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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about St Bathans, what to see and best things to do

  • 3 minutes

A TOWN WITH LESS THAN 10 PEOPLE IS DEFINITELY WORTH A DETOUR

St Bathans there are plenty of things to do. Gold mining, the ghost towns, the settlements where once thousands lived are evocative places to visit with their relics and abandoned buildings. St Bathans delivers in spades on the historic artefacts plus it has a hotel that is continuing to operate worth drawing a beer or two. A highlight is the visually stunning crystal deep blue lake and the surrounding whitened cliffs.

St Bathans restored 1909 Post Office
St Bathans restored 1909 Post Office

WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS

  • Have a drink in an historic hotel
  • Wander among the heritage town
  • Blue Lake walk
  • Get your postcard stamped in the timbered kauri Post Office that opened in 1909 is still in operation.

FAME

  • Publican for keeping the hotel doors open. It was threatened with closure previously.

NOTORIETY

  • Rose, murdered hotel employee working room 1 at the Vulcan hotel. Rose can be heard, reportandly by male guests only, groaning, banging kettles and skipping up stairs.
St Bathans Vulcan Hotel interior, Otago, New Zealand
St Bathans Vulcan Hotel interior
Winter snow St Bathans Vulcan Hotel Otago, New Zealand
Winter snow St Bathans Vulcan Hotel Otago

WHERE TO TAKE A SELFIE

  • Vulcan Hotel stone exterior
  • St Bathans quarry lakeside with the extraordinary blue water
  • St Albans the Martyr cute 19th century church

St Bathans is a living museum. The place encapsulates the narratives of nineteenth century gold fever and the struggles of gold prospectors. There are several heritage buildings from a post office, church and school. The town is tiny. One hour is sufficient. However you might linger near the school wondering about the ghosts of school teachers and what they thought living in an isolated community.

St. Alban the Martyr church is one of the first prefabricated buildings in New Zealand. St Bathans being sub-alpine lacks trees hence the use of corrugated iron.

Blue Lake is a stunning moon-like landscape deserving further exploration. The lake’s beginnings start with gold prospecting and miners sluicing and dredging for gold. The lake is effectively a drowned quarry. The sharp blue colour of the water contrasting with the striped white quartz tailings is spectacular creating a must go location for photographers. In summer the lakes shimmers blue, in winter dustings of snow create a contrast between the frigid waters and alpine landscape.

St Alban the Martyr Church exterior. St. Bathans church was built in 1883 and is a reminiscent of the big Otago Gold Rush in New Zealand
St Alban the Martyr Church exterior. St. Bathans church was built in 1883 and is a reminiscent of the big Otago Gold Rush in New Zealand
St Bathans Blue Lake result of gold mining Otago, New Zealand
St Bathans Blue Lake result of gold mining Otago

KIDS

  • Check out the hotel to find Rose
  • Explore an emerald sharp blue lake
  • Talk about what life would be like for school children ages ago (and that’s not last year)

WHO TURNED UP AND NAMED THE ST BATHANS

Pre-European Maori were familiar with the area as it was a passageway to the ponumena mines on the West Coast. St Bathans was initially called Dunstan Creek, the town underwent a name change when government official John Turnbull Thomson surveying the fledgling settlement named the place after the Scottish parish of Abbey St Bathans. In the 1860’s the town’s inhabitants were over 2000. The gold stampede started in May 1861 with an gold find in Gabriel’s Gully several thousand miners in a matter of months.

St Bathans Blue Lake, gold mining tailings Otago, New Zealand
St Bathans Blue Lake, gold mining tailings
St Bathans former police camp now accommodation, New Zealand
St Bathans former police camp now accommodation

WHAT TO STAY OVERNIGHT

  • Check the hotel or The St Bathans Police Camp (1864) is now marketed as the St Bathans Jail & Constable’s Cottage, with three bedrooms.

POPULATION

  • Less than eight

WEATHER

  • Sub-alpine, warm hot summers and below freezing winters

JUDGMENT

  • A gem worth the detour (allow up to a day getting there and back) Ranfurly is the closest town)

Every town adds to the richness of things to do and see. For more details about the region check Dunedin & Otago Region nearby attractions and events.

Blue Lake reflections of clay cliffs at sunset, after winter storm and snowfall, St Bathans, Central Otago, New Zealand
Blue Lake reflections of clay cliffs at sunset, after winter storm and snowfall, St Bathans

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