Central Otago, during the goldrush times, was the most economically important region of New Zealand. Towns swelled with prospectors looking to get rich and faded as soon as it became apparent the good times were over. There are many ruins scattered around Central Otago which date back to this interesting point in history, and some of the best (and easiest to explore) are located in the Bendigo Historic Reserve. The tiny settlements of Welshtown and Logantown are home to photogenic ruins of stone cottages and other gold mining infrastructure – keep reading for some tips on visiting this off the beaten path place.
Bendigo Historic Reserve
To reach Bendigo Historic Reserve you’ll have to head past Cromwell on the way to Lindis Pass (this is the route to take if travelling to Mount Cook, Christchurch etc from Queenstown). About 20 minutes from Cromwell you’ll see a sign pointing to Bendigo Historic Reserve, and from there you’ll drive down a gravel road and eventually up the hill to the deserted settlements of Welshtown and Logantown. It’s important to note that there are still open mine shafts and other pitfalls which could prove your undoing in the Bendigo Historic Reserve. It’s strongly advised to stick to the tracks in all areas.
The main car park in the Bendigo Historic Reserve is located all the way up the hill at Welshtown. It’s the end of the road (for cars at least) and this is the starting point for several walks. It’s a good idea to drive all the way to this car park and then visit Logantown on the way back. From the car park you’ll see several old dwellings scattered around a grassy hill. You can walk down to the Matilda Battery from there – it takes 10 – 15 minutes (each way) and you’ll pass by more ruins along the way, including the blacksmith’s quarters and several mine shafts.
After exploring Welshtown I jumped back into my car and headed back down towards Logantown. The signage isn’t great, but I found a place to park, and from there I had to walk back up the road for a few hundred metres (the photo below is where I parked).
The ruins at Logantown aren’t as extensive as Welshtown but it’s still worth checking out. In fact, one of the best photos I took of the Bendigo Historic Reserve was taken there, so I’m glad I didn’t skip it! After that I headed back down the road and saw a sign pointing towards the old Bendigo school. I had a look but all I saw was a memorial which isn’t worth visiting.
Bendigo Historic Reserve Walks
There are several walks to do in the area, from the short walks around Welshtown to the 5-hour Kanuka Track. I’m sure I’ll return at some point to do these walks – let me know what they’re like in the comments below if you’ve done them!
Bendigo Historic Reserve is free to visit and is an easy detour off the main road between Queenstown and Mount Cook / Christchurch (Lindis Pass). Once you’re off the main road you’ll be driving along gravel, but most cars should handle it (in good weather at least). It’s one of my favourite places to visit in Central Otago and is one of the biggest collections of ruins I’ve seen anywhere in New Zealand. You can also visit it as part of a day trip to Central Otago from either Queenstown or Wanaka – you could also explore Cromwell and visit St Bathans, one of the nicest historic towns in Central Otago.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand’s South Island? Check out my South Island travel guide!
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