Blue Lake Loop Track, St Bathans, CENTRAL OTAGO

St Bathans is a former gold and coal mining settlement in the heart of rural Central Otago. Fun fact: it was previously named Dunstan Creek, but was founded as St Bathans in 1863. It was named by surveyor John Turnball, after the Scottish parish of Abbey St Bathans. By 1887 it had a population of 2,000 miners. It now has 6 permanent residents (when we visited in the 2020/2021 there was a dog who acted as our tour guide, although we sadly didn’t see him this time. Presumably he increases the population by one?)

As with many places in Central Otago, the end of the gold rush came the end of the thriving settlement, however it’s still an amazing holiday spot and great place for a walk, picnic, swim, paddle board, etc. you can even spot and explore a number of remnants that have been left behind and learn a bit about how the mining operation worked. We have visited St Bathans a number of times over the years, as we travel through Central, and always love it.

Track Facts:

  • 30 minutes
  • 2.2km
  • Easy walking (kid friendly, but you’ll want to carry wee ones as a stroller wouldn’t be appropriate)
  • There is a longer, harder option which loops the entire lake and offers amazing views. This is about 90minutes and fairly dodgy in some parts. We haven’t done this track, but will one day!!
  • If you’re visiting in the summer months you NEED sun protection (and hydration). The summer sun is harsh and the entire walk is very exposed & incredibly hot.
  • Pack a picnic and your togs/paddleboard/whatever water gear for a swim and meal after at the lakeside.

Getting There

St Bathans is a 2 hour drive from Dunedin, and 1 hour 50mins from Queenstown. T

he last 10k or so is a gravel road, which is marked as 100km/hr but should be driven MUCH slower. This trip we saw a van load of people has gone off the road and down a bank! Very scary!

Park your car in the carpark opposite the pub, (where if you’re there late summer/early autumn you could forage for apples and crabapples) and walk down the dirt road towards the lake. Here there is an amazing lookout over the lake + a toilet and more parking. (After the walk you might want to drive down this road to the lake edge for a swim!)

The track starts on your left (looking towards the lake) just past the trees that line the carpark.

The walk

The walk is an easy 2.2km almost-loop track. After walking some way down the track it splits in two directions, which is where the loop begins. I recommend taking the right hand track here and doing the walk in an anticlockwise direction.

Walk down towards the lake, enjoy the view, learn about the gold mining, try spot the remnants of sluicing across on the other side of the lake (as well as walkers on the longer loop), and maybe even stop part way for a swim and some cliff jumping (but always check the depth and for hidden/submerged objects)

Eventually you will leave the lake, (the landscape becoming almost alien) and will loop around and start heading back towards the carpark. The track joins with the longer walk, and you can also pop down a wee track to get to the domain. The track will turn grassy and less-defined. Here you need to keep an eye on the orange markers (or if you’re lucky enough to have the local doggo tour guide you can follow him for a few short cuts).

Bonus: last summer we also walked around the lake on the shore to the right hand side of the picnic area. It was incredibly beautiful and fun to explore (though a little dodgy, so do so at your own risk/comfort level).

Happy Hiking



Us at St Bathans Jan 2023 vs in Jan 2015

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