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Otago

Tuapeka Mouth Ferry

Clutha District

The last Punt in the South!

Did you have any idea you could take your car across the Clutha by boat? I didn't. In between the towns of Balclutha and Beaumont lies a small, old gold mining settlement at Tuapeka Mouth on the Clutha River. If you ever have a chance to drive to Central Otago via the East Coast and want something a little different, give The Punt a try.

The Tuapeka Mouth Ferry (a.k.a. The Punt) is unique in its method of crossing a river. It only relies on the river's current and the rudders on its hull, unlike a conventional ferry that uses a motor.


Directions

This happens to be a pretty easy place to get to. For a start, you don't even have to leave your vehicle. From Balclutha, head west on Barnego Rd., which will turn into the Clutha Valley Road. When you make it to the township of Clydevale, carry on through the intersection on a road called Tuapeka Mouth Road. When getting close to the town of Tuapeka Mouth, take a left onto Browns Road, then another left onto Ferry Rd.

If you are coming from Beaumont, take Rongahere Rd. which will turn into the Clutha River Rd. You'll eventually see an official sign for the ferry (or for The Punt, as it seems the sign posts interchange throughout the area).

The punt is in operation everyday between 8am-10am and from 4pm-6pm, river level permitting. And it's FREE!!




Helpful links

The last of it's kind in the Southern Hemisphere

In 1852, the adventurer, Thomas Archibald, took a whaling boat up the Clutha River as far as Beaumont. It must have been quite the adventure, even for the times back then. About a decade later gold was found in the area, then steamboats started coming up the river carrying supplies and prospectors. The Tuapeka River, a tributary of the Clutha River (at the time known as the Molyneux), flowed by a settlement known as Tuapeka Mouth. It became a little hub of activity from which a small town was born. The main road between the towns of Balclutha and Beaumont was on the other side of the river and at the time there was no way to cross it. After the local farmers spent too many years of traveling to far-off punts to get their livestock onto the other river bank, finally a punt was bought and installed.

The punt officially opened in 1896. Since then it has been running non-stop, aside from occasional maintenance, and for a few strikes and such. It was listed as a Category 1 historic place in February 2013 after much debate over whether it was a vessel or an installation. The punt used today is substantially the craft that was put in place in 1915. It was bought from the town of Tuatapere, having already been employed there on the Waiau River. In 1940 there was an engine and propeller installed, but a year later removed for unknown reasons.

There were many mishaps over the years during its use. For example, in 1928, John and Mary Fahey drove their Chevrolet onto the punt but the car's brakes failed and they went right off the other side, into the Clutha. The Puntman at the time steered the vessel in attempt to rescue the couple, throwing a rope from it that John managed to get a hold of and rescue himself with. But unluckily Mrs. Fahey was wearing a fur coat at the time, it's wet weight dragging her to the depths of the Clutha. For more stories and history please read >this article<

Another ride please - Stu