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The Manuherikia
& Ida Valleys

Chatto Creek • Omakau • Ophir • Lauder • St Bathans • Oturehua • Poolburn • Becks

Tucked between North Rough Ridge, Dunstan Mountains and the Raggedy Range lies the Manuherikia and Ida Valleys. This rural region has lived many lives in the last 20 million years!

Prehistorically, it was a giant lake, called Lake Manuherikia - filling the area from Waitaki to the Nevis Valley. There is evidence of crocodiles, water birds, bats and parrots that inhabited this 'subtropic' area. Overtime, as the temperature changed and the mountain ranges lifted upwards, the lake's waters were pushed into rivers that meandered to the ocean and the lake disappeared.

The 1860s brought thousands of hopeful miners to the area following the Otago Goldrush. Towns sprung up seemingly overnight, and the area was heaving with life. Towns were lined with banks, hotels, post offices, stores, jails and bakeries.

However, it was not long until the people followed the gold, and the Ida and Manuherikia Valleys grew quiet once again. Farming continued in the region where Otago's first Merino stud flock paved the way for the merino farming for years to come. 

The Otago Railway led to another population boom as it brought life back to the small towns. Dunedin city folk could catch the train right through to Cromwell, and livestock was easily transported over the region. With the growing incline of personal car use grew, and the roads became the most accessible method to travel, the railway ceased in 1991. 

The Otago Central Rail Trail was opened in 2000, bringing keen cyclists from all over the world to the Ida & Manuherikia Valley. The towns in the region now offer our visitors accommodation and bites to eat, as well as servicing the locals.  


Experience what the Ida & Manuherikia Valleys have to offer:

Quench your thirst!

Visit a craft beer brewery in Omakau! Dark Horse Brew Werkz has a boutique tap room in an old converted stables!

Omakau Beer Brewery

The Towns

Chatto Creek

A fifteen minute drive out of Alexandra will lead you to the Chatto Creek Tavern, which is the focal point of the Chatto Creek area. Established in 1886, this stone and mud brick building has offered refreshment and food for travellers, workers and locals alike ever since, as well as having New Zealand's smallest operating Post Office on site. 

Nowadays, the Chatto Creek Tavern is a very popular stop for cyclists biking the Otago Central Rail Trail for a cold refreshment, or a delicious bite to eat.

Chatto Creek
Ophir Post Office


Ophir is a quaint historic settlement across the Manuherikia River from Omakau. The gold rush in 1863 brought a boom to the town, formerly called Blacks, and there were over a thousand miners working in the goldfields here. The main street was lined with bustling banks, bakeries, churches and even a hospital!

In 1871, the town was renamed Ophir, and ten years later, the Daniel O'Connell Construction Bridge was constructed. As the gold died down, so did the town of Ophir. The Otago Central Railway line went through the Ida Valley in 1901, but was directed through Omakau instead. 

Nowadays, Ophir really is a living museum. Wander down the main street, grab a bite to eat at Pitches Cafe, and marvel at the town that once was.


This small rural town was brought to life with the introduction of the Otago Central Railway in 1904 when it was chosen as a rail-head destination. Structures all over the town started to appear - including Pomona House which was built in 1898 for weary travellers. Since then, it is still a popular hotspot in Omakau - now the Commerical Hotel.

Farming continued to flourish in the area, and the Omakau Railway was one of the busiest stock-loading stations in New Zealand! The Omakau township was home to two garages, two green grocers, two hotels, two churches, a school, a dance hall and a post office. 

When the need for rail diminished, small rural towns like Omakau took a hit, however when the Otago Central Rail Trail was introduced in 2000, Omakau was once again revitalised as a popular stopover for bikers and walkers.

Lauder Otago Central Rail Trail


Lauder popped up as a servicing town for the Otago Railway. The ballast rock, which provides stability and drainage for around the train tack, was quarried near Lauder so the township was key in the Otago Railway construction.

The Lauder Hotel was built in 1904 to service those working in the area. When the railway traffic dwindled, the building was actually turned 180degrees, and moved across the section now facing the main road! The Lauder Hotel is the perfect stopover for bikers on the Otago Central Rail Trail.

There are also a number of gorgeous B&Bs in the area that have revitalised old buildings in the township such as the Lauder Store, the Doctor's Residence and the Lauder School.


Sitting right on the 45th Parallel (which is half way between the Equator and the South Pole) is the small town of Becks. Becks is a small, peaceful village with strong Southern Old Country Hospitality values, and is centred around the Old White Horse Hotel (pictured) and the new White Horse Hotel which is a pub, a hotel and an antique shop all in one! 

You can see the panoramic views of the Hawkdun Range and Blackstone Hill from the township.

Old White Horse Hotel, Becks
St Bathans Blue Lake

St Bathans

St Bathan's is a historic gold mining town found on the edges of the Manuherikia Valley. In 1863, gold was discovered here and more than 2000kgs of it was extracted.

Previously named Dunstan Creek, there were over 2000 people living in the area. In 1866, the township was renamed to St Bathans and was well established with post offices, a bank, a pipe shop, a public hall, a grain shed, a school, bakery, courthouses and even a dance hall!

The area where Blue Lake sits was actually a huge engineering operation with hydraulic elevators, sluicing and mining! When the mining stopped in 1900, a 68m hole was left behind. Overtime, this hole naturally filled with water and created the Blue Lake! Blue Lake is a popular camping, swimming and picnicking spot for Central Otago visitors and locals alike.


Tucked between Raggedy Range and Rough Ridge is the small, rural settlement of Poolburn. With a primary school, a community hall and a tennis courts, it's hard to imagine that this was once a bustling town with over five hotels servicing those miners travelling over the Old Dunstan Road. There used to be a hotel called The Drunken Woman Inn!

If you are a keen fisher, you will know about the Poolburn Dam as it's a popular brown trout spot, made specifically for storing irrigation water. It's also a beautiful serene spot for a picnic and was used as a filming location for Lord of the Rings.

If you're biking the Otago Central Rail Trail, you won't be forgetting the Poolburn section! With its two 200m long tunnels and the very impressive Poolburn Viaduct, it's easy to see why this is such a popular section.

Gilchrist Store Oturehua - Alexandra Information Centre


At the Ranfurly end of the Ida Valley, you find the small, rural settlement of Oturehua. Home of the innovated engineer Ernest Hayes, Oturehua pays tribute to this work and his home at Hayes Engineering Works. The iconic fence-wire strainer is the most well-known of Hayes' inventions and is still used in farms today! There are site tours of the workshops and the homestead available as well as a delicious café (which has consistently good coffee!)

Glichrists General Store is also a must stop for an ice-cream. It is the longest running store in New Zealand and it is filled which knickknacks that is bound to press the nostalgia button for you! 

Continue up the valley to Reef Road and see the Golden Progress Quartz Mine which was used back in the day to find gold.

Ida Valley
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