DANNY : DE HEKTake a journey back through time to a golden era in New Zealand’s history. Follow the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail through golden brown tussock hills, and rock-studded ranges, discovering the relics of old mining sites.

The Otago Goldfields Park brings together over 20 widely scattered mining locations dating from the 1860’s onwards, which are now managed and preserved by the Department of Conservation. The sites cover a diverse range of mining operations, and clear signage and displays at each site portray aspects of life on the gold fields.

The park trail starts at Dunedin and takes the most direct route to Queenstown, a journey of 4 hours. Along the way, you take detours on secondary roads to view mining sites, so this part of the route can easily take 2 days. Highlights are; Gabriel’s Gully (the site of the first discovery of gold). Roxburgh (where 20 gold dredges once worked the Clutha River). Fruitlands (where you view the lovingly restored Mitchell’s Cottage). Cromwell (where the old town site is drowned under Lake Dunstan) and Queenstown (with the stupendous Skippers Gorge, Shotover River and lovely Arrowtown).

The next stage of the journey takes you back to Alexandra and along S.H.85 and S.H.87 to Dunedin. Highlights are; Ophir (with many original buildings). St Bathans (with the old Vulcan Hotel and Blue Lake) and Oturehua (with the only mineshaft pulley wheel system still standing).

Walking around the ghost towns and mine relics, it is possible to recapture the adventure and romance of those heady gold rush days. By 1867, 2 million ounces of gold had been won from these sites. Today only the colour of golden tussock, pink and purple lupin and briar roses save the scene from total desolation.

By the end of your Otago Goldfields Park tour the enchanting, timeless landscape of “Central’ will have etched its image on your mind forever.

The magnetism of those rock-studded, golden hills will continue to draw you back.