Ranfurly, Naseby & the Māniatoto
The Māniatoto is one of New Zealand’s unparalleled places — a vast, soulful plain fringed by craggy, tussock-clad hills and sturdy mountain ranges. Big blue skies by day become incredible dark skies by night. Naseby residents know this for a fact – they’ve been taking scientific readings and their night skies are up there with the best.
Within the weathered and timeless plain and valleys are resourceful, resilient communities, generous in spirit and strengthened by deep, steadfast friendships forged through generations. Looking out for each other is simply a way of life. In this place, land and people shape each other — but nature is always in charge.
Ranfurly, Naseby and Māniatoto and the surrounding townships are home to a diverse range of businesses, community groups, creatives and artisan producers.
Whether you need your tap fixed, want to join a gym, or wondering where you can buy local products. Our Community and Business directory will help connect you with the local options.
Ranfurly takes you on a journey back to the 1930s with its Art Deco architecture. The Ranfurly Hotel and the Centennial Milk Bar are iconic examples and there are many other shops and houses to see in the art deco style.
The town’s old railway station is a grand information centre where you can find out about the long list of recreational activities there are to do in and around Ranfurly. Don’t miss dog sledding with Real Dog Adventures if that sounds like your bag. And hiking, mountain biking, 4WD tours, horse treks, hunting and fishing are all easily accessible.
Enjoy wandering around the town, shops and have a flat white at the Maniototo Café. For photography buffs, go no further than Janyne Fletcher’s gallery and workshop that showcases her award winning work that captures the beauty and essence of Central.
Below the Ida Range, tucked away in forestry surroundings, Naseby is quite the charmer. Sometimes described as the ‘jewel of the Maniototo’, the town used to be a major gold mining centre with as many as 5000 diggers working their fingers to the bone in search of riches.
Take a walking tour of the historic town and admire the perfectly preserved Victorian shops and buildings. There are two museums and two churches from the 1870s, well worth a perusal - their interiors hold a wealth of local treasures and tales.
Walk in the forest or for something a little more extreme you can run a 100 miles at The Great Naseby Water Race, an ultramarathon held annually in August. In the forest you’ll see gold rush relics and tailings as well as extensive water races built for sluicing and now used for irrigation.
Try ‘bowling on ice’ at the Maniototo Curling International Ice Rink. In winter there’s an outdoor rink used for curling, ice skating and ice hockey. If you feel the need for a bit of speed, don’t miss the downhill luge.
To relax and unwind, be sure to stop into the local 'pub' (there were over 20 back in the day so thank your luck stars you don’t have to choose from that many), and you might just catch the local curling or cricket team having a post-match yarn.
The night sky viewed from Naseby, is out of this world. Don’t forget to look up, you’ll be blown away by the pristine clarity of the starry skies. Naseby is on target to become a Night Sky Community in the near future.
Naseby is a popular Kiwi holiday spot and has endless outdoor fun on its doorstep. With hiking, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, swimming in the dam, 4WD tours, cricket, curling, rugby and you can still try your hand at gold panning – there’s a lot of fun to be had in this serene little corner of Central.
Waipiata, meaning glistening water in Maori, is popular for swimming, kayaking and fishing. Located on the Taieiri River, flanked with golden tussock clad hills the town was once a thriving railway camp.
Have a wander around and see the old Presbyterian and Anglican churches, manse, workers’ cottages and the Waipiata-Hamiltons Community Library. By the old rail yard the domain has camping facilities, tennis courts and backs on the bowling green. Another peaceful, quiet town on the rail trail in which you can explore, relax and recharge.
Waipiata also boast its own pie company - the creatively named Waipiata Pie Co. Pop into the local hotel to choose from their extensive range of flavours, washed down with a cool refreshing ale.
This traditional little farming town alongside the Central Otago Rail Trail has served its community and visitors well since forever and has a heartbeat powered by ingenuity.
Oturehua boasts views of Mt Ida and the iconic Hawkdun Range and is home to the famous Hayes Engineering Works and cafe where you can see some of the ingenious labour-saving tools and inventions that Ernest Hayes devised to make hard yakka not quite so hard for pastoral farmers back in the 1890s. See the beginnings of the world renowned fence-wire strainer and portable rabbit smoker and delight in seeing the workshop’s clever mechanisms still going strong.
If you’re in need of some road trip goodies, or even if you’re not, don’t leave Oturehua without stepping back in time and having a good old nosey around Gilchrists, New Zealand’s oldest running general store – delighting customers and mostly unchanged since 1899.
For a glimpse of gold mining innovation, venture down Reef Road and take a gander at the Golden Progress Quartz Mine and its impressive equipment used to find gold notoriously tricky to mine.
In the winter months, Idaburn Dam - just south of Oturehua, hosts the ancient curling Bonspiel tournament which if you were to catch it would be pretty unique.
Idaburn Dam is also a great fishing spot and the paddock next doors hosts the popular Brass Monkey Motorcycle Rally – an annual winter rally which sees all sorts of mopeds, scooters, trikes, trail bikes and motorcycles hooning around in the cold having a merry old time and warming up and having a good old yarn around the bonfire afterwards.
Wedderburn sits at the base of the Hawkdun and Mt Ida Ranges and is the halfway and highest stopping point on the rail trail. The historic Wedderburn Tavern, built in 1885 was an overnight stop for horse and wagon drivers on their way to the goldfields and sheep runs, but is now a favourite place for cyclists stay and enjoy well-earned roast and rehydrate with some golden nectar or a glass or two of pinot.
Wedderburn’s railway goods shed was made famous by Grahame Sydney’s ‘July in Maniototo’ painting and is definitely worth a photo as an iconic local vista. Wedderburn also has a curling dam for the winter months and 9-hole golf course.
You can see a lot from Patearoa with panoramic vistas across farmland to the Rough Ridge, Rock and Pillar, Hawkdun and Kakanui Ranges as well as Mount St Bathans – its location provides a unique micro climate with long dry summers and icy cold winters.
The gold rush was short lived in Patearoa, they got the gold out fast and let it be, until the railway came along, and then the cyclists.
It’s a peaceful place and a popular one for fishing enthusiasts who enjoy trips out to the Taieri River and its extensive wetlands.
There’s a cute little library, a nine-hole golf course - where it’s not uncommon to have to move sheep off the green, tennis courts, a bowling green and a lovely walk along the Sowburn Walkway which reveals some of the town’s intriguing history including the remains of a Chinese mining settlement and water races.
Above Patearoa on a hillside is the Hamiltons Cemetery – the town is long gone. The views from the cemetery are stunning and stories on the gravestones are moving – giving an insight into the tough times had by the pioneering people who settled here, focused solely on gold.
Kokonga is set at the base of the Rock and Pillar Range and the Kakanui Mountains and alongside the upper reaches of the Taieri River.
The name Kokonga translates from Maori to 'bending river' and it was the site of an 'almost safe' Taieri River crossing, Ryans Crossing, which miners once used on their to journey to Naseby.
The blue basalt stone used in the construction of Dunedin’s magnificent, historic railway station was sourced from the Kokonga area, providing employment for many Maniototo residents at the time. This was once a ‘railway town’ however times changed and the population moved on. But, with the Otago Central Rail Trail now passing through Kokonga, this is once again a popular overnight or rest stop.
Kokonga offers great picnicking, swimming, fishing and a visually picturesque stopover, whether travelling by road or on the Otago Central Rail Trail.
In the early days of settlements in New Zealand, there were a series of strategically placed ‘Coach Inns’ where the horse drawn coaches of the day would break their journey. Danseys Pass has possibly the only remaining historic coach inn still operating in New Zealand. Situated alongside the road at the base of the Kakanui range, on the Central Otago side of the hill, this is a place where you expect to find a weather-beaten gold miner sitting at the corner of the bar, but today it’s more likely to be the local high country farmer or visitors from afar enjoying the peace and beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
The search for gold has left its mark on the hills and valleys around here. Races dug by Chinese miners into the hillsides are a reminder of the intense hard work required to source water for inland and high-country prospecting. The Kyeburn river and nearby diggings show visible scars from dredging and sluicing for gold, and behind the hotel is German Creek reserve where miners planted trees representing their homelands. This is one of the few places in Central Otago where you’ll see stands of mature trees, rather than tussock clad hillsides.
The gravel surfaced ‘alpine’ road connects Central Otago to the Waitaki valley, providing stunning vistas both sides of the summit. It can be closed during winter or bad weather, so check before you go.