A pastoral idyll, with a side order of custard squares — Richard Davison details the delights of a road trip from Balclutha to Whisky Gully.
Route: Balclutha to Whisky Gully, via Beaumont (109km, time 1hr 20min)
The Drive: For a pastoral idyll — with a side order of history and custard squares — come while away a couple of hours off the beaten track in South and West Otago. Turn right before the bridge at Balclutha and head for Clydevale.
Cross the Clydevale Bridge and continue winding your way up the true right of the mighty Clutha Mata-Au, New Zealand’s largest river by volume, until you reach Beaumont.
From there, nip round the corner via Raes Junction on to State Highway 90 — signposted Tapanui — but turn right on to Mathesons Corner Rd after 15km, and aim for Heriot.
Past Heriot, down Ardmore Rd to the intersection with Greenvale Rd and you’ll find the former Kelso Dairy Factory (1913) for a delightfully retro photo op.
Head back down Wooded Hill Rd past the sobering Kelso Flood Monument (1980), and into Tapanui, where you can either stop for lunch, or pick up provisions and head for a picnic at our final destination, Whisky Gully.
This scenic beauty spot offers short walks and panoramic views, and can be found just five minutes’ drive up the town’s Bushyhill St.
Let peace and harmony ensue.
Attractions: Heartland New Zealand like they used to make it. Tranquility and rolling green vistas at every turn, with zero traffic.
Fuel: Fill up in Balclutha before you go. EV chargers at Balclutha and Tapanui.
Eat and drink: Check out Illys Cafe in Tapanui for its legendary custard squares, and hospitality to match.
History: West Otago village Kelso finally gave up the ghost in 1980, after a truly biblical flood. Fascinating details can be found at the flood monument on the way.
Scorecard: 5/5. Old-school treats abound.