The Central App

My Town: Ophir

The Central App

18 January 2024, 8:46 AM

My Town: OphirWelcome to the latest installment of our My Town series, which brings us to Ophir. PHOTO: Supplied

Welcome to the next installment of our "My Town" series.

This initiative is to find the charm and attractions of diverse small townships nestled in the heart of Central Otago. Our aim is to provide holiday-makers with an immersive experience that delves far beyond the well-known landmarks, such as Cromwell’s iconic big fruit sculpture and the majestic Clyde Dam. The series will unfold with weekly releases every Saturday and Wednesday until the 26 of January. Over this period, we will cover towns of Central Otago, exposing the region's hidden treasures from a locals perspective.

Episode 11. Ophir

Alexia Anderson welcomes readers to Ophir, population about 50.

How did your story in Ophir begin?

While I don’t live in Ophir, I moved to the area in 2018 to be with my, now, husband who was born and bred in the Ida Valley.

We live in Omakau, but a visit to Ophir is never out of the question, especially as there is only 2km separating the two towns.

Ophir is a great destination for cyclists, especially if it means a trip to Pitches Store. PHOTO: James Jubb/ Tourism Central Otago.

What is it about Ophir that you couldn’t live without and why?

The history - I love a good story! 

Although the town might seem small, it is rich in history, including the fact it was once called Blacks, after the station owned by Charles F Black and his brother. 

I also understand that when gold was discovered in Central Otago in 1863, Ophir’s population boomed to more than 1000.

The town's hall, one of Ophir's many historic buildings. PHOTO: James Jubb/ Tourism Central Otago.

Where’s the best spot in town for lunch?

There’s a couple of great places to get something to eat - either Pitches Store or Blacks Hotel.

Or, if you want to enjoy the area’s great outdoors, you can take a picnic down to the Manuherikia River, which runs between Ophir and Omakau.

What’s a fun fact about Ophir?

It’s weather extremes are next level. It can go from the hottest temperature in the country in summer, to the coldest in winter.

Its lowest recorded temperature was -21C, a day that made headlines on national news.

I understand Ophir was once a bustling town, the biggest by population in the Manuherikia Valley for many years, until the railway bypassed it. 

What’s one thing people need to check out when visiting Ophir and why?

The old stone Post Office, which was built in 1886.

It is still open for business thanks to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, making it one of the oldest operational post offices in New Zealand.

And, don’t forget to take a trip over the single lane Daniel O’Connell suspension bridge, which was built in 1880.

The historic Post Office is worth a visit, all modes of transport welcome. PHOTO: James Jubb/ Tourism Central Otago.

Poolburn Dam is also worth a visit when you are in the area, a drive that takes about 45 minutes from Ophir. PHOTO: Shirley Howden.

Where in Central Otago do you like to escape to and why? 

Poolburn Dam, where cell phone coverage is zero and the only option is to relax.

The unique setting, nestled amongst schist rock, provides some amazing landscape, so amazing that it was used as a backdrop in Lord of the Rings.

Word of warning: the road is best navigated in a 4WD.

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