Cromwell to Clyde

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Ingenious

The main road from Cromwell to Clyde (23 kilometres or so) is a pretty stretch of highway running alongside the Cromwell Gorge Dam, but sadly it is often busy, with occasional pinch points.

However, there is a fine bike trail on the far side of the lake. One of the best, with cycle suspension bridges and ingenious board walks suspended over the blue-green water. This is the Lake Dunstan Trail and it is pure Otago; a trail bordered by a clear, still, blue-green lake on one side and craggy knuckles of schist on the other. Be prepared for two staircases that zigzag up and over two promontories, but the rest is simple enough. A meandering, scenic track safely all the way from Cromwell to Clyde via the hamlet of Bannockburn. Your only possible hazard are pensioners on electric bikes... this trail is a magnet for superannuated adventurers drawn by what is spectacular Otago landscape. And spectacular it certainly is.

Suspension bridge

The Dunstan Trail is 41 kilometres, each indicated by a blue marker. And there is the bonus of a coffee launch (also ice-creams, soft drinks and snacks) strategically moored halfway between Clyde and Bannockburn on the lake water's edge.

The scenery is stunning and the trail is redolent with the scent of thyme. It grows in wild, straggly patches planted by gold miners (so the story goes) and is a feature of much of Central Otago. It was reputedly an accompaniment to the giant field mushrooms that you can also find scattered round the hillsides.

You might pause and camp at Bannockburn. This is an old gold hamlet with a pub, cafe and campground. Bannockburn is a good jumping off place to explore vineyards... Mt Difficulty pinot noir is a world class wine and the vineyard is close by. There is also the opportunity to do cycle day trips into the hills and explore the remnants of gold towns like Carricktown and Quartsville up on the ridge with wide views over the valleys. Little is left up here but stone walls and mud-brick remains of cottages. There is nonetheless an impressive stamper battery and a large, restored waterwheel.

At the summit

Like much of Otago's settler history it is a touch melancholy and testament to stalwart men and women that were drawn here from all over the world in the nineteenth to escape poverty and chance making a fortune.

Bannockburn is also an opportunity for a further adventure. You can head south over the Nevis Road... a personal favourite of mine and a memorable one. A safe-cycling, old gold road crossing the Nevis valley to Garston. A route, albeit a very roundabout one, to Queenstown.

Bannockburn to Cromwell is easy enough. Again, the meandering, leisurely trail alongside the Kawerau river.

The original Cromwell was sunk under the waters of the Clutha river. It was sunk to establish the dam at Clyde. Cromwell today is a modern thriving town centre and pleasant enough with just a smidgeon of the old Cromwell's main street which descends gently and disappears into the river's edge. Far below under the peaceful waters is an impressive box girder bridge and the remains of small cottages of Chinese gold miners and the railway which once linked Cromwell to Clyde.

A cycle trail linking Cromwell to Queenstown is currently in the planning stage.