 1863 and at its height contained 5000 diggers. Today, Naseby is a popular holiday destination and contains an art gallery, museums, ice-skating rink, golf course, facilities for many other sporting activities, camping ground and Craft and Information Centre.

    Activities and Attractions
    Naseby has diverse array of activities for the visitor. Try mountain biking in the Naseby forest or for a slower pace, take one of the many walking trails. Gold panning is an exciting activity, while fishing and hunting are equally exhilarating choices. Coalpit and Hoffmans Dams provide great fishing opportunities as well as swimming and boating (canoes, yachts) and have great picnic spots. The outdoor ice-skating rink in Naseby is open in winter from June to August and you have the choice of ice-skating, curling or ice hockey. Other sporting activities include a 9-hole golf course, bowls, tennis and swimming.

    The Maniototo Early Settlers Museum provides an insight into Naseby’s history displaying historic photos, Chinese gold diggers and an early grocery shop replica. Many souvenirs and books detailing local history are on sale.

    The Jubilee Museum was opened in 1990 and contains recreations of businesses present at the turn of the Century. These include a watchmaker’s shop, blacksmith and forge, mud brick building, fire reel and sluicing pipes. There is also an outline of the area’s history.

    Naseby's Motoring Museum contains rare and collectable cars, as well as models and books sure to delight all car enthusiasts.

    Glenshee Park is a must see attraction, containing many interesting collections of Eden Hore, a prominent figure in Naseby until he passed away in 1997. These collections include Jim Beam decanters, porcelain Whisky and Gin jugs, Franklin Mint Heirloom Dolls and a fashion museum of 220 items from the late 1960's to the early 1980's, with many award-winning garments. Also displayed are many souvenirs from his travels, and a number of mounted animals. There are also a number of live animals to see at Glenshee Park; among them miniature horses, deer, sheep, alpaca, Himalayan thar, a yak, peacocks and lots of birds.

    The antique Monkey Puzzle house is another must see for enthusiastic collectors. See the myriad of beautifully attired dolls and teddy bears all through the house along with other collections of antique rifles, pistols, swords and battleaxes. The Monkey Puzzle House is now a homestay complete with its own monkey puzzle tree on the front lawn.

    For More Information
    Naseby Information Centre

    Address: Main St., Naseby
    Eamil: naseby@centralotagonz.com

    Dansey’s Pass
    Amid tussock grassland, Dansey’s Pass was named after William Dansey, who used the pass to explore the Maniototo. Dansey’s Pass is home to the authentic Dansey’s Pass Hotel (now Coach Inn), built in 1862. The hotel served the miners working in the Upper Kyeburn River but nowadays serves travellers going over the pass to Maniototo and Central Otago. Dansey’s Pass is central to both the Waitaki Valley and the Maniototo, making it a great base to explore both areas.

    Activities and Attractions
    Dansey’s Pass, 39km from Naseby, is close to many natural and historical formations in the Waitaki Valley such as the Elephant Rocks, Rattling Rocks and Maori rock drawings. There is also swimming and fishing in the nearby rivers and streams, gold panning, golf, tennis and scenic walks. Tramping in the nearby mountains and mountain biking is also accessible for the adventurous.

    The Maniototo is the Curling Capital of New Zealand making it an exciting place to stop during winter as it is the only place in the world where you can try your hand at the traditional Scottish game of Curling. There are also many other sports and activities to indulge in, including magnificent golf courses and fantastic fishing spots. The Maori passed through the Maniototo on their way to find greenstone and the now extinct flightless bird, the moa, used to roam the plains.

    Ranfurly in the heart of the Maniototo, is a cultural delight, with its Art Deco style buildings of the 1930s. Situated 1.5 hours from Dunedin and 1 hour from Alexandra, Ranfurly is an excellent place to stop and explore this unique region. Ranfurly, the main centre of the Maniototo, was established in 1898, and was named after the 5th Earl of Ranfurly, who was a Governor General of New Zealand. The abundance of Art Deco style buildings in Ranfurly is due to arson attacks in the 1930’s. Consequently these buildings were rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time and this style was continued into the 1950’s. Ranfurly’s history began with farming and goldmining and at present farming is the mainstay of the area.

    Activities and Attractions
    The Railway Display Centre is an excellent choice as your first stop. Inside is a history of Ranfurly and the Otago Central Railway, with numerous insightful pictures to take you back in time. A video of the attractions around Ranfurly is also offered, whilst sitting in a railway carriage!

    Take a walk around Ranfurly to fully appreciate its Art Deco heritage. A 40-50 minute stroll will take you around 30 Art Deco styled commercial and private homes. Visit the Centennial Milk Bar that houses a collection of Art Deco memorabilia, the Ranfurly Lion Hotel (opened in 1934), Maniototo Butchery, St John Ambulance Station, Ranfurly Town Hall and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church (built in 1926). Ranfurly also holds an annual Rural Art Deco Weekend that runs at the end of February, which conveniently coincides with the Rail Trail Duathlon. The weekend boasts a number of activities including markets, bands, competitions and more!

    Sporting attractions include: a 9 hole golf course, a heated swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, bowls and trout fishing in the Taieri River and the many dams nearby. Fishing tours can be arranged that will allow you to reach areas inaccessible without a boat. Fishing methods offered include fly-fishing, trolling, harling, bait and spin fishing – you decide! Fishing trips can also be customised to you wants and abilities. Hunting tours are also available for red deer, ducks, waterfowl, possums, rabbits and hares. Trips can also be made for budding photographers to take some fantastic wildlife photos. The slow-paced Taieri River is also perfect for swimming, kayaking and picnicking.

    There are many beautiful, private gardens in the Maniototo District that are amazing to see and these can be viewed by arrangement with the owners.

    For More Information
    Maniototo Visitor Information Centre

    Address: Charlemont St, Ranfurly.
    Phone: (03) 444 1005
    Fax: (03) 444 1008
    Email: maniototo@centralotagonz.com
    Websites: http://www.maniototo.co.nz

    Waipiata (means 'shining water')
    Once a railway camp during construction of the Central Otago Railway, it is now a small stopover town and holiday spot. Waipiata contains an iron bridge known as the Green Bridge, which was built in Dunedin. In 1914, a sanatorium was built and is now a private religious retreat, En Hakkore - Place of Refreshment. Fishing and kayaking on the Taieri River make for a relaxing but satisfying time here. Other sports offered include tennis courts, bowls and swimming.

    Gimmerburn (means a young ewe)
    A farming community producing wool and beef. Many services are now closed here but a rugby field and tennis courts are kept up by the community. The old school building still stands and has been restored and is used as a holiday home.

    A small goldmining settlement, originally called Sowburn, with a hotel, school and garage remaining, and now houses a number of holiday homes. The closed Post Office and Library maybe the smallest in New Zealand. At Hamiltons nearby, see the historic cemetery and gain some fantastic views over the Maniototo Plain.

    Activities and Attractions
    The Sowburn Walkway is a pleasant stroll that takes you to an old Chinese settlement from the goldmining days. Part of the Maniototo Irrigation Scheme runs through Patearoa, which is interesting feature to visit. Trout fishing in the Taieri River and wetlands is another excellent pastime in the area. Other sports offered in Patearoa include a 9-hole golf course, bowling green, tennis courts and an excellent swimming hole beside the Sowburn Bridge.

    Paerau (means ‘many ridges’)
    Paerau is also known as the ‘Styx’ and is near to the Taieri River wetlands. Paerau contains the Styx Hotel, and Styx Jail where the gold was protected en route. Fishing and kayaking on the Taieri River and wetlands are also enjoyed here. Fishing on the nearby Lake Onslow is another excellent fishing spot.

    Once known as Cow’s Corner, the Kyeburn School, Hall, Library and the Lower Kyeburn Cemetery are the only reminders of this settlement left.

    Kyeburn Diggings
    Gold was found here in 1861 and mining continued in the Kyeburn River until 1920. Coal was also mined here. The Upper Kyeburn Cemetery is a reminder of the small town established here.

    Kokonga (means bend or corner)
    Kokonga, established in the 1890’s, was the site of a Taieri River crossing used by miners going to Naseby and was made into a railway workers camp. By 1985 when the railway station closed, only a few people remained in the area. Remnants of the town include a church, school building and the store. Has a great picnic spot and swimming and fishing.

    Hyde, on State Highway 87, is between Ranfurly and Middlemarch on the Central Otago Rail Trail. It is a small rural community, with the hub of the district fast returning to the nearly 80 year old Central Otago Hotel. This has been beautifully restored to provide both the premises for the Hyde Café and accommodation in the form of bed and breakfast, and backpackers.

    Hyde is known as the perfect stopover for those using the Central Otago Rail Trail, or as an alternative route, on State Highway 87, from Dunedin to Central Otago. Dunedin City and the Dunedin International Airport are approximately 1 hour 15minutes drive by car.

    The scenery is spectacular year round, dominated by the Rock and Pillar Range, the Taieri River, huge skies and remarkable cloud formations.

    The region was first settled with gold mining in the 1860's, followed by the formation of the Central Otago Railway linking Dunedin to Central Otago in 1890. During the 1890's the area boasted several hotels, a blacksmith, a butcher, bakers, saddlers, stone masons, carpenters, shoe makers, a wheelwright, carriers, a courthouse, schools (present school built 1879, now closed.), a post office, two churches (existing Catholic church built 1894) and as mentioned the railway station. The township of Hyde, and the early township, which was focused around the railway station and known as Newtown, were bustling, thriving centres.

    Many historical features are still noticeable but today's Hyde also has a Hall, Presbyterian church, a locally owned busy transport company, top quality accommodation and café, a quarry exporting schist rock for buildings, and a solid farming community. Hyde was also well known for its clay, which is still exported out of the region and was traditionally used in pottery for domestic and industrial uses. It is apparently one of the few sources of its type in New Zealand.

    Hyde is a friendly, beautiful place, which is becoming widely known amongst rail trailers and travellers, who can now stop for refreshments or the night and soak up the wonderful rural atmosphere.

    Just 80km from Dunedin on State Highway 87, Middlemarch is a close-knit farming community that welcomes visitors to experience their lifestyle and explore the dramatic scenery surrounding them. From the top of the Rock and Pillars, where you can find the Giant Weta (Hemideina maori), to schist tors lower down, where you will discover the Otago and Grand skinks, you will continually be amazed and delighted by what you will see here.

    Middlemarch has a Welsh ancestry and got its start in farming and goldmining. Today the main industry is still farming, mainly in sheep, cattle and deer. Middlemarch boasts a motor camp, backpackers, a camping ground and a variety of farm stays to suit all tastes. There is also a craft shop and a museum displaying the town’s early history. An amazing number of sports are catered for in this town, including a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, a swimming pool, bowls, and of course fishing in the Taieri River.

    Activities and Attractions
    Take a walk through tussock and rock tors to Sutton Salt Lake, New Zealand’s only inland salt lake. It is 30cm deep at its highest and is often dry. The walk takes 1 and a quarter hours return.

    The Rock and Pillar Range (summit 1450m) is the place to be if you are a tramper or cross-country skier. There are a number of huts dotted around where you can stay and at the top you can explore the fascinating tors that the Rock and Pillar Range is named for.

    Smooth Cone is one of a number of volcanic formations in the area and can be distinguished by the lone pine tree on its summit, planted on Armistice Day in 1921.

    Trout fishing is a must at Taieri River, New Zealand’s 3rd longest river (318km). With many access points, you are sure to find a secluded spot where the fish are biting.

    Macrae’s Gold Mine is not far away and offers tours that take around 2 hours.

    There are a number of interesting places to visit around the town, such as Cob Cottage, the Sutton Bridge, Cottesbrook Woolshed, a Cookshop/Pottery shop and much more.

    For More Information
    Websites: www.middlemarch.co.nz/

  • back to top