Kawarau Gorge

Bungy jump, Kawarau Bridge
Towards Queenstown, just 10km from Cromwell on SH 6, is the commercially run Goldfields Mining Centre. Here you will see a range of displays, the spectacle of working goldmining machinery of another era, including a working stamper battery, and a tour walk of the Gee’s Flat diggings. You can pan for your own gold, from pay dirt, and, with a little goldminer’s luck, you may even take away a few gold flakes.

Nevis Bluff &
Kawarau Suspension Bridge

The combination of the Nevis Bluff and the Kawarau gorge with its thunderous rapids barred the way to the Wakatipu goldfields until a road was cut in 1866 around the Nevis Bluff. Later, a fine suspension bridge was built on stone piers in 1880. This superb structure can be seen today alongside the modern highway, just 18km from Queenstown. The bridge is used now only for bungy jumping, and heritage appreciation.


– is a unique place where history, magnificent scenery and natural attractions are brought to life. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Queenstown site was first settled in 1860 by pioneering sheep drovers (one being William Rees) and later in 1862 by gold prospectors. These prospectors flocked to the area from all corners of the world after the 1862 discovery of gold at Arthurs Point on the Shotover River in the hills north east behind Queenstown. The Shotover River (named after the English estate of one of William Rees’ business partners) once said to be the world’s richest gold-bearing river.

The township was first simply called “The Camp” by its early residents but was named Queenstown in January 1863 at a public meeting. It is reputed that the meeting declared the site to be “fit for a Queen”. By the 1870s, the gold had started to decline as did the population, and the district became predominantly a farming area. Fortunes were made and lost, but these early pioneers left an historical legacy which is now part of today’s new “gold” - a thriving tourism industry.

Arthurs Point, east of Queenstown, is where gold was first discovered in November 1862 in the Shotover River. Up river from the bridge is the Oxenbridge tunnel which took the Oxenbridge brothers 4 years to complete 1906-1910. The aim was to divert the Shotover River and allow its bed to be worked for gold. However, only 90 ounces of gold was recovered from the exposed riverbed. Today, the tunnel is used by the rafters riding down from Deep Creek, situated above the Lower Shotover Canyon.


Shotover River and sluiced terraces at Skippers Photo: John Douglas
In the hills behind Queenstown was the richest of the Otago Goldfields and today the most visited, not only for its dramatic landscape, scenery and historic romance but also as an adventure playground: bungy jumping, rafting and jetboating. Today, Skippers is normally reached in a 4WD vehicle by the spectacular Skippers Road to the 1901 Skippers Suspension Bridge. Skippers Canyon is the site of two bungy jumping operations - one off the 90m high Skippers bridge, and one even higher (over 100m) off the historic Skippers pipeline.

Gold was first discovered in the Skippers in 1862, and by March 1865 there was a population of 245 people at Skippers. It is thought that at the height of mining in the upper Shotover area there may have been as many as 1500 people in the whole area. Today, only three buildings survive. Two have recently been restored, the 1867 Mt Aurum Station Homestead and the 1879 Skippers School, while the remains of the Otago Hotel lies in ruins.


The unique set of berdans at the Invincible Mine, Rees Valley Photo: John Douglas
At the head of Lake Wakatipu, 50km west beyond Queenstown, lies Glenorchy which is the town nearest to the starting point for the well-known walking tracks, the Routeburn and the Greenstone. From Glenorchy, 18km up the Rees Valley Road, are two historic mining sites.

An hour’s walk up to the Invincible Mine gives magnificent views of Mt Earnslaw and the Rees Valley. At this 1882 mining site, you will find a unique set of seven berdans (cast iron bowls with steel balls for grinding ore) and the remains of a water wheel and crushing battery.

In the valley floor below and alongside the Rees Valley Road, is the 7.9m diameter buddle which is all that remains of the 1884 extraction plant. The buddle was used as part of a method for extracting gold still trapped in the tailings which were brought down from the Invincible Battery, located high above on the mountainside. Both of these sites have been protected to demonstrate last century’s technology of milling and concentrating gold-bearing quartz rock.

For further information, contact the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust
PO Box 91
New Zealand

Phone +64 3 445 0111
Email Goldfields@nzsouth.co.nz

Web http://www.nzsouth.co.nz/goldfields

The Information centre for the south of New Zealand
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