Mining town reflection of past

A gold boom town named after the biblical King Solomon’s mine, gold was discovered here in 1863 and the population quickly rose to 1000 people. Originally known as Blacks, now only a handful of buildings remain including the courthouse, hall, police station and the post office. The post office is particularly notable and a favourite of photographers. Built of schist stone in 1863, it still has most of its original furnishings, and the internal configuration is unchanged from the time it was built. The building still functions as a post office (open for three hours each weekday morning) for the tiny population of only 50 people, and by a strange twist of history has been run by women since the 1890s.

While there, drop by the classy Blacks Hotel, the only building that bears the original name of the town. A stylish Art Deco building, the first hotel burned down and was replaced in the 1930s and is a popular stop with those on the rail trail.

Ophir is 28km north of Alexandra on SH85.

The book

High Hopes and Big Dreams: 165 New Zealand small towns in their twilight, by Peter Janssen and Elizabeth Anderson (White Cloud Books from Upstart Press, RRP $49.99)