The quaint township of Lawrence is gateway to Central Otago but to simply pass through it on your way to the tourist meccas of Queenstown and Wanaka would be a grave mistake. Tarry a while and you’ll find out for yourself why this pretty poppet of a village is worth an overnight adventure.
- Take a punt
Skip HW8 from Milton and, instead, head to Lawrence by the lesser known route from Balclutha to Clydevale and on to Tuapeka Mouth. The reason for the deviation is an opportunity to forward the might Clutha River on what is believed to be the last water-driven public punt in the southern hemisphere. Still used by locals on a regular basis, it is free to travel on but hours of operation may vary so check before you leave by phoning 0800 801 350 (during office hours) or 03 415 9068.
- Astonishing architecture
With an eclectic mix of historic architecture, a walk around the town provides glimpses of beautiful and unusual buildings. Pick up a heritage walking trail brochure from the helpful folk at the Lawrence information centre and head for the likes of the Warden’s Courthouse – the first pre-fabricated concrete building in NZ. Or check out the plaque on the home of former local school teacher and county clerk John Woods who composed the anthem ‘God Defend New Zealand’.
- Strike it lucky
Historic Gabriel’s Gully is a labyrinth of walking trails leading through the sites and relics of its previous 1880’s gold rush days. Pretty in summer with its wild roses, stunning in autumn when its rowan trees are turning red, and austerely beautiful in winter when frosts turn twigs to silver, this historic gully has many stories to tell.
The Chinese gold mining settlement on the edge of town is a must-see. Sporting an original pig-roasting oven and a traditional joss house, it is testament to the hardy and often maligned souls who ventured so far from home in search of wealth.
- Main street musts
Lawrence is a gift shopper’s dream with several design stores brimming over with sparkling jewellery, colourful china and knick-knacks sure to catch the eye. Visit the delightfully old fashioned butcher’s shop run by Jan, one of the first female butcher apprentices in the country and be sure to visit the museum housed in the same building as the town’s information centre
- Eat-treats and a place to stay
A host of main street cafés provide tasty treats with Gabriel’s Café and Bar (housed in a historic bank) earning top marks for its delectable meals served with good wines. If you’re looking for an espresso that ticks all the boxes, call in at The Prospector which also provides simple but very comfortable rooms. Other accommodation options include pleasant camping ground cabins, welcoming B & B’s and historic Marama Lodge, a previous home to shopkeepers serving the mining population and a later stopover for coach travellers. Its old-world charm and pretty grounds are immediately relaxing.
Images copywrite Diana Noonan