Middlemarch is the site of the railhead for the old Central Otago railway line. You can travel there from Dunedin by train through the picturesque Taieri Gorge, then hire a bicycle and ride along the Otago Central Rail Trail all the way to Clyde, enjoying excellent hospitality along the way. Cycle hire is available from Cycle Surgery and Trail Journeys. Stay a few days in Middlemarch and you can walk in the stunning schist landscape, fish for trout, have a beer in the last remaining pub the Strath Taieri Hotel, visit a farm, dine on gourmet food or just unwind and enjoy the generous hospitality of the locals who love to share their country interests. This hardworking and entrepreneurial group of people welcomes visitors to their vibrant community events all year round. Weekend packages including train and accommodation are now available.
Middlemarch Golf Course
The Middlemarch Golf Course is a flat easy going 9 hole all weather course which welcomes visitors. Dotted with perfect conifers and slabs of the local schist, it offers a tranquil rural setting with a view up to the flat topped Rock and Pillar Range. Only an hour from Dunedin by road, it’s a great place to come for a round of golf with friends. With green fees of $20 and clubs at $10 it’s easy to take a golfing break before or after riding the Rail Trail. Barnsy at Quench Café and Bar is the man to contact if you’d like to visit.
The Strath Taieri Historical Society’s Middlemarch Museum in the old Masonic Lodge is well worth a visit for an insight into the history of the district. There’s a replica of Mitchell’s Store which closed in 1969, Maori artefacts, moa bones, Chinese gold miners’ possessions, photographs, domestic ware, old farm implements, railway carriages, items from both world wars and papers associated with the history of the area. Unique to this museum is the Platypus, an ill-fated iron “submarine” from 1873, designed to assist gold miners in their search for gold on river bottoms, which ended up in pieces on local farms, now partially reassembled outside the Museum.
Quench Café and Bar
The thousands of visitors who arrive at Middlemarch by bicycle or train are well looked after at Quench. Its location opposite the railway station and unlimited parking space for bicycles make this eatery a great choice. Barnsy the proprietor, an ex rabbiter, farm worker and mine explosives operator, likes to offer large servings. The legendary pies are baked on the premises every day and their specialty is a brunch pie containing layers of bacon, egg, hash browns, baked beans and cheese. The evening menu includes lamb shanks plus takeaway pizzas. There’s outside dining as well and in winter a cosy fire.
Aurora on the main road has an impressive range of craft, gifts, glass and gemstone jewellery, handmade skincare products, accessories, and exquisite merino hand knitted baby clothes. It’s a relaxing place to browse for easy to pack presents, a handy pair of sunglasses or a smart item of clothing.
If you’re hanging out for an ice cream, cold drink, bag of sweets or newspaper Maggie’s Store is the place for you. Maggie started out selling fudge and souvenirs but customer demand has seen her expand into many staple grocery items plus she hires out DVDs.
Five minutes drive from Middlemarch you’ll find New Zealand’s only inland salt water lake. In a landscape dominated by schist it’s enclosed in a143 hectare scenic reserve. Water birds, native and exotic plants and photogenic rock tors provide a fascinating environment for nature lovers while runners and walkers will enjoy the easy undulating round trip to visit the lake which dries out in summer and fills up again in the winter. It takes about an hour to complete the 3.5km loop walk but leave plenty of time to enjoy a picnic lunch provided by Kissing Gate Café, located in the main road and specialising in providing gourmet meals to go for any occasion and superb coffee and cake.
Vivienne Rae – Regional Artist
“I love gazing at those hills with the blue gullies, in the evenings especially”, says Vivienne Rae with a faraway look in her eye, describing the view from her piece of land on the outskirts of Middlemarch. The beautiful Kakanui Mountains to the north provide her with inspiration, like the horses, Hereford cattle and Suffolk sheep she paints in oils and acrylics. Her paintings of musterers on their horses, all stock saddles, hats, coats and shaggy fetlocks show an intense familiarity with her subject. She sells her work privately and also does commissions.
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