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Cromwell and District

Cromwell was originally known as 'The Junction', being at the confluence of the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers. In 1862 gold was discovered below the Junction by two miners, Hartley and Reilly. Once the word of a gold strike was out, there was an influx of several thousand miners to the area.

As gold ran out, Cromwell became the service centre for an extensive farming and fruit growing area. It has a strategic location between the Lindis and the Haast Pass, and acts as a hub between the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Alexandra.

The decision to build Clyde Dam and use Cromwell as the accommodation base brought many changes to the town. These included the doubling of the residential area, relocation of the old town centre, up grading of services, and the provision of modern educational and sports facilities. The relocated town centre, or 'The Mall,' now houses the main retail, service and civic buildings in Cromwell.

The future for Cromwell is in farming, horticulture and tourism. Cromwell is known as the 'Fruit Bowl' of the south. Lake Dunstan will increase the already extensive range of recreational activities with the provision of boat ramps, jetties, picnic areas, walking tracks and tree planting. It is a popular lake for family groups wanting to go boating, windsurfing, fishing, swimming and picnicking.

PLACES TO VISIT

OLD CROMWELL

A collection of reconstructed buildings from Cromwell's past create a unique attraction and setting for local artisans, cottage industries and special events. The foresight of a group of concerned residents of Cromwell in 1985 resulted in the establishment of this unique historic precinct, above the waters of Lake Dunstan which flooded the old township. Initially eight buildings were chosen from the old commercial area and relocated further up the main street. The precinct is managed by a board, and the buildings are open to the public daily, free admission. An art gallery, and several craft shops tenant some of the buildings. The township is the setting for period-style market days throughout the year.

The collection of Cromwell's earliest buildings has been rebuilt stone by stone to represent the 1860 to 1900 period. Walk around the site and get the feel of what times must have been like in those early days.

THE MALL

The Cromwell and Districts Information Centre and Museum:

Open daily from 10am to 4pm. Contains interesting displays, photographs and models of the Cromwell district including the Clyde Dam and Lake Dunstan. Nationwide tourist information also available on computer.

The museum has excellent modern displays of Cromwell's early days. The person on duty will be happy to provide you with local information. A good selection of souvenirs is available.

Cromwell Public Library:

Sited adjacent to the museum, the library provides a relaxed reading area and a comprehensive selection of reading material. Open Monday to Thursday 10.30am to 5pm and Fridays 10.30am to 8pm.

CROMWELL MASONIC LODGE - Melmore Terrace. Shetland Islander William Gair was responsible for many stone buildings in the area built around the turn of the century which still exist. The Masonic Lodge is just one example; there are also several stone churches near Old Cromwell.

CROMWELL FRUIT BOWL - a popular photography point for passers-by on State Highway 8B, the fruit statue depicts some of the crops the fertile valleys in Cromwell and throughout Central Otago produce - apple, pear, apricot and nectarine.

THE DISTRICT AROUND CROMWELL

Luggate

The hotel, old flourmill and several small stone houses are the remaining relics of the days when Luggate was a main mining centre for several alluvial diggings. The flourmill was operated by the transport firm of W. Reid and is now used as a store.

Tarras

The focal point for the Tarras community is the local primary school, store and The Merino Shop and Tearooms. This farming area is now a popular stopover for coach tours and local travellers.

BENDIGO

Numerous relics and goldmining ruins can be found at Bendigo, some 18km from Cromwell off State Highway 8 (going towards Lindis Pass). One of the few successful quartz mining areas in Otago, Bendigo was mined for over half a century. You can explore old stone cottages, huts and look into deep mine shafts during a walk around the area.

Bendigo was a successful quartz mining area for over half a century. From the site of the old Bendigo township at the top of the Bendigo Loop Road a track winds up into the hills to Logantown and even further up to Welshtown, where some of the most striking remains of old stone cottages can be found. A word of warning though, there are many old mine shafts in the area (up to 170 metres deep) -- some are fenced off, but others are hidden by briar.

Lowburn

Formerly located on the banks of the Clutha River, the Lowburn community has been relocated on to a higher level as a result of the formation of Lake Dunstan. New buildings include the Lowburn church and hall. Lowburn Valley Road leads up the valley to Strathburn farm, the site of some lovely old stone farm buildings.

Northburn Tailings

The Quartz Reef Point herringbone tailings complex is best visible from State Highway 6 looking across the valley on to Northburn Station. The site is not normally available for inspection by the public.

Old Reservoir

A walking track up to the old reservoir sets off from the Bruce Jackson Memorial Lookout on State Highway 8. The track leads up to the old reservoir which was first constructed in 1875 after an outbreak of typhoid fever was blamed on Cromwell's race water supply. The reservoir was enlarged and faced with stone in 1882, with further renovations and extensions in 1892 and 1898. Walkers can continue along Brewery Creek and so on down to the State Highway, making a round trip.

Bannockburn Inlet

Bannockburn Creek, once a popular camping and picnic spot, has now become an inlet of Lake Dunstan and is an ideal picnic and swimming spot. A new camping ground, Cairmuir Camp, has been established on a higher level above the inlet. The road around the inlet follows the Kawarau Arm of Lake Dunstan around to Cornish Point, directly opposite Cromwell.

The Bannockburn Creek area was once an extensive mining area supplying coal for use on gold dredges working the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers.

STEWART TOWN, BANNOCKBURN SLUICINGS - A fascinating walk around the Bannockburn Diggings near Cromwell will lead you to Stewart Town, where the crumbling remains of sun-dried brick buildings, old water races, dams and orchards are all that remains from the activities of fifty years of mining. The slopes sluiced in the thirsty search for alluvial gold are now home to a burgeoning wine industry. The walk, about one hour's round trip, is marked from Felton Road, Bannockburn. The walk starts 1.5km along Felton Road and is two to two-and-a-half hours duration. It is on privately owned land and is closed to the public from August 20 to October 20 for lambing.

KAWARAU STATION WOOLSHED - Bannockburn Road, Bannockburn. At the junction of the Bannockburn Road and Nevis Valley Road, a short drive from Bannockburn, stands a remarkable stone woolshed which can be viewed from the road. Kawarau Station pre-dates goldmining in the area and was once a massive run. It was the centre for life in Bannockburn in the late 1860s when its mining population peaked at about 2000 people. Wagons coming down the steep Nevis Road dragged massive stone slabs behind them to check their descent; these brake-stones were later re-used to build the woolshed.

The track illustrates examples of tunnelling, huts, paved tailraces, shafts, dams, sluicings, sludge channels etc. It includes the old settlement of Stewart Town.

Carrick Goldfields

The Carrick Range and Goldfields are south of Bannockburn and can be reached at the end of Schoolhouse Road, near the old mining area of Quartzville. Carricktown is 4km up the four-wheel drive track and the Young Australian water-wheel (20 foot overshot wheel) can be found a further 3km on. The water-wheel was dragged up the mountain in 1874 and used to drive a stamping battery, which now stands on the opposite side of the valley. Between them are a few abandoned huts.

The gold bearing quartz lodes of the Carrick Goldfield are situated at an altitude of between 450 and 1200 metres. What remains of the field are mine dumps, shafts (frequently concealed by briar, so take care) and a few stone buildings.

Nevis Valley

Further along Bannockburn Road on the left is the original historic Kawarau Station homestead and woolshed. The woolshed was constructed from large stones that were once used as "brakes" for wagoners descending the Nevis hill.

A sign-posted turning to the right takes you into the Nevis Valley. For the adventurous, this road continues right out to Garston (south of Kingston). As the road is criss-crossed by the Nevis River, this trip is best attempted either in summer or in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

The Nevis Valley was once an extensive goldmining and dredging area. It is now a pleasant valley to visit for a picnic, fly fishing or fossicking amongst the many relics.

Before the Nevis turnoff (and the end of the tarseal), Bannockburn Road changes to Hawksburn Station, Earnscleugh Station and down into Clyde. This is a good-weather trip on a rough metalled road which takes about one hour.

GOLDFIELDS MINING CENTRE

A unique opportunity to visit an authentic historical reserve dedicated to portraying the life and workings of New Zealand's 19th century gold miners. A modern footbridge provides access to the 25 hectare reserve from the carpark on State Highway 6 (about 10km from Cromwell on the way to Queenstown). Working displays demonstrate the progression of early mining methods and machinery in authentic surroundings. The centre, gold museum and tearooms is open daily 9am to 5.30pm; try your luck at goldpanning, or take a ride through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge in the Goldfields Jet.

The 25 hectare reserve covers an area once known as Gees Flat. While never as rich as other more legendary areas, Gees Flat yielded consistently good enough returns to sustain the interest and effort of 100 years of periodic goldmining.

Adjacent to the site the Cromwell Development Company (1915-1940) constructed a weir to raise the level of the river. Water was subsequently pumped and piped across the gorge to a large race by the road, and was used for irrigating the Ripponvale orchards. One of the hugh pumps forms a static exhibit adjacent to the tearooms.

Roaring Meg

The Roaring Meg power station was constructed by the Otago Central Power Board during 1934-1936 at a cost of 40,000 pounds. The pipeline is one-and-a-half miles long with a fall of 987 feet (300 metres). It has recently been upgraded and the capacity of the power station increased. On the other side of the road is a pleasant picnic spot alongside the noisy Roaring Meg Creek.

see also the following websites:

Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail
Tourism Cromwell



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