Story: Otago places

Page 13. Strath Taieri and Maniototo

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Taieri Gorge railway

The Otago Central railway line started at Wingatui and finished in Clyde, in the heart of Central Otago. Since 1987 a tourist train has run along the 58-km section of track from Dunedin to Pukerangi via Wingatui (and to Middlemarch in summer). After tunnelling through the ranges, the route follows the Taieri River along a gorge as far as Pukerangi.


Locality 80 km north-west of Dunedin, with a 2013 population of 153. Middlemarch is the centre of Strath Taieri, a basin of the Taieri River between the Rock and Pillar Range and the Taieri ridge. The Otago Central Rail Trail for cyclists and walkers runs between Clyde and Middlemarch; the town is the terminus for the Taieri Gorge railway line and for twice-weekly summer excursion trains from Dunedin.


A gold-rush locality on the edge of Strath Taieri, 109 km north-west of Dunedin and 29 km north of Middlemarch. Hyde was originally named Eight Mile, as it was eight miles (13 km) south-east of the earlier Hamilton diggings. One of New Zealand’s most serious rail crashes, near Hyde in 1943, killed 21 people. Taieri Lake station, east of the settlement, has 1860s and 1870s buildings; beyond, on the other side of the Taieri ridge, is the bleak Moonlight flat.

Maniototo Plain

Large basin in Central Otago, lying between a number of mountain ranges. It was named after the Maniototo station, whose homestead is 6 kms west of Ranfurly. The plain covers roughly the same area as the former Maniototo county, which existed from 1876 to 1989. The name is probably a contraction of Mānia-o-toto, plain of blood.


Ranfurly, on State Highway 85 between Palmerston and Alexandra, 90 km north-east of Alexandra, had a 2013 population of 663. The railway reached Ranfurly in 1898. Formerly known as Eweburn, its name was changed to Ranfurly when the governor, Lord Ranfurly, visited in 1898. It then became the centre for Maniototo. Ranfurly declined after the railway line closed in 1990, but later began promoting its art deco buildings to visitors.


13 km north of Ranfurly, Naseby had a 2013 population of 120. Originally known as Hogburn after the local stream, it was the earliest settlement in Maniototo, and New Zealand’s smallest independently-governed town for many years. The 1863 gold rush saw a peak of 5,000 miners within the year. Naseby is known for its winter sports and for curling, a Scottish game of ‘bowls on ice’, played in winter on frozen ponds.

Upper Taieri

The Taieri River – New Zealand’s third-longest, at 318 km – rises in a remote part of Central Otago, at the junction of the Lammermoor and Lammerlaw ranges. Meridian Energy’s plan to build New Zealand’s largest wind farm on the Lammermoor Range was shelved in 2012.

The Dunstan Trail

At first, the return trip from Dunedin to Dunstan (Clyde) took two to three weeks. This was reduced to three days each way when scheduled coaches began from Dunedin in November 1862, then one or two days with stables and relays of horses. There was usually an overnight stop at Styx (Paerau). Coaches stopped using the route in 1864 when the ‘Pigroot’ (now State Highway 85) displaced it. It continued to be used by wagons, and later became popular with mountainbikers and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

A high road to the Dunstan (Clyde) gold diggings crosses the Taieri at Paerau (also known as Styx after the river that joins the Taieri at that point). The hotel buildings date from 1861.

Further north the river passes through farming districts. A TB sanatorium operated at Ōrangapai, near Waipīata, from 1925 to 1961. At Puketoi, west of Pātearoa, the 1867 homestead building survives. Hamilton, a gold mining site, is in the foothills of the Rock and Pillar Range.

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Otago places - Strath Taieri and Maniototo', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 March 2018)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 8 May 2009, updated 29 Jul 2015