Central Otago’s mighty Clutha River is one of New Zealand’s most mesmerising natural features. The fastest flowing and highest volume river in the country, it’s also the second longest, running its downward course 338 kilometres from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean.
Its stunning scenery, gold-rush history and swift turquoise waters make it a must-explore on any journey through ‘Central’.
And taking a leisurely river cruise downstream from the township of Alexandra might just be the best way to do exactly that. Meet the cruise boat, Nevache II—a quiet, stable and smooth-riding pontoon craft—and her skipper at the boat ramp, and settle in for an unrivalled two-and-a-half-hour jaunt through the spectacular Roxburgh Gorge to the perfectly preserved remnants of 1860s’ gold mine, Doctors Point.
Passing under the present day road bridge, the boat glides past historic stone piers and tall towers of the original1882 suspension bridge to meet the confluence of the Manuherikia and Clutha rivers, and the start of the rugged gorge.
Listen to the skipper’s well-polished tales of the Central Otago gold rush as dramatic bluffs rise up on both sides of the river—towering above the boat almost 350 metres at their highest point. This is a unique opportunity to get out among the river’s isolated reaches and see some of New Zealand’s best examples of European and Chinese gold mining first hand.
Arriving at Doctors Point, where expansive gold workings are testament to endeavour and hardship, the skipper’s mine tour highlights huts and stores tucked away in craggy schist formations, gold workings and even a pub—relics protected by their isolation and inaccessibility for more than 140 years.
Take a good look around before heading back down to the riverbank. Relax waterside, enjoy a cuppa and a snack—or a catered picnic or barbeque—before returning upstream to Alexandra. Have less time? Then ramp up the speed with a 60 minute jet boat tour up to Doctors Point and back, taking in the scenery and stories with Hamilton Jet spins and other thrilling manoeuvres.
Combining tangible history and dramatic landscapes with a delightful sense of the undiscovered, this journey is unforgettable.
Clutha River Cruises also offers a jet boat cycle transfer service for cyclists riding the Roxburgh Gorge cycle trail. With a multi-lingual skipper, tour commentaries can be given in French and Spanish, as well as English.
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