Meet Jess, the manager of the Tuapeka Goldfields Museum in Lawrence. She fills you with enthusiasm relating her stories of gold mining women, hidden walks and Chinese miners chasing gold. When Jess isn’t working, she’s out walking Gabriel’s Gully, cycling the Clutha Gold Trail or just sitting at one of the local cafés and watching Clydesdales horses pulling a wagon or Jude’s horn-blowing antique fire engine. As you do!
“It's amazing. It is probably the best place in the world, at least that's what I think,” she says. “There is amazing heritage, beautiful scenery and the people are some of the nicest, most community minded people that I've ever met.”
If you have been cycling the Clutha Gold Trail, take the day off and walk the Gabriel’s Gully Historic Reserve, a 2.4km walk with interpretation panels along the way pointing out the history of old relics.
Gabriel Read discovered gold in 1861 and kicked off the Otago gold rush, says Jess. “European, Chinese, even Lebanese people came here to try and make their fortunes. The population of Lawrence grew to 11,500 people, mostly men trying to find gold.”
But women came too and they also conquered.
“Right over the hills in the next valley is Munro’s Gully which is super special because it’s the only goldfield in all of Aotearoa that was discovered by a woman. Mrs. Munro was so inspired by Gabriel Reid’s finding of gold that she went out with a butcher knife and just a little pan and she extracted eleven ounces of gold from the creek behind her house.”
For even shorter strolls, check out the Lawrence Cemetery, the resting place of many early settlers and gold mining pioneers including Sam Chew Lain’s Tomb.
“You can see their items on display at the museum and then you can go to the cemetery and see their final resting place. It gives you a wonderful picture of who they were and how they lived their lives.”
Another tip from Jess is to keep an eye on upcoming events in Lawrence. “The Lawrence Lantern Festival happens every year around September or October. It’s a full moon festival and it is so much fun because we all make these amazing lanterns, young and old. Then we parade them through the street on the night.”
“There’s always something really cool and engaging happening in the town because of the amazing people that live here.”
The town has plenty of other features, from art and sweet treats to antiques.
“In the town there are heaps of cool things that are largely handmade from amazing artisans, and also there are galleries that you can view too. So there’s really no excuse to be bored if you’re in Lawrence,” says Jess.
There’s so much to do in Lawrence, make sure you stay a few days here before heading South to see Tom Jones and take a ride on Clutha’s free ferry, the Punt at Tuapeka Mouth.