Hiking the Sutton Salt Lake Track, Middlemarch
Sutton Salt Lake, the only inland Salt Lake in New Zealand, can be found a few minutes outside of Middlemarch, around an hour from Dunedin. It’s an interesting spot to explore and the walk is easy – it’s the perfect way to kill an hour or so!
Getting to Sutton Salt Lake
Middlemarch is on one of the routes between Dunedin and Central Otago and feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s not on the quickest route between Dunedin and Central Otago (that’d be the road through Lawrence, assuming you’re going to Clyde, Cromwell etc) and so most people never see this area. If coming from Dunedin, you’ll see the turnoff to Sutton Salt Lake just before reaching Middlemarch.
Hiking the Sutton Salt Lake Track
The Sutton Salt Lake Track is a loop track, and very early on you’ll have to choose whether to head left or right. We went left first, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. It was a freezing morning (still frosty at 11 am!) and the whole area had a surreal white tinge to it.
The track is mostly flat, and after 20 minutes or so you’ll get your first look at Sutton Salt Lake. We climbed up a small rock to admire the lake from the highest point possible. It’s backed by the Rock and Pillar Range in the distance – such a nice view from up there! The lake had a distinct green, slimy look to it – I have no idea why, but it looked interesting. I probably wouldn’t go swimming in there though!
A little further around we found a spot to get onto the lake. A lot of it is dried up now so we got to walk out quite a long way until it started to get wet.
From there it was an easy walk back to the car park. All up it took us around 90 minutes to walk the Sutton Salt Lake Track – it was almost completely flat and the track is well marked.
Things to Do Nearby
Middlemarch is one end of the Otago Central Rail Trail (the other is Clyde). I’ve done about half of it and it was a great experience – it’s something to look into if you’re a fan of long bike rides (it’s generally done over three days). If you’re driving to Central Otago through Middlemarch, I’d recommend visiting St Bathans. It’s around 75 minutes from Middlemarch and is one of the most scenic and historic small villages in New Zealand. Walk around Blue Lake and explore the historic streets – it’s easily one of my favourite spots in Central Otago!
Are you road-tripping around New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!
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