St Bathans – Central Otago
It’s hard to believe that in 1887 Saint Bathans was a bustling town with around 2,000 miners living in the immediate vicinity. Today all that remains is a big hole in the ground, a historic pub and a cluster of other buildings to remind us of the town’s heyday in the 1880’s gold rush.
The mud-brick Vulcan Hotel (reputedly complete with resident ghost) was built in 1882 and is a magnet still for visitors to Central Otago. Our visit before Easter was part of the Otago Central Rail Trail package.
Near the town is the Blue Lake which was created by mining activity, commencing in 1864. What started as the 120 metre quartz rock Kildare Hill was chipped and sluiced away by miners until by 1933 the hill become a 168 metre deep pit. Hydraulic lift technology was used to suck water and gravel out of the pit to where it could be worked for gold.
The hole expanded as work progressed over the years until in 1934 it was judged to be getting too close to the town. It is now filled with water and forms today’s scenic and recreational lake. The minerals in the surrounding white quartz rocks give the water its blue colour. From what we saw though, clear blue skies are needed to show the lake at its best – overcast grey rendered the water a similar hue.