Otago Central Rail Trail - Lauder station

Rail Trail at Lauder Station

Poolburn Tunnel Lauder Rail Trail

Poolburn tunnel on the
Otago Central Rail Trail
a short ride from Big Sky Cottage

Easter Bunnies
Easter bunnies on the
Otago Central Rail Trail at Lauder

Manuherekia Bridge Lauder Rail Trail

Manuherekia Bridge on the
Otago Central Rail Trail
10 minutes ride from Big Sky Cottage

Blue Lake St Bathans

Blue Lake at St Bathans

Ida Valley winter morning

Ida Valley on a frosty
winter's morning


Wedderburn rail shed as painted by Graham Sydney in 1975

Gold Mining

Mining relic at St Bathans

Blue Lake gold mining
Mining relics
Blue Lake St Bathans

Golden Progress Mine

Golden Progress Mine


What To Do

Big Sky Cottage is an ideal base for an active or a wonderfully lazy holiday.

If you are here for the Otago Central Rail Trail the trail is right outside the door.

If you are not here to conquer the Rail Trail, pass your days on the cool veranda in summer or by the roaring log fire in winter with a good book and a glass of local Otago wine. Enoy the peace and tranquility as you watch the rail trailers go by.

Big Sky Cottage is situated overlooking the Otago Central Rail Trail at Lauder on one of the most interesting sections of the trail.

The Manuherekia Bridge is only a 10 minute ride or 25 minute walk from Big Sky Cottage. The Poolburn Gorge and tunnels are only a short ride beyond the bridge and take you through to the magnificent, sweeping Ida Valley.

See the following links for more details of the trail:

Click to open the Central Otago Rail Trail site


In this part of the country an excursion can take a couple of hours or all day. Outings for relaxing days include:

St Bathans

St Bathans is one of the most delightful historic gold towns in New Zealand and just a short drive from Lauder.

Nestled between Mount St Bathans, the Hawkdun Range and St Bathans Downs you will find the stunning Blue Lake, the village of charming mud brick and stone houses, and the inviting historic Vulcan Hotel.

Walk around the Blue Lake and marvel at the stunning colour of the water and the varied hues and patterns of the sands and soils, caused by the mineral deposits left over from mining.

It is hard to believe that this was once a bustling, noisy town of 2,000 people and 13 hotels. The guide book says there is now a population of 5 people. Jude and Mike, the hosts at the Vulcan Hotel, reliably inform us that the guide book is incorrect and that the population is actually 7!


Turn left onto SH 85 (the Pig Route) from Big Sky Cottage and take a drive through the magnificent ‘big sky country’ of the Maniototo, immortalised by the paintings of Graham Sydney.

Discover the vastness of the land and the even greater vastness of the sky. Visit the quaint settlements and towns along the way including

  • Wedderburn with its historic tavern and the famous green railway shed captured in Graham Sydney's 1975 painting
  • Ida Valley where you'll find the fascinating Hayes Engineering Works established in 1895 to provide farmers with everything from wire strainers to windmills
  • Oturehua has Gilchrist's historic general store where the interior is very much as it was in the gold mining heyday of this region
  • Naseby has historic buildings, a museum, gold mining history, an internationally famous indoor curling rink, and numerous relaxing walks and mountain bike trails in the surrounding forests
  • Dansey’s Pass with stunning views of the surrounding tussock countryside and Otago mountains, and the stone and mud brick Dansey's Pass Hotel originally built in 1863
  • Kyeburn Diggings has extensive sluiced mine workings providing a stark reminder of the mining impact on this part of the Central Otago landscape
  • Ranfurly, renowned as the art deco capital of the South Island, with numerous examples of art deco architecture and some fascinating stores with a large range of deco collectibles from glass lamp shades to furniture
  • Waipiata has an historic rail bridge, the Waipiata Country Hotel with 19th century mudbrick walls that survived the 1932 fire, and is now famous for its annual 'Ute Muster' raising money for charity
Check out www.maniototo.co.nz for detailed information.

Gold Mining

Central Otago is steeped in history with much of the early settlment based on the mining of gold. There are numerous fascinating historic sites within easy reach of Big Sky Cottage and there are books, pamphlets and maps in the cottage with information about the goldfields and walks in the surrounding area.

Matakanui and Drybread - turn right out of the gate of Big Sky Cottage onto Matakanui Lauder Road. The tarred road turns to gravel within 100 metres but is easily drivable in 2WD. Follow the signs to the historic mining villages of Matakanui and Drybread where you will find historic buildings from the mining era and the fascinating cemetary at Drybread.

Golden Progress Mine Oturehua, Ida Valley (open November to August) - a short drive from the cottage through the beautiful Ida Valley. Still standing above the mine shaft you will find the only surviving poppet mine shaft head in Otago. This shaft head was used to winch the gold ore up the 61m deep mine shaft. Make sure you stop at Gilchrist's store in Oturehua on the way.



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