Clyde is a charming village that rests peacefully, just off the main highway, in the shadow of the giant Clyde Dam.

The town was originally known as Dunstan. It sprung up on the banks of the Clutha River, below the point where Hartley and Reilly made their monumental gold discovery in 1862.

Now named after a Scottish general, Clyde, with its 850 residents, has cast off the old reputation as a hard-living, lawless gold rush town and is now emerging as a cultured, sybaritic retreat from the pressures of metro life.

The streets are lined with ornate stone buildings and simple colonial cottages, that take the visitor back in time to the gold rush era. Stand in the silent, motionless main street for any length of time and you will conjure up visions of supply wagons, stage coaches and pack horses trundling into town. Linger too long and you will be caught up in the frenzied march of thousands of desperate fortune-seekers flooding the Dunstan Valley.

The main attraction in the area is the massive Clyde Dam. From the lookout above the town, you can view the roaring cascade of tumbling water at the outlet. At times the spillway is a torrent of foaming water shooting out horizontally, drowning all attempts at speech. The dam and power station generates 5% of New Zealand’s power needs and provides vital water for irrigating the stone fruit orchards and farms downstream.

Clyde has three well-kept museums within easy walking distance, including one which served as the 1864 Courthouse. The Station Museum has some nicely preserved locomotives.

There are some excellent places to stay, including a hotel that has dorm rooms and a backpacker hostel built into an old gold assay office. A lodge provides individually-styled luxury rooms and a restaurant. There is also a B&B in a fine 1865 house. A pleasant holiday complex has self-contained cabins, tent sites and on-site caravans.

In the dining department, Clyde excels itself with characterful award-winning restaurants and a cafe that serves Louisiana Cajun and Creole platters, loaded with chilli crabs and mussels. Another licensed BYO offers Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. A cafe in the 1865 Post Office serves primo local wines and barbecue specials. A hotel has a good blackboard menu and occasional live music.

The perfect combination of absolute peace, understated charm, genuine heritage buildings, Old World hospitality and gourmet meals, is too much for any self-respecting traveller to resist.

The perfectly preserved pioneer town of Clyde is a charming reminder of our golden.