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5 Fun Things to Do in St Bathans, Central Otago

5 Fun Things to Do in St Bathans, Central Otago

St Bathans is a tiny former gold mining town in Central Otago which is now all but abandoned. There a several historic buildings to explore, including the Vulcan Hotel, regarded as one of New Zealand’s most haunted places. If you’re looking for a ghost experience and can’t find that 80s Patrick Swayze movie “Ghost” to rent, you’d better head to St Bathans. There is also an excellent short hike around Blue Lake and some other viewpoints if you don’t fancy stretching your legs.

Things to do in St Bathans

Vulcan Hotel

Whether you’re looking to meet a ghost or you just want a beer and a bed, the Vulcan Hotel is where it’s at in St Bathans. It’s a atmospheric old building and really transports you back to the 1800s. So…what’s up with the ghost? Apparently it’s a former prostitute named Rose who was murdered in the hotel. If you’ve always wanted to see a ghost you should probably stay the night there. This is also a good place to grab a drink or bite to eat. There are some seats outside and I remember eating a really good gourmet pie there one time.

The Old Town

There are several other old buildings to look around in St Bathans, some of which you can peek inside of. This was once a booming town but most of the structures have been lost to the sands of time (or maybe the ghosts ate them). Most of the old buildings are located on the main street (one of the only streets) in town and don’t take long to look around. A little way away from the main group of old buildings is the ruins of the St Bathans school, which is worth a quick look.

Blue lake

The other main reason to visit St Bathans is to hang out by, or walk around, Blue Lake. The “blue” has faded a bit these days, but I remember visiting as a kid when it was still in its prime and it was quite a sight. You can get some nice views of Blue Lake from the start of the track around the lake or from the car park just in front of town, or head down to the shore for another scenic spot.

Hiking Around Blue Lake

The hike around Blue Lake is one of the best walks in Central Otago and is easily my favourite thing to do in St Bathans. It’ll take between an hour and 90 minutes and you’ll get heaps of nice views of Blue Lake and the surrounding hills and mountains. You’ll also walk down the edge of the lake where you’ll appreciate the surreal landscapes on offer.

Falls Dam

Falls Dam is reached via a gravel road which branches off the road to St Bathans. It’s worth driving there for the scenery alone, as you’ll pass through a narrow gorge on the way there. The dam itself is nice too but there are gates stopping you exploring too much. The detour to Falls Dam should only take 30 minutes or so and you’re likely to have the place all to yourself.

Where to sleep and eat in St Bathans

Well, the Vulcan Hotel is pretty much it in terms of places to stay in St Bathans. Most people visit as a day trip and you can easily see everything in an hour or two if you’re that way inclined.

Where is St Bathans?

St Bathans is located in Central Otago, roughly 45 minutes from Alexandra and two hours from Queenstown and Wanaka. If you’re on a day trip from Queenstown or Wanaka a visit can easily be combined with other towns in the area, including Clyde, Cromwell, Alexandra and Ophir. Also check out Mitchell’s cottage, Bendigo Historic Reserve and some of the scenic dams around Alexandra.

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.