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Waitaki Valley, North Otago, New Zealand


The Waitaki  River is one of New Zealand's largest, and has been developed to provide a source of hydro electric power for the country.

The main road link from the coast is Highway 83,  and traveling west towards the high country, the first township you will arrive at is Duntroon, a small village with many geological and historical assets.

Georgetown is a small settlement between the coast and Duntroon, today there is a gift shop, which sells local crafts and an assortment of fine wines. In previous years the settlement had a hotel, which was destroyed by fire in the 1960's, as well as a petrol station and small shop. In the cemetery, the grave of "Jimmy the Needle", a colour character and early settler to the region, reveals an interesting epitaph.

Duntroon has a working village Smithy, who forges furniture, and still uses the original bellows from the 100 year old workshop, Nicol's Forge. The Duntroon Hotel has a Restaurant and pleasant Beer Garden.
There are many rock drawings on the local limestone cliff , including one which depicts the arrival of the ships carrying white settlers to the region. The source of these drawings were the Rapuwai and Waitaha people, who, while traveling up the Waitaki River to cross over the Southern Alps, left drawings on the limestone cliffs here.
The two public sites are called Takiroa (Long Echo) and Maerewhenua.
Other  Natural features are the 'Earthquakes' and the 'Elephant Rocks'. Both sets of geological formations are on private land,  but may be visited  provided you courtesy and respect. Further Information: http://www.griffler.co.nz/waitaki/duntroon.htm
 

Otekaieke is the site of Campbell Park Estate with New Zealand's first mansion and many other historical buildings.

Kurow (from Te Kohurau, the mountain of 'many mists')  has long been a farming service center and contains many historic limestone buildings. It  is the heart of a thriving rural community in the center of the South Island, close to 45 South - the parallel that is exactly halfway between the Equator and the South Pole, and has a population of 500.
Kurow has a warm community spirit, welcoming visitors and offering a good range of accommodation. Trout fishing is world renowned in the Waitaki and Hakataramea Rivers and also in the hydro lakes. It is often remembered by the 'Twin Bridges' that cross the Waitaki River from North to South. Further information: http://www.griffler.co.nz/waitaki/kurow.htm
 


Summer Residents!

The Waitaki region is a popular holiday destination, especially for campers, with sites available around the shores of the lakes formed by a series of dams built along the Waitaki River since 1928 when the Waitaki Power Station was built.
Jet boating is a popular activity, and the lakes are also used windsurfing, yachting and water-skiing.
The hill country is popular for a variety of activities. including game hunting, walking, tramping and 4wd routes.
The Awakino Club Ski field, administered by the North Otago Ski Club, is also accessible via Kurow.(4WD across private land and 1 hour tramp to field, rope tow and accommodation on field)
In the Kurow township visitors can play golf, bowls, tennis and other sports. Further Details are available from the Kurow Visitor Center.
A legend tells of a Maori chief, pursued up the mountain of mists by his enemies, who conjured up a heavy fog with an effective karakia (chant) which enable him to escape. Te Kohurau was also the name of the burial cave of Uneuku, a fabled chief of Hawaiki.
Aviemore Dam was built in 1968. The dam itself can be crossed over to a scenic drive around the north side of the lake up to the Benmore dam.


Ruins near Avimore

Otematata (the place of good quartz, of flint, or the Place of Tematata) was created in 1958 as a construction base for the Aviemore and Benmore Power projects. The largest, Benmore Power Station was built from 1956-1965. Today, many of the houses built to accommodate the workforce for the Dam project are used as holiday homes. The area is particularly popular with the people of Otago and Canterbury, who flock to this scenic area, especially in the Summer.  Activities for the visitor, include water sports, bowls and golf, and further details can be obtained at the Otematata Visitor Center.  The magnificent Benmore Dam is only a 5 minute drive from Otematata, where the Eletricorp Information Centre is of particular interest.


View of Waitaki from Benmore Dam

Omarama
Further inland, and high up on the edge of the McKenzie country, is Omarama (the place of moon, or light).
Omarama is at the junction of State Highways 83 and 8. A very pleasant township, it was originally an overnight stop for the Famous Cobb & Co. coaches. Omarama is now a popular rest stop for the many visitors traveling through the McKenzie Basin toward Queenstown and the Southern Lake District. The town has a variety of good quality accommodation, and visitors will find skiing, gliding, fishing,  golf and the amazing fluted Clay Cliffs, similar to those found in Arizona. The Omarama Visitor Center has details of tours and visits to the cliffs. Omarama is most famous for the world class gliding conditions provided by the inland mountain ringed basin. Two world records have been set in the area, and the World Gliding Championships were held there during the summer of 1994-95.
Further Details http://www.griffler.co.nz/waitaki/omarama.htm
 

Lake Ohau (the 'place of Hau' - wind) Ohau means "place of wind"
Lake Ohau is possibly one of the best kept secrets in New Zealand, The Lake is 54sq km, 120m deep and 600m above sea level, with spectacular alpine scenery, camping areas with swimming and boating. Being a few kilometers from the main highway, it is often omitted as a destination, but is well worth the hour or so drive in and out of the area. Accommodation is available, and there are a variety of walks and tramping in the Ohau Forest. The Ohau Ski field is the smallest commercial field in New Zealand, and some say in the world. It is renowned for it's powder and friendly atmosphere and is said to be a unique skiing experien