In the Clutha District you’ll find historic gold mining settlements, scenic farmland, gorgeous coastline and wildlife around the rugged Catlins.
The Clutha Gold Cycle Trail
The Clutha Gold and Roxburgh Gorge cycling and walking trails are a wonderful way to explore the stunning scenery along the mighty Clutha Mata-au River. The Roxburgh Gorge trail is a one day ride, with a jet boat transfer, from Alexandra through the wilderness of the Roxburgh Gorge to Lake Roxburgh village. From there, riders can cross the dam and start The Clutha Gold trail, which stretches 73kms, taking in river and gorge scenery and rolling farmland. The trail passes through Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Beaumont and Lawrence. Riding the whole Clutha Gold trail will take two to four days, or choose a smaller section as a day ride.
In 1861, in a gully 3kms from where the town of Lawrence now lies, Gabriel Read discovered gold “shining like the stars in Orion on a dark frosty night.’ Gabriel’s Gully attracted thousands of prospectors, and precipitated the Otago gold rush. You can read the history on the information panels around Gabriel’s Gully as you walk around it now. While the township of Lawrence was once a bustling gold-mining hub, it’s a quiet spot now. Mosey round the historic buildings, cafes and shops - there’s free wi-fi, handily.
The coastline around the Catlins is quite isolated and beautiful. You’ll find coastal cliffs and caves, sandy beaches and rocky coves, waterfalls, coastal rainforest and lush farmland. The coast is home to rare yellow-eyed penguins, Hector’s dolphins, fur seals and sea lions.
The Catlins, photo: http://www.bookabach.co.nz/22540
Nugget Point is a spectacular, windswept peninsula - walk to the iconic lighthouse, and look out for sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals living on the rocky shore. At Curio Bay you can see the fossilized remains of an ancient forest exposed at low tide. You may be lucky enough to see Hector’s dolphins/upokohue playing in the surf. Hector’s dolphins are one of the smallest, rarest dolphins in the world. They are distinctive and lovely, with a dark, rounded dorsal fin and black and white markings. A pod of them live at Curio Bay, and are often seen chasing in amongst the waves.
There are surf breaks round the Catlins, with waves to be caught at Kaka Point, Curio Bay and Nugget Point and more. NZ Surf Guide lists details - wetsuit up, it’s chilly round here. When conditions are right, Papatowai is a favourite with big wave surfers.
The township of Owaka has a supermarket, pub, shops and museum, along with Teapot Land - a unique and eccentric open air collection of, you know, teapots. A bit south of Owaka, the 20 minute walk through beech forest to the stunning Purakaunui Falls is well worth it. Take a camera - these tiered waterfalls are particularly pretty. About 10km from Owaka, there is a 1 hr walking track to Jack’s Blowhole, where there are great views, and the dramatic roar and rush of surging waves. About 18km from Owaka, the walk to the 10m Matai Falls is popular too.
At the Catlins Soap Company, near Owaka, you can stroll though the tranquil gardens, shop for soaps and have a coffee. With a trampoline and some animals, it should please the children too.
What to do
- Bike through stunning Otago scenery on the Clutha Gold Trail
- Enjoy the historic buildings AND free wi-fi in Lawrence
- Walk through Gabriel’s Gully, and see where the gold rush started
- See the rare yellow-eyed penguins and Hector’s dolphins around the Catlins
- At low tide, walk across an ancient petrified forest at Curio Bay
- Head out to the famous lighthouse at Nugget Point