An electrifying hike
Skippers Creek offers a gateway to one of New Zealand’s richest and most isolated goldfields and a diverse landscape of beech forest, tussock country and rugged mountains. The trip to Dynamo and Bullendale huts, up the left and right branches of the creek, combines the fascinating history of the area with spectacular terrain.
The adventure starts with the drive to Skippers Canyon. The one-lane road, which has been called one of the most dangerous in the world, cuts through sheer rock walls high above the Shotover River and over the airy 118-year-old Skippers Bridge to Skippers Township.
The tramp starts from the car park near Skippers Point Cemetery and soon passes ruins of an old hotel before descending to Skippers Creek.
The track follows the stream bed for about two hours, winding through a deep gorge with crumbly schist cliffs rising from the streambed. The valley widens in places and thousands of lupins and wild mint grow on the gravelly riverbank.
The stream was once rich with gold. The first miners reportedly panned 5.7kg in an afternoon when the goldfield was discovered in 1862 and it became known as the richest river in the world. At the peak of the goldrush, 700 people lived in the area and mining terraces, equipment and buildings are evident throughout the valley, with rusty mining relics being found in the stream.
After about two hours, the Bullendale Track climbs steeply from the true left of the stream and leads, in about 45-minutes, to Bullendale Hut. The turnoff is not signposted, like much of the track, so it pays to have a map and a GPS. To reach Dynamo Hut, take the left-branching track. Dynamo Hut is about an hour past the Bullendale Track junction and the track weaves in and out of the creek, fringed with beech forest on one side.
The four bunk hut is high above the creek, near a large waterfall and looks onto a dramatic cliff and beech forest over a gorge. Just behind the hut is the site of New Zealand’s first industrial hydropower station, which was used to power the stamping battery at Bullendale, 3km away. It was built in 1886, just eight years after the first hydropower station in the world was built in Britain. Bullendale became the first gold mine in the world to be electrically powered. It also became one of the first towns in the country to have electric lights.
All of the heavy machinery was carried up the valley over a period of six months by a team of 32 horses. Water was piped from Skippers Creek and then run down a 60m cliff behind the hut to drive a series of large dynamos. The remains of the generators are still onsite at the bottom of the cliff. DOC says the hut was likely the old hydro manager’s hut and it includes a table, cooking bench and fireplace. About 10 minutes further up the valley is the historic Dynamo Red Hut. From there, it’s a further hour or two to Aurum Basin and another historic hut, Archie’s, at the foot of Mt Aurum.
- Total Ascent
- To Bullendale Hut, 3hr; Bullendale to Dynamo Hut, 2hr
- Dynamo Hut ($5, four bunks)
- Skippers township