23 January 2018

St Bathans & A Haunted Hotel

St Bathans is truly beautiful. It's a place I've wanted to see for a long time and it didn't disappoint. The day was cold, drizzly and gloomy, not ideal for sight seeing - but even on a dull day this little slice of paradise delivered.

A few days later we visited again, this time we struck fine weather. St Bathans oozes history and is well known for it's dazzling blue lake and the haunted Vulcan Hotel.

St Bathans is nestled under Mt St Bathans and surrounded by the spectacular Hawkdun and Dunstan Ranges. 

Originally this old gold mining town was named Dunstan Creek. In 1863 gold was discovered and a year later 1000 people lived in the township with another 1000 people in the immediate area.

In 1866 the town's name Dunstan Creek was changed to St Bathans and at this time it was well established with 15 hotels, a dance halls and businesses. As many of the miners came from Ireland, St Patrick's Day picnic was an annual highlight.
Along with Irish miners there were Chinese miners too but there's little known about them other than they lived in caves dug out around the local cliffs.
While I was there I walked up the Main Street, which is basically the only street, so it didn't take long to see the town!

The Blue Lake was made in the gold mining era in Otago. It started out as a hill and was dug out to become a pit. In its day it was the deepest mining shaft in the Southern Hemisphere. The miners used hydraulic lift technology, which worked like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up water and gravel from the pit to an area where it could be worked for gold. In 1934 as the pit became bigger it ran the risk of encroaching on the township, so mining was stopped. The huge hole was then allowed to fill with water. The blue colour of the lake is caused by the minerals from the surrounding cliffs.

The white quartz cliffs were sculptured by the miners. 

The Vulcan Hotel was made from sun-dried mud bricks. Although I was looking forward to seeing this much talked about hotel, I wasn't keen to go inside. It's well known for the friendly ghost that resides in room one - a prostitute named 'The Rose' who was strangled to death in the hotel in the 1880s. 

Many buildings have been restored and only a few new ones have been added, making it easy to imagine how the town would have looked in 1887, with 2000 miners bustling about. The two story Post Office made in 1909 from the hardwood, kauri, is still operating  today. 

Another historic building is the 1882 Anglican Church with it's eye-catching stone fencing.

Bank of New South Wales.

Below is the old Billard Room which was part of the Vulcan Hotel complex. It was used as a temporary bar when the hotel burned down. The loft was used to store hay, with stables at the rear of the building.  

Below is the Pipe Shop, which made and stored sluice pipes for mining operations. Later it became a blacksmith's forge.

Here's the view from the top of the Main Street looking down past the two story Post Office (on the left) and beyond.

Off course Paddy was keen to test out the lake! 

A week earlier when we'd stopped at the Blue Lake, it was a chilly, overcast day but that didn't stop one lady from taking a dip! 


  1. Awesome blog, great places you visit, some I never knew existed, just came across your blog a few days ago, still going through it, thanks for your uploads and info, Happy trails.

    1. Thanks for your comment Hillbilly NZ. Pleased you're enjoying the blog. We enjoy finding new places as we travel too. For us, when we parked in a spot for a few days it gives us time to do day trips and really explore the area. We never know what we'll discover.

  2. It certainly is a magical place.

    Jenny and Robin, Romany Rambler

    1. It sure is - I've wanted to visit St Bathans for years and it was worth the wait.

  3. I am so excited to read all of your posts; I would love to visit these places next year with my husband; are you coming to Wellington at all; if you are, I would love to offer to look after your dogs for an afternoon
    Every good wish Susan Jamieson

  4. Hi Susan, I'm pleased you're enjoying reading the blogs. When you get to the South Island you'll be able to discover all these places for yourself - you'll love it! Thanks for your kind and generous over to look after the dogs, that's much appreciated. At this stage we have no idea when we'll be heading North, we'll be in the South Island for a lot longer yet ... there's so much to see. Take care and safe travels.


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