Clyde to Cromwell (26k)

Clyde is another small and pleasant community that has survived its roots as a rough and boisterous gold town from the 1860's. It sports a number of grand buildings, pubs and stone cottages and is famous for a world renowned restaurant called 'Olivers'. Clyde has a large campground and at least one decent backpackers. There are a number of stores and tourist services and overall the town is friendly and prosperous.

However, its principle present day feature is the presence of the Clyde Hydro Dam, a massive wall of concrete just outside the township. Expect to start out with a steepish ride (about 2 kilometres) skirting upwards to the top of the dam and finishing on a junction meeting highway eight heading toward Cromwell.

From here the road rolls up and down (with a bit more up than down) alongside the great Clutha River and between the great canyons carved out by earthmovers in the nineteen seventies and eighties. The construction of the dam sadly drowned a number of old gold workings and historic sites including the old railway system. What remains is a wide river valley dedicated to water sports and the odd bit of fishing. Further on you reach a large lookout area on your left overlooking Cromwell (approx 30 Km). Directly in front, across the river, is what remains of 'old Cromwell' most of which was submerged with the building of the dam. A few stone historic buildings scatter along what was once Cromwell's main street and taper off into the depths of the engorged Clutha River.

Right beneath the lookout lay the sunken remains of a gorgeous old suspension bridge, a graceful span of cables and stone piers that was once the major road in and out of the town. Far underwater and to the left of the river junction are the sad huts of the Chinese goldminers who chipped out a meagre living working on the goldfields during the heady days of the great rushes. Little of Cromwell's past remains above water now.

However, Cromwell today is a well planned shopping and service centre focusing on its fresh role as a tourist town dedicated primarily to water pursuits and new industries like the planting of vast areas of vineyards. In common with most Otago towns Cromwell has a marvellously scenic location surrounded by fringes of snowy peaks and wide plains. You will also find a well stocked supermarket, campgrounds and backpackers. From Cromwell you might want to head up highway eight to Omarama or north west to on highway six to Wanaka, or west to Queenstown. All routes I will describe shortly. Feeling adventurous and reasonably fit? Then try the Nevis road...