I’m sure dams and reservoirs don’t seem like the most interesting places to see, but the dams in Central Otago are! They’re all surrounded by beautiful scenery and it’s worth seeking a few out on your next trip to Central Otago.
The Reservoir at Butchers Dam is beautiful on a clear, calm day — a great place to see that typical golden hill scenery of Central Otago.
We were lucky to see the dam itself in action when we visited — just like a waterfall!
You’ll pass by Butchers Dam if walking the Flat Top Hill Track, and I highly recommend you do it. From the top of the track you’ll get some of the best views in Central Otago!
Conroys Dam is the starting point for a loop track which takes you above the reservoir. It’s an interesting short walk with some nice views, and it’s also easy!
The dam here is pretty impressive too, although water wasn’t flowing when we visited. This is also one of the easiest dams to visit if you’re in the Alexandra area!
The drive to Fraser Dam takes you high above the Alexandra Basin — there are heaps of scenic spots to pull over and grab a photo. The road is a little rough though and should be done in a 4WD. Also bring a passenger as there are heaps of farm gates to open and close along the way.
Once at Fraser Dam you can enjoy the views or do a walking track that starts nearby. We haven’t walked that yet but it’s on the list!
Another rough road (a 4WD is advisable) takes you to Poolburn Dam / Reservoir. It’s the most famous of the smaller dams in Central Otago, due to it being Lord of the Rings filming location. Again, there are awesome views from the road leading to Poolburn Dam — you’ll want to stop occasionally and take it in.
Once at the reservoir the views get even better — a blue oasis surrounded by barren hills. There are a few holiday houses scattered around — this is a highly rated fishing spot after all.
READ MORE: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Central Otago
I visited Falls Dam when I was looking around the St Bathans area. It’s a short drive down a gravel road and the place is stunning — I was there in winter and there was a nice covering of snow on the surrounding hills.
I met a guy who worked there and he showed me inside the control room and told me some stuff about the dam. There’s not a lot to see there otherwise, but you can’t argue with that view!
Big Dams in Central Otago
The ones I mentioned earlier are at the more bespoke end of the Central Otago dam scale — the next two are the real heavy hitters.
Construction of the Clyde Dam, and creation of Lake Dunstan, changed the landscape in these parts forever. These days the Clyde Dam sits majestically below the golden hills of the valley it flooded. There are several viewpoints where you can see it, the best being on the opposite side of the bridge to Clyde (cross the bridge and drive up a bit).
The other major dam in Central Otago is located in the village of Lake Roxburgh, a short distance from the main Roxburgh township. Again, there are nice views surrounding it and it’s a good place to get views of the Clutha River.
Other Dams in Central Otago
There are heaps of other small dams scattered around Central Otago. This arid region of New Zealand is essentially a desert (so I learned in high school social studies) and agriculture wouldn’t survive without reliable access to water. I’ll keep adding to this list as I visit some of the others, but there are more than enough here to keep you busy with in the meantime!
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