Dunedin to Alexandra
This is a grand trip but conducted mostly on a main highway albeit through some great countryside. Take the main road south (Highway 1) out of Dunedin and pass through Milton (59 kilometres out from Dunedin). You might like to spend the first night here as the road rises to 250 metres after this point and the next campground is a further 37 kilometres. A few kilometres out of Milton, turn right onto Highway 8 to Alexandra. The intersection is marked by the remains of the old railway station you can see on your right just past the turnoff.
Most of the towns on this route have links to the goldfields of the 1860's; including the small hamlets of Round Hill and Waitahuna. But the most rustic is perhaps Lawrence. Lawrence (96 kilometres from Dunedin) is a lovely old town with all the facilities you need and a good deal of local history thrown in. Close by is Gabriel's Gully where the gold rushes of Otago ostensibly began. There are also the remains of gold towns like Wetherstons.
Twenty kilometres further on, you can link onto a minor rail trail from Beaumont to Miller's Flat, approximately 20 kilometres of rough trail travelling through some great country winding alongside the mighty Clutha River. Little remains of the homesteads that once graced this area, but oddly, the old swing bridge, built to service them, is still in good shape. The proliferation of wild, gnarled fruit trees in this area is caused, so I am told, by early locals throwing their stone fruit pips out of the train windows.
The trail passes by the famous 'Lonely Graves', a romantic and much disputed story of the grave of an anonymous young man whose drowned body was washed up by the Clutha River in 1865. A sympathetic local man, William Rigney, struck by the deceased's handsome features, buried him with the epitaph 'Somebody's Darling Lies Buried Here'. Years later, when Rigney died, he was buried next door with the words, 'The Man Who buried Somebody's Darling Lies Buried Here'. So the legend goes.
There is a further 100 kilometres or so from here to Alexandra and you may wish to break up the journey by staying at Miller's Flat or Ettrick or the more substantial town of Roxburgh (also has Backpackers). There is an alternative minor road paralleling the main road from Rae's Junction (includes the Beaumont rail trail) right through to the Roxburgh hydro village.
Roxburgh is about 41 kilometres from Alexandra. There is one additional stop you might be interested in. At a midway point between here and Alexandra is Fruitlands, where a hotel and coffee bar has been established in the old stone pub, the last remaining substantial building in this old town.
There is a side road along and opposite that leads up a winding track to the top of the Old man Range (a day return trip). On the top of the range is a great tor, a natural obelisk, rising 24 metres above the bleak ridgeline. This is a haunting, desolate and memorable place with a magnificent view. Be warned, the road rises to 1600 metres. Those keen enough can continue on a rough track down past the Fraser dam (20k's of downhill) and take the river road to Alexandra. Check this out with the locals. It is not a track to take lightly.
And welcome to Alexandra. A good sized town with all you need in the way of bike shops, supermarket, e-mail, backpackers and campgrounds etc.