Day 189 on the Road
Goldfields Jet and the Goldfields Mining Centre
Located along the stunning Kawarau Gorge between Queenstown and Cromwell is the Goldfield Mining Centre and Goldfields Jet! Check it out with us in today’s action-packed episode! If you like this video and want to feast your eyes upon more 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand then jump on over to our Youtube Channel!
Today we’re going to be discovering the gold mining past of Central Otago. Woo!
This morning we are waking up at the beautiful Bannockburn Domain Camp which is located in the lovely town of Cromwell. And we’re having a really epic day today as we’re gonna be diving into the mining history of the area by jet boat which makes it even more epic.
The Goldfields Jet and Mining Centre is located on the Kawarau Canyon which is absolutely beautiful with stunning cliffs on both sides and milky blue water at the bottom. It’s a picture perfect area and as soon as we arrive we strap on a life jacket and head toward the jet boat.
We’re meeting our jet boat driver called Peter who is an ex jet boat racer so this promises to be a pretty wild ride. And when we get down to the jet boat it’s actually a tiered seated jet boat meaning that everyone gets awesome views all the way and we’re super surprised by how many people fit in these things. It fits 13 passengers.
At high speed we blast down the Kawarau Gorge having near misses with the canyon walls on either side it’s really crazy how close to rocks this boat can get without touching it. And of course jet boat rides in New Zealand are famous for 360 spins meaning that the jet boat can turn a full 360 degrees on one point.
The first part of the tour does downstream to the Bannockburn Arm which is actually is part of the river that used to not be accessible by boat until the Clyde Dam was constructed. And then we head upstream past all gold mining relics of the side of the gorge. And there’s so many awesome photo opportunities as well but as you can see it’s a little hard to take photos on a jet boat.
The first pieces of history that we’re learning today is that jet boats were invented right here in New Zealand in 1952 by a guy called William Hamilton and that is why quite a few of the jet boats have something called a Hamilton engine to pay homage and tribute to that guy.
On top of being super maneuverable jet boats are also awesome at going at super fast speed on very shallow water which helps our tour guide to get us to really really remote places in no time.
Among all the thrills, Peter stops the jet boat multiple times to give us more insights into the geological features of the area as well as quite a lot of fun facts about the mining history of the area. But one of the best parts of the jet boat is that we are getting absolutely soaked but every two seconds we are taking some high speed making us feel like we are in the biggest natural hair dryer of the world. So we are getting soaked and then dried and then soaked and then dried amongst all I’m pretty happy we were giving a really good splash jacket.
But the Goldfields Jet isn’t the only thing that’s here at the Goldfields Mining Centre, there’s also a guided tour which you can do with some gold panning so that’s what we do we’re jumping straight onto as our next activity. We are meeting Bruce who is our passionate and super knowledgeable guide and we’re learning all about the history of the Otago Gold Rush.
The Otago Gold Rush happened in the 1860s and brought people from all over the world here to New Zealand to seek out gold and earn their fortunes and that’s exactly why towns like Queenstown, Arrowtown and Cromwell exist.
Bruce shows us a mock-up of an old mining settlement which has loads of different old machinery of how they used to extract gold back in the days and one of my favourite machines here is the Sluice Gun which throws high powered water into the stream blasting away the lighter materials to hopefully reveal some gold underneath.
It’s a lot of fun to play with and a lot of these things you can actually check out yourself if you go on a self-guided around the Goldfields Mining Centre as well which takes between half and hour to an hour. But next it’s onto the moment we’re all been waiting for which is panning for gold.
First up Bruce is giving us the technique of gold panning and explaining us all the tips and tricks that he has learned over the years panning gold around the area. One of the really cool thing is he’s letting us pan for gold by ourselves afterwards and gives us ground from the canyon so there is a chance for us to find gold. Some of us in the group really really want to find gold but Laura and I find absolutely nothing and this is why Laura and I decide to go for a beer just to drink our sorrows away a bit like the gold miners used to do back in the days I’m pretty sure. Plus, there’s a lot of good food in Cromwell.
There is an American dude in the tour with us he really wants, this guy really really wants to get some gold. He’s been asking questions the whole tour so how much gold can we get? How much is that worth? How much gold do people usually get during this tour? I think he misunderstood that this tour here is not about making you rich it’s about making you richer of knowledge.