21 July 2015

Tuapeka Mouth Ferry, Clutha River

  • View down the Clutha River with the Tuapeka Mouth Ferry on the left bank. Photograph courtesy of J. McGowan.
  • Vintage Car Rally at Tuapeka Mouth Ferry, May 2011. Photograph courtesy of J. McGowan.

The Tuapeka Mouth Ferry is a local icon and is said to be the last water-driven public punt in the Southern Hemisphere.

Early in the history of European settlement the Clutha River was crossed by rowboats, but community pressure saw a ferry service established near Tuapeka Mouth in 1895.

Known locally as “The Punt”, the original vessel had wooden pontoon hulls. This was replaced in 1915 by a steel hulled punt that previously operated on the Waiau River in Southland.

To control the ferry, two heavy wire cables across the river, one upstream and one downstream, are permanently attached, and the craft is powered across the river solely by water current pressure against its rudders, attached to the rear of the pontoon hulls. This historic ferry generally crosses the 130 metre width of the river in about four minutes.

The Punt has been used to carry livestock and farm equipment, horses, gigs and wagons, but today it usually carries cars, other motorised road vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

At present the ferry remains a part of the local road network and is owned by the Clutha District Council, part funded by the NZ Transport Agency, and is operated by the Clutha District Council's Roading Maintenance Contractor.

Heritage recognition

This place has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand as a Category 1 historic place (List no.9599):
Tuapeka Mouth Punt and Jetty: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information.

Find out more


Tuapeka Mouth township is 32 kilometres up the Clutha River from Balclutha, South Otago.


Access is via the Lawrence to Tuapeka Mouth Highway. The punt is operational on weekdays for two hours in the morning (8–10am) and in the evening (4–6pm).

The Clutha District Council website has further access information.

Further reading

Roger Hodgkinson and Murray John Service, 'Tuapeka Mouth Ferry: Taking heritage into the future', paper presented at the 4th Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference (2014).