Nestled snugly beneath New Zealand’s third largest hydro dam Clyde was renowned as a boisterous mining town famous for it’s risqué dancing girls. In fact, Clyde was once New Zealand's most populous town. When gold prospectors Hartley and Riley arrived in 1862 they found nuggets easily on the sandy shores of the Clutha River and shortly afterwards the “rush” was on. At it’s peak there were 28 pubs and 30 opium dens supporting over 14,000 residents.
Today it is a peaceful shadow of it’s former self with wonderful historic stone buildings and colonial cottages to explore. The towns centre,Sunderland Street, has been declared a historic precinct. The street is lined with stone wall and curbsides and such wonderful historic buildings as the Dunstan Times Building, Hartley Arms Hotel, Dunstan Hotel, the former Benjamin Naylor General Store, post office, and court house. Check out the trap door in the dining floor of the Dunstan House, one of the town’s first hotels to be built using local stone, from where the girls would emerge to perform their dances.
Clyde was renamed from Central Dunstan on 22 May 1865, after Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde. Campbell was a highly decorated Scotsman in the British Army, leading the Highland Brigade in the Crimea War, and commanding the ‘Thin red line’ at the battle of Balaclava. The original name of Central Dunstan is believed to come from the name The Dunstan whihc was given to the area given by John Turnball Thomson, an English surveyor who arrived in the region in the spring of 1857. Turnbull is understood to used the name Dunstan because of the immense schist tors that dominate the surrounding landscape which reminded him of the mountain around his birthplace in England where Dunstan means “a stone on the hill”.
Today the rail trail starts or finishes alongside State Highway 8 where the rail head was moved in 1980 as the drop off point for the construction material for the Clyde Dam. The original 1907 railway station is in the centre of town and is today contains a stationery engine for you to look at.