What to Do in Lawrence: Gold and Bike Country
Lawrence is a popular little town in the South Otago region for two main reasons: gold and cycling. Both of these come together on the acclaimed Clutha Gold Trail starting from Lawrence and is classed as one of the New Zealand Great Rides. But if you’re not into “Great Rides” then you can always discover some interesting historical places like Gabriels Gully which sparked the famous Otago Gold Rush in the 1860s. As a result of the gold rush, Lawrence is decorated with grand architecture to convey its wealth at the time. Find out more about what to do in Lawrence with this list of things to do in Lawrence.
1. Hit the Clutha Gold Cycling and Walking Trail
One of New Zealand’s Great Ride starts/ends right here in Lawrence! The Clutha Gold Trail is a 73km trail that can be cycled or walked in 2-4 days. Experience a journey through history where you’ll discover sites of early Maori hunters, Chinese gold miners and European farmers, miners and railway lines. The trail follows the mighty Clutha River to the stunning Lake Roxburgh Dam. If you don’t fancy doing the entire trail, there is a great section called the Beaumont Millenium Track which leads to a swing bridge and an old railway line. The track is 24km one way.
Location: Clutha Gold Trail – Starts from opposite Kilmarnock Street, Beaumont Millenium Track – Clutha River, Beaumont, 18km north of Lawrence
2. Visit Gabriels Gully
A fascinating area to check out is the Gabriels Gully Historic Reserve, the site of New Zealand’s first major gold rush. The whole landscape here was transformed by miners, whose machinery remains are here to view, such as water races, stamper batteries, sluicing faces and mine shafts. Take the Gabriels Gully Walk, which is a 1h20min loop walk with interpretation panels to learn about the area along the way.
Location: Gabriels Gully Road, 4km north of Lawrence
3. Try the Tuapeka Mouth Punt
A quirky attraction outside of Lawrence, the Tuapeka Mouth Punt (or Tuapeka Mouth Ferry) is a punt crossing the Clutha River at Tuapeka Mouth. It’s the only punt of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and is available to ride to cross the river and back. The punt operated daily 8am-10am and 4pm-6pm permitting on the river level.
Location: Ferry Road, 26km southwest of Lawrence
4. Treat Yourself at the Local Cafes
Lawrence is a popular pitstop on the Clutha Gold Trail and while road tripping around the South Island partly thanks to its amazing cafes. Enjoy the historic building of Gabriel’s Cafe & Bar, which was an old bank built in 1886. Snacks, lunch, dinner and takeaways are made with locally sourced produce. Alternatively, The Wild Walnut Cafe is a popular cafe amongst the community and is sure to satisfy your tastebuds.
Location: Gabriel’s Cafe – 21 Ross Place, The Wild Walnut Cafe – 32 Ross Place.
5. Visit the Tuapeka Goldfields Museum
Celebrating the discovery of gold by Gabriel Read in 1861, the Tuapeka Goldfields Museum showcases the gold mining history of the Lawrence area. Displays explain traditional methods of obtaining gold, from panning to sluicing. There is also a room dedicated to the Chinese community that once worked on the goldfields. Plus, there are more displays showing the old school, church and social life of the gold miners and their families. For more museums in the area, see 6 Best Museums in Clutha & The Catlins.
Location: 17 Ross Place
6. Jump on a Jet Boat Tour
Race up the Clutha River in an exciting jet boat tour with Beaumont Jet. They offer an adventure tour through stunning river gorge scenery to Native Island, where you’ll learn stories of the early Maori and view birds in their nesting areas. Alternatively, take the eco-tour to Birch Island which is a special conservation reserve with native forest and rare birds and insects. Check out more activities like this in the 17 Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
Location: 29 Rongahere Road, Beaumont, 19km northwest of Lawrence