Population Ten

On my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand, I had the pleasure to discover and stay in the wonderful little historical town of St Bathans, located in the middle of Central Otago.

The origin of the town dates back to the early 1860s when gold was discovered and migrants came from as far afield as Ireland and China to seek their fortune.  It was originally named Dunstan Creek and by 1864, approximately 1000 people lived in the immediate area.

As a legacy of the mining, the amazing Blue Lake was formed.  Named after the distinctive blue colour which was caused by minerals in the water, it was created by miners digging away at a 120 metre hill until all that was left was a deep pit. When the mining stopped, the hole filled with water forming the lake.  Today, the lake is popular with weekend visitors who swim and jet ski in the lake.  There is a two kilometre walking track around Blue Lake so you are able to see the amazing colours and reflections from many different viewpoints.

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Blue Lake

Today there are only ten permanent residents, which include the owners of the haunted historic Vulcan Hotel, Mike and Jude Kavanagh.    You wont find a website to advertise the charming digs of this hotel accommodation, but you will find wonderful hospitality and have the opportunity to hang out with the locals when they drop in for a beer at the end of the day.

A couple of times a year, they run sheep through the main street in order to move them to different pastures.  I saw an amazing photograph on the wall of the pub which showed this happening.  The image had one sheep standing up in protest in the middle of the mob which really made the shot.  I was chuffed when Mike gave me a postcard of this image to keep.

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Many images of the renowned artist Grahame Sydney hang on the wall in the Vulcan Hotel.  Grahame has spent a lifetime painting and photographing the Central Otago landscape.

Little has changed in the town and it is easy to imagine how things might have been in its hey-day.  Historical St Bathans is now managed by the Department of Conservation and the only currently operating buildings are the pub and the post office.   I found it interesting that there were two cemeteries.  One for the catholics which took pride of place in town near the church, and one for non catholics which was located out of town.

I wandered through the township of historical buildings and found many items of interest to photograph, including vintage bicycles and old farm equipment.

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The Catholic Church and Cemetery

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Bike and Rabbit Trap

Only 17 kilometres away is the amazing Central Otago Rail Trail at Oturehua .  I was surprised at the number of families who were out riding parts of the trail.  It is such a wonderful landscape though to keep you distracted from the pain of cycling up the many hills.

St Bathans is a wonderful little place to put on your ‘must see’ places if you are travelling in the South Island of New Zealand.

A gallery of my St Bathans images is now able for viewing on the Getaway Images website.


  1. melaniesinclair952462825 says:

    Very informative Sue!
    I’ll be heading to NZ South Island over Christmas/New year. This is a great insight into what to expect for Central Otago. Thanks for the post 🙂

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