Image: Claudia Babirat | DOC
A desert made by water, large scale water blasting left a landscape transformed by humankind’s pursuit of possibility.
Visit the remains of the dams, water races, rock tailings and caves left untouched since the last of the goldminers. This spectacular man-made landscape that can be explored on foot or bike via various tracks.
Tohu Whenua are the places that have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Located in stunning landscapes and rich with stories, they offer some of our best heritage experiences.
See more on the Tohu Whenua website.
Travel 6 km south-west through Cromwell, and cross Lake Dunstan to get to Bannockburn. This site can be accessed from Felton Road.
For those with little time, there are vantage points that can be reached by car, and walks that take just 10 minutes. If you’ve got more time to spare, trace the water source back up to the Menzies Dam in Stewart Town. There are remains of a stone cottage, an early 19th century orchard, and great views across Cromwell and Bailey’s Gully.
As you drive towards the Bannockburn Sluicings, set the tone with some sombre western tunes because what you’re about to see ain’t pretty. It’s tragically beautiful. This desert made by water is not a natural site, but the 150-year-old aftermath of goldminers’ dreams, and a technique known as ‘hydraulic sluicing’ where water was blasted at the hills to release the gold.
The Bannockburn Sluicings can’t be experienced from a distance; you have to walk it to understand it. What looks desolate from the entrance turns into a rough, raw and rewarding walk through a valley of caves, tunnels and rock tailings left untouched since abandoned by the last of the mining men.
As an iconic heritage site, the shock of the old will take you to the edge of understanding, and give you a chance to reflect that it was people who made this place. Life today is still about prospecting and searching for the unknown. Venture into the Bannockburn Sluicings and pursue the possibilities.
This is a very dry area with no water on the tracks - take water with you.
There are no designated campsites or huts in this area - do not camp on private land.
Remember that all rocks, historic artefacts (including earth and stone works), native plants and animals are protected on public land - tread carefully and take only photos.