As the Power of the Dog movie continues to enjoy box office and Golden Globes success, writer Alexia Santamaria reveals its Central Otago set locations.
It’s no secret that many important films have been shot in Aotearoa: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Wolverine, the Last Samurai, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and many more. And of course, the latest on this list is highly-acclaimed The Power of the Dog. Set in Montana, a lot of the big sky, barren countryside in Jane Campion’s latest masterpiece was filmed in the lower South Island; and if you happen to be thinking about trying out the Central Otago Touring Route this summer, you can experience some of those stunning landscapes yourself.
The Power of the Dog is set in the wilds of America and the sparsely populated, grassy plains and rocky mountains of Central Otago – especially around the Maniatoto – were an uncanny match for Montana in the 1920s. In times where the US feels a little further away you can definitely get that wide-open feel as you follow the new(ish) route launched at the end of 2020. Although you can’t actually enter the custom-made barn on Home Hills Station at the foot of the Hawkdun Ranges, where Benedict, Jesse and Kirstin lived, you can definitely see some things that appear in the movie as well as visit other locations with a similar historical vibe.
Here are some scenes from the movie you can marvel over next time you’re tackling the Central Otago Touring Route.
Magnificent mountain ranges
If you’re looking for the amazing mountain ranges that provide the backdrop to the Burbank Ranch scenes, you’ll find them between Ōtūrehua and Naseby. The sight of these peaks will take your breath away as you journey down the vast winding highway framed in varying golden hues.
Dunedin Railway Station
Whether you finish or start in Dunedin you’ll definitely recognise the distinct Railway Building from the parents’ arrival scene. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Saturday you can even go to the market and fill up on your Otago favourites such as stonefruit, pastries, cheese and charcuterie. Make sure you take that selfie so your overseas friends can see you hang out in places where the hottest new movies are filmed. Just another day in New Zealand, really.
The Bannockburn Sluicings also make an appearance in the movie. This spectacular landscape of cliffs and pinnacles is the remnants of large-scale water blasting during the 19th century. Put aside a minimum of half an hour to walk through and explore what is left of the dams, tunnels, walls, and water races used to feed water to the mining sites. There are even some remains of the stone house, the blacksmith shop, and the caves and rock shelters where the poorest miners lived. If you’re visiting the sluicings it would be ridiculous not to pop into a winery – or three – while you’re in the area. Mt Difficulty, Te Kano and Domain Road are all close by if you need to refuel.
Oteake Reserve and Falls Dam
Further up the road from the farmhouse location is Oteake Reserve and Falls Dam which has walking and mountain biking opportunities and a small lake and dam tucked away with fishing shacks. It wasn’t in the movie but it’s very pretty and very close to where so much of the film was shot.
And if you find yourself caught up in the historical vibe, there are plenty of other opportunities to step back in time while travelling this route …
The Gilchrist Store
The Ōtūrehua store has been servicing the area since 1902. This historic building is one of the best-known stores in Central Otago and is heaven for nostalgia enthusiasts. On a practical level, you can buy modern-day goods, but you’ll also find memorabilia such as the original telephone exchange, an antique bacon slicer, tinned coffee and food from the late 1800s.
Hayes Engineering Works
Always a popular stop. It’s the legacy of English immigrants Ernest and Hannah Hayes, who settled in Central Otago after their arrival in 1882. Visitors love to marvel at the workshop and homestead of these 19th-century pioneers who were known for their incredible resourcefulness, skill and determination.
St Bathans is a slight detour from the Central Otago Touring Route, but one worth taking. Parts of the film were shot in this area but not in the town itself. Either way, this quaint historic town has barely changed since the heady days of gold fever and is fascinating to explore.
Whether you’re a film buff looking to immerse yourself in a real-life movie set, or you’re just wanting to explore a different part of the country, make sure the Central Otago Touring Route is on your list this summer.