The tiny, historic town of St Bathans was a lot more bustling during goldrush times. Now it’s a peaceful place to visit on the Central Otago tourist trail (apart from all the ghosts, but more on that later). The man-made Blue Lake sits beside the main street in town and it’s an easy 60 – 90-minute hike around it – you’ll see some unique scenery and evidence of the intense mining that went on here in the late 1800s / early 1900s.
Hiking Around Blue Lake
The Blue Lake Track starts pretty much right in town – you can either park across the road from the Vulcan Hotel or there are a couple of car parks closer to the start (but since it’s a loop track it doesn’t really matter where you park as you’ll be walking the same distance). From the start of the track you’ll walk uphill for 5 minutes or so before coming to some great views of the lake.
From there you’ll head around the lake, with excellent views along most of the journey. It was a bit muddy when I did it so wear decent shoes if you can. The track is easy to find – just follow the orange poles and you’ll be fine. My favourite view of Blue Lake was from close to the end, where you can see the whole lake framed by the mountains beyond.
Getting Down to Lake Level
Once you’re at the far end of the lake you’ll start heading down to the shoreline and around the other side, where the unique scenery really becomes apparent. The white cliffs and barren surrounds could be lifted straight from the pages of a science fiction novel, and the lake also takes on an otherworldly look as you get close to the edge. This section of the track is mostly flat, and the track is a lot better than the one on the other side of the lake. If you just want to do a short section of the Blue Lake Track this is your best bet.
Another Blue Lake View
After walking alongside the lake for a while you’ll head back uphill towards the main part of town / car park. A couple of minutes from the main drag you’ll see a car park where you’ll get another good view of the lake. It’s good to see places like this from as many angles as you can, but if you’re in a real hurry you could just see it from this one and skip the walk (definitely do it if you have time though!).
Other Things to Do in St Bathans
I’ll be publishing a post about the best things to do in St Bathans soon, which includes checking out all the historic buildings and the scenic drive to Falls Dam. Oh, I also mentioned ghosts before! St Bathans has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in New Zealand – I don’t personally believe in ghosts but if you do (and you’re brave) why not book a room in the Vulcan Hotel and spend a night (and let me know if you see anything weird).
Getting to St Bathans
St Bathans is around 45 minutes from Alexandra, one of the main towns in Central Otago. From Queenstown it’ll take you around two hours. The town is located down a gravel road but it’s in good condition. There are heaps of other interesting things to do in Central Otago, including the Flat Top Hill hike, Mitchell’s Cottage and the historic towns of Clyde, Cromwell and Ophir (among others).
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