New Zealand's deep south is a region rich in diversity. Mountains, lakes and fiords, historic goldmining towns, lush countryside and cities of impressive architecture form a unique setting
When European settlers reached the coast in some numbers in the early nineteenth century, there were scattered Maori settlements at places both along the coast and inland, traces of which can be seen today. The earliest settlers were whalers, many of whom married into the local Maori communities. In the early 1840s, the region shifted towards more of a farming focus, with settlers arriving in greater numbers. The region prospered on the basis of Central Otago gold in the nineteenth century, and today there still remain many fine old buildings, reminders of the province’s years of affluence. The farming history too is well recalled by its old farmhouses and farm buildings.
The city of Dunedin has its origins in Scotland, where in 1840 leading members of the Free Church of Scotland settled there, with the aim of founding a society based on solid principles of religion, education and industry.
A cross section of rural society, from landowners to swaggers relied on Totara Estate for a living in the 19th and 20th century. In 1882, the first shipment of frozen export meat was sent to Britain from here, establishing New Zealand’s economic direction for the next century.
Clarks Mill is a four-storied limestone flourmill built in 1866 to grind oats and wheat for the owners of Totara Estate. The mill was powered by water and produced flour from 1867 until 1976. The original machinery is still standing in the mill.
On a windswept, seaside cliff Johnny Jones, an ex-convict turned whaler, farmer, businessman and settler, established the Matanaka Farm Buildings in the 1840s to cater for the needs of Otago’s early settlers. The oldest farm buildings standing in New Zealand, constructed of timber and with their original corrugated iron roofs, come complete with a three-seat privy. [Access to the site is closed 14 August - 30 September during lambing. Closed Christmas Day]
Kiwi ingenuity is brought to life at these rural engineering works made from mudbrick and corrugated iron. Ernest Hayes’ small workshop was established in 1895, and by the 1930s had grown into a business with a worldwide reputation, providing farmers with everything from wire strainers to windmills.
For over 120 years the Ophir Post Office in Central Otago has been delivering, literally, to the needs of the region – operating as a postal agency today much as it did when it opened in 1886.
Built in 1899 over the Waiau River, the Clifden suspension bridge is a very elegant construction. Although no longer open to traffic, the bridge, made of 27 steel cables, concrete pillars made to look like stone, and timber decking, is one of our longest extant suspension bridges.
Built in 1864 as Invercargill’s first Masonic Hall, the building was used as Provincial Government Chambers before the Southland Provincial Council was abolished. The building has served as a Court and Borough Council Chamber before settling into life as a retail shop.
"Must see" checklist for Otago/Southland
Otago Rail Trail
Otago Settlers Museum