Take your camera when you visit this tiny one-street village in the northern reaches of the Manuherikia Valley. The picturesque blue lake is famous, but one look at the old historical buildings in St Bathans tells you that here is another fascinating story from the past.
Only a handful of people live here now, but this former gold mining town was once home to 2000 people. Like every gold mining town they had several hotels, now only the Vulcan Hotel remains. You can stay here – and the ghost in Room 1 is reportedly quite friendly! The town, of course, also had a Post Office (it’s still working), a bank and a gold office, the constable’s cottage and gaol, as well as St Albans church – one of the first pre-fabricated buildings in the country, funded by Frederick Dalgety (stock & station agent company). They are all still here, in an unspoiled state.
The other reminder of the gold miners is more unusual – a lake. For years the Kildare Mining Company used their water cannons to demolish Kildare Hill and with their hydraulic excavators they sucked out a huge pit, which became the Blue Lake. They uncovered vast riches in the process, until the fear that they would undermine the town made them stop in 1934. You can walk right around this bright blue lake, which is ringed by spectacular white quartz cliffs, sculpted by the miners – it will take about 20 minutes, unless you keep stopping for photographs.
You can reach St Bathans from several access points along the Rail Trail, but Lauder would be the closest.