6 Best Things to Do in Balclutha

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What to Do in Balclutha: The Big River Town

Welcome to Balclutha! This is the main hub of the South Otago region and gateway to the breathtaking Catlins Coast. The town is known as the “Big River Town” after its unmissable natural feature, the Clutha River. The Clutha River is the river with the largest volume of water in New Zealand and the second-longest. It can be enjoyed along the town’s fabulous walkways or while crossing the Balclutha Road Bridge, one of the best-known road bridges in New Zealand thanks to its interesting bowstring design. Find out what you could be getting up to in this South Island town with this list of things to do in Balclutha.

1. Stop by Naish Park

More than just your average town park, Naish Park is packed with gorgeous flowers beds, a tranquil duck pond and an aviary. See a colourful array of exotic birds at the aviary and enjoy a picnic in this attractive part of town. There’s also a children’s playground.

Location: Charlotte Street©

2. Walk the Blair Athol Walkway

Naish Park is also the starting point for a lovely walk and cycleway along the mighty Clutha River. The relaxing walk takes approximately 1h30mins to complete both ways and features awesome views over the river and a rhododendron dell. For more walks in and around Balclutha take a look at the 10 Best Walks in Balclutha.

Location: Naish Park, Charlotte Street©

3. Visit the Local Museums

Balclutha is home to two museums: one has historical displays while the other one is a little quirky. The South Otago Museum is home to an interesting collection of pioneering domestic and industrial artefacts. Check out the machinery room with machines and vehicles used to shape the landscape between the Clutha River and Nugget Point. Alternatively, there’s Dollyworld, which is essentially a giant collection of dolls and plush toys – why not?! For more museums in the area, see our 6 Best Museums in Clutha & The Catlins.

Location: South Otago Museum – 1 Renfrew Street, Dollyworld – 146 Clyde Street

Krzysztof Golik on Wikipedia© Krzysztof Golik on Wikipedia

4. Walk Around Lake Tuakitoto

A short drive from Balclutha is the tranquil lake of Lake Tuakitoto. An easy loop walk takes you are the perimeter of the lake where you can watch the birds and take in the peaceful scenery. The walk takes approximately three hours to complete or cycle this 15km (9-mile) track.

Location: Lakeside Road, 14.5km (9 miles) east of Balclutha

Grutness at English Wikipedia© Grutness at English Wikipedia

5. Explore The Catlins

Balclutha is the gateway to The Catlins, a rugged part of the South Island coastline featuring waterfalls, beaches, rare wildlife like sea lions and penguins, lighthouses and great camping. Get your supplies for this wonderful road trip in Balclutha then hit the road. The first point your map should be the Nugget Point Lighthouse, just 30km (19 miles) away from Balclutha. Find out more about what to see in 18 Amazing Attractions You Can’t Miss in The Catlins.

Location: Owaka Highway, south of Balclutha©

6. Check Out the Town of Milton

North of Balclutha is another destination well worth discovering. Milton has a few hidden gems worth discovering, like the photogenic Chrystalls Beach and Bull Creek Beach. Check out the unusual array of Art Deco and Gothic architecture in the town, and see ancient whale and dolphin fossils on display in Millburn. Find out more in 7 Fun Things to Do in Milton.

Location: Milton, 25km (15.5 miles) north of Balclutha

Mattinbgn on Wikipedia© Mattinbgn on Wikipedia

More Things to Do Near Balclutha

That’s it for the best things to do in Balclutha. Find more activities for your travels in the 51 Best Things to Do in the South Island.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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