It was a tiki tour sort of day, starting with a visit to Cromwell. Never explored this town before, last time we were in the area we only stopped briefly before moving on. Gold brought the first settlers to Cromwell in the 1860s, although it was known as “The Junction” back then. Once the settlement was established it was given the name Cromwell, after Oliver Cromwell. In order to annoy the Irish miners, so the story goes, who were noisy drunken bunch, and they hated Cromwell because he destroyed a lot of Ireland back in the day. True or not, it makes a good story.
First stop was at the lookout at Champagne Gully, looking down Lake Dunstan to Clyde Dam away in the distance. The lake covers a huge area, bordered by rocky, barren hills. This is a freedom camping area, and many cars and vans had been staying overnight.
Lake Dunstan, looking back to Clyde Dam
Then we saw a sign for the “Goldfields Monument” – there were actually two monuments there. The smaller one a tribute to Hartley and Reilly, the men who first discovered gold at at the river at this spot in 1862, and all those miners who followed them. Hartley and Reilly discovered 87 pounds of gold in in only two months during the winter of 1862. The second, much larger monument marks the 150th Anniversary of gold discovery in the river below. They were certainly hardy men, looking to make their fortunes
Looking downstream from the Goldfield Monuments
Another lookout – this time looking over the town of Cromwell.
Looking over Cromwell
Much of the original Cromwell main street was submerged in 1993 when Lake Dunstan was created behind the newly created Clyde Dam. The “Old Cromwell Group” was formed in the late 1980s nd together with the Ministry of Works retained as many of the original buildings as possible, creating the Cromwell Heritage Precinct. The photo below shows the town as it was before it was flooded by Lake Dunstan.
Cromwell prior to Lake Dunstan being formed.
And what a busy little place it was, crammed full of heritage buildings. Some had been turned into trendy shops, while others were left as they would have been, such as the bakery. Cars were not allowed in the Heritage Precinct, making it so much easy to walk and explore. There were people everywhere, looking around, or relaxing on the lake edge throwing bread out to the ducks.
Cromwell Heritage Precinct
Old buildings safely moved
Wishart’s Smithy is the only heritage building still in it’s original location, and represents the old town’s only remaining industrial building.
Inside the smithy
From the old town to the new, our aim was to find the giant fruit sculpture which welcomes visitors to Cromwell. The town is known for the many fruit orchards surrounding it, and the sculpture was presented to the town by the local Rotary Club in 1990.
Welcome to Cromwell
Tiny Bannockburn nestled in the hills was next on our list, and it has quite an impressive sign at the entrance. You can see just how dry and barren the hillsides are.
Welcome to Bannockburn
Bannockburn is a historic town which was once the center of a thriving and successful gold mining industry, and is dotted with interesting old buildings.
Interesting buildings in Bannockburn
Driving back down the hill we could see rows of grape vines everywhere. Grapes grow very well in this hot dry area and there are a huge amount of local vineyards all producing their own wine, including actor Sam Neill who has his own vineyard Two Paddocks nearby.
Rows of grapes growing in the hot sun
Stopping at one of the many fresh fruit outlets to pick up some lovely fresh peaches, then low and behold we discovered The Honey Shed. That certainly deserved a stop too, and after checking out the varieties of offer, decided on a jar of Lindis Gold Thyme honey. We put our money in the honesty box, and came away happy little campers.
Lots of lovely honey in here
After a long hot day exploring the area, we were happy to arrive back in camp, and relax under the shady trees enjoying Happy Hour with the owners and the other campers.