Big Sky Cottage Lauder from rail trail 9101 600x400

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 takes you through to the magnificent, sweeping Ida Valley.

See the following links for more details of the trail:

Central Otago Rail Trail site

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!

Blue Lake summer 4486 600


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 for detailed information.

Hawduns2 large

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.

Golden Progress Mine 7878 600x400

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


Ophir is 5 minutes drive or half an hour cycle from Lauder via Omakau. Stroll along the historic main street of Ophir, once a bustling gold town. The massive kerb stones tell of the inhabitants then belief in the continuing supply of gold and desire to invest in the town. Many of the old buildings and houses along the main street tell a tale of goldrush days.

Gold has recently been discovered again locally in a quantity worth investigating further. You never know - the gold rush days of Ophir may not be a thing of the past after all.

Admire one of the last remaining suspension bridges in Central Otago. The magnificent Daniel O'Connell bridge, opened in 1880, is testimony to man's quest to conquer the unconquerable and a feat of engineering brilliance and beauty built into solid rock without the advantage of modern machinery.

Ophir PO 1 6630 600


Dansey's Pass

Dansey's Pass, Oamaru and Moeraki make a good day round trip.

Follow the old miners trail across Dansey's Pass from the Maniototo to the grand Waitaki Valley and historic Oamaru. This pass takes you through historic mining country to the top of the world. The views are spectacular on both sides. Dansey's Pass is fine for 2WD in late spring through to early autumn. 4WD is recommended at other times.

Danseys Pass1 4476 600



Oamaru is famous for its white stone - both stone and cheese. Visit the historic centre and port of Oamaru where history oozes from every corner and building. It is easy to imagine yourself back in the 1880s as you walk around the streets admiring the historic white stone buildings many of which have been lovingly restored to their former glory.

Take a short drive to visit the yellow-eyed and little blue penguin colonies. Call at the Information Centre in the main street for details of the best times for sighting the penguins.

Oamaru Buildings 0280 600x450



Drive south from Oamaru and visit the fascinating Moeraki Boulders. Marvel at how nature has produced such wonders similar to how an oyster creates a pearl.

Make sure you book for lunch or dinner at Fleur's fish restaurant in Moeraki. It is well worth the drive with the fish freshly landed from the local fishing boats.

Moeraki 1 5606 600



This is lovey day trip. Arrowton is an easy and interesting 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Lauder. Along the way you pass the Clyde Dam and travel along the banks of Lake Dunstan and through the magnificent Kawarau Gorge. The lake is a great place to stop for a summer picnic.

Stop on the way to explore the historic Kawarau Chinese mining village.

Arrowtown is an historic gold town still displaying the character of bygone days with the luxury of both quaint and stylish shops and eateries.

Browse in shops offering NZ designer clothing, jewellery and art, the Remarkable Sweet Shop with its many different flavours of fudge made on the premises, the chocolaterie, Arrowtown Bakery (offering a great range of yummy pies) and souvenir shops. The Arrowtown museum is definitely worth a visit with extensive information on the gold mining history of the local area.

For the energetic the full day walk to Macetown, the uninhabited gold town up the Arrow River, is a must. Alternatively explore the historic Chinese Settlement along the river, take a walk up the river following the water pipe line or down river along the Centennial Walkway. In spring and early summer the banks of the Arrow River are adorned with a blaze of colour from the wild lupins.

For lazier days catch a movie at Dorothy Brown's cinema, reclining in the luxuriously sumptuous seats and enjoy local wine and a cheese board at interval.

Make a day of it and stay for dinner at Pesto (pasta and pizza), Saffron (a special treat) or the Stables (good home cooking and open fire) all of which should be preceeded or rounded off with a drink at the cozy Blue Door bar which features live jazz on the first Friday of the month.

Arrowtown Stables 5196 600