Welcome to Clutha – Take a journey off the beaten track to experience this stunning area in the South. Visit iconic Nugget Point, enchanting waterfalls and walks in The Catlins, rich gold mining heritage and the Clutha Gold Trail in Lawrence, or Tapanui AKA Millhaven in the movie “Pete’s Dragon”. Clutha is the southernmost district in the Otago region located on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. An ideal location for travellers, Clutha is a part of the Southern Scenic Route and has many treasures to share. Come and enjoy a quintessentially Kiwi experience!
Visit the nearby village of Lawrence and discover the rich history. During the gold rush and sawmilling eras the whole district rattled with the sound of diggers and wagon trains as trade routes were established through the plains and across the Clutha River. The discovery of gold at Gabriel’s Gully by Gabriel Read in May 1861 led to the Central Otago gold rush. While gold had been found in Otago before, this rush was beyond expectation, with the population of the gold field rising from almost nothing to around 11,500 within a year, twice that of Dunedin at the time. Lawrence is also the home of New Zealand’s national anthem, where local school teacher, John Woods, created the score to a Thomas Bracken poem to compose “God Defend New Zealand” in 1876. Clutha Gold Trail a new addition to Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trail. It starts from beautiful, historic Lawrence, travelling through lush green rolling farmland, into the stunning Beaumont Gorge. Here it follows the mighty Clutha Mata-au River through to Commissioner Flat just below the Roxburgh Hydro Dam. A link can be made, at the Roxburgh Dam end, to the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. This travels some 34km (including a river crossing by water taxi) into Alexandra where a connection can be made to the Otago Central Rail Trail.
This township has a rich history in wool and timber mills, both of which are still productive industries in the town today. Another highlight is the Gothic-inspired Tokomairiro Presbyterian Church which opened in 1889.
The lakeside domain has many activities available including kayaking, fishing, a pontoon and water slides for children – making it a great place to relax and unwind.
Balclutha is the biggest town on the Southern Scenic Route between Dunedin and Invercargill. Enjoy the excellent range of friendly retail and food outlets, or try your hand at fishing or a round of golf. There is also a camping ground and a number of motels for a range of accommodation options. The Clutha River/Mata-Au Bridge spans the largest river (by water volume) in New Zealand.
Tucked in the northern end of the spectacular Catlins coast, Kaka Point has stunning scenery and a wealth of wildlife. This seaside village is perfect for a relaxing escape to get back to nature, and offers excellent surfing and swimming spots. Visit the iconic Nugget Point Lighthouse (Tokatā) and Roaring Bay nearby, where you have opportunities to view yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) and fur seals. Kaka Point is an ideal place to begin to explore the natural wonders of The Catlins.
In the heart of The Catlins, Owaka’s Maori name means “the place of canoe”. It has great options for accommodation, food and a wonderful Museum showcasing the rich wildlife, Maori and early settler history of the area. A 30 minute drive from Balclutha, you can explore the historic train tunnel at Tunnel Hill located on the way. The last train ride through the tunnel was in 1971. The tunnel now serves as a fun walkway, but be sure to take a torch!
Papatowai is a small village nestled in native bush with a spectacular beach, surf breaks and coastal walks on its doorstep. The Florence Hill lookout is a great place to stop and enjoy the views of Tautuku Bay, a popular spot for weddings. Lake Wilkie is a serene and atmospheric spot. Head further south and you will discover the Tautuku Wetlands, ancient podocarp forest and the majestic McLean Falls on the Tautuku River, the highest waterfall in The Catlins.