10 January 2018

Patearoa & Paerau - Middle of Nowhere

Central Otago is known for it's blazing hot summers and freezing cold winters. And it didn't disappoint. We had a few days where the temperature was so high we felt there was no option but to find somewhere we humans and our three furry friends could have a swim. As luck would have it, about 15 minutes down the road (driving) we found an old mining township named 'Patearoa', and among many other treasures it had a lovely swimming hole. The good old fashioned swimming hole, where families come for a picnic and to enjoy a swim, people jump from rocks into the water and dogs are welcome to join in the fun. Perfect!

Patearoa is a charming little settlement tucked into the lower slopes of the Rock and Pillar Range in the south west of the Maniototo Plan. Originally known as Sowburn, this quaint little township began to grow in the 1870s as Hamiltons declined. Hamiltons became a flourishing gold mining town when gold was discovered in 1863 and is located on the northern slopes of the Rock and Pillars. At its peak the population of Hamilton reached 4000 with 25 hotels and 40 stores. By the mid 1870s most miners had left and the only reminders today of this bustling little town are some scarred areas of mining, a dam used for sluicing and a cemetery.
The gold rush in Patearoa was relatively short lived with some good results. 

Yes- the library is still open!

After we'd cooled off from our swim we headed south along a gravel road towards the Dunstan Trail (which is a 4WD track leading to Dunedin). Not that we wanted to go to Dunedin, but we did want to visit Paerau. Paerau means 'many ridges' and is also known as The Styx. I had heard there was an old jail there, which I was keen to photograph.

The road to Paerau is stunning with a rugged landscape, it's barren and simply breath-taking.

On the way we passed a few old buildings, some cosily nestled amongst their rocky surrounds.

This old stone walled building must have been photographed by every tourist who passes by.

We slowed down when we spotted a row of dog kennels housing several farm dogs. I explained to our spoilt dogs sitting cosily on their soft, warm rugs that they could have had a life as a working dog - their beds wouldn't be as cosy as they're used to. They didn't seem at all bothered, maybe they didn't believe me?

Further along the road we spotted a sign indicating a reservoir, so we pulled over and walked up a short farm track for a look. It's part of the Maniototo Irrigation Scheme which contributed to relieving drought in a farming community that's heavily reliant on water. 

The gravel road was in great condition, no corrugation, making it an easy drive. Again, the views were beautiful.

Further along the Paerau Road we came to a sign for the Dunstan Trail. One route climbs the Rock and Pillar Range from Pareau/Styx and comes out onto SH87 at Clarks Junction, south of Dunedin. Another continues west up Old Dunstan track over Rough Ridge to Poolburn and Moa Creek.
The Dunstan Trail is a popular 4WD and mountain bike track in summer. It's closed in winter.

It is here just to the left, on the banks of the Taieri River, you'll see the Styx Jail, the Styx Hotel and stables.The jail was built in 1863 and was for securing gold during overnight coach stops rather than for prisoners. Incase of a flood, two hotels operated on either side of the river.
Unfortunately the jail and other buildings were on private property, so I could only see them from the road.

Thank goodness for a zoom lens, I managed to get a closer look.

We decided not to go any further and turned around to head back to the rig. This old ford was parked on a narrow country lane in Patearoa.

The wheels had wooden spokes.
We enjoyed our tiki-tour exploring this part of Central Otago's unique landscape - below are a few extra photos of the area.


  1. Amazing country! One day maybe i will get down that way....

  2. Hi Katrina, thank you for the effort you put in to sharing your experiences. This is another excellent post.
    Our motorhome arrives in March so shortly thereafter we will be joining you on the road. In the meantime your blog is providing a great bucket list.

  3. We have a place at Patearoa and your photos are amazing. You have captures the essence of the area. Thank you.


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