Clutha Gold Trail

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Cycleway Category: Official NZ Cycling TrailCycleway Tags: Grade 1 and Grade 2

  • Lake Roxburgh Dam — Lawrence (2 days, 73km)

    Officially opened in October 2013, the Clutha Gold Trail showcases the area’s history of early Maori moa hunters, Chinese gold miners, European pastoral farming, mining and railways.

    The trail follows the mighty Clutha Mata-au River as it weaves through trees and traverses the beautiful Beaumont Gorge. It then branches off into farming valleys and some sections of the historic Roxburgh Branch railway line, including the 440m-long Big Hill Tunnel.

    Dotted along the trail are four small towns that were established during the gold rushes. They are welcoming places to stop for a meal or overnight.

    The trail forms part of an extensive network of Great Rides in the Otago region, linking with the Roxburgh Gorge Trail at the Lake Roxburgh Dam, on to the famous Otago Central Rail Trail at Alexandra.


    Gateway to the Goldfields, Lawrence was Otago’s first gold-rush town after Gabriel Read discovered gold, in what became known as Gabriel’s Gully, in May 1861. At the height of the gold fever, Lawrence’s population reached 11,500, twice that of Dunedin’s.

    Lawrence is an ideal place to stretch your legs and grab a coffee or have lunch. There is free internet access and a free international phone service at the information centre.

    A range of accommodation is available, so spend some time here and get a feel for the town’s history and its role in kickstarting this country’s economy.


    Probably that of an 1860s miner, the headboard was provided by local man William Rigney who etched the words “Somebody’s darling lies buried here.” A new headstone, with the same words, was placed in 1903.

    Rigney died in 1912 and was buried next to the ‘lonely grave’.

    Be Prepared

    FEES: An annual maintenance contribution of $25 per person, or $50 per family, covers the cost of trail maintenance for use of the Clutha Gold Trail. The fee also covers use of the adjoining Roxburgh Gorge Trail.

    MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Coverage is limited along the trail from Millers Flat to Lawrence.

    DRINKING WATER: There are plenty of villages along the trail where you can buy water, but take plenty with you for the next section.

    Weather Info

    The Southern part of Central Otago through to Lawrence region is a year round destination for mountain bikers. Every season offers a different experience. This region enjoys a continental climate of temperature extremes.

    In late spring the hillsides are lush and in late summer and autumn, the celebrated colours of Central Otago contrast with the brilliant blue sky, the dry hills and the schist outcrops.

    Summers are mainly hot and dry with temperatures ranging from 10-30+ ̊ C. While it’s mostly t-shirt and shorts weather, it’s a good idea to have an extra lightweight layer to cover up from the sun during the hottest part of the day. The UVI (ultra violet index) is often high making sun hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water bottles essential everyday accessories.

    Winters are cold, still and dry with little rain, temperatures range between -6 to 15 ̊ C. Leaves have fallen from the riverbank willow trees providing great views of the flowing Clutha Mata-au River. Overnight temperatures can cast a frosty veneer across the land. Snow covers the surrounding hills and mountains for much of the winter but rarely falls and lies on the lower lying valleys. The days are short with daylight hours from 8am until 5pm through June and July.

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