This full day expedition provides an opportunity to explore the Waikaia Bush Road, a fairly rugged 4WD track requiring a reasonable amount of off road experience to safely traverse. From the serene Waikaia river, lush beech forest, tussock plateaus, gold mining and massive rock Tor covered scenery, this road provides access to the beautiful Umbrella and Old Man Ranges.



Waikaia is situated in Northern Southland. The first visitors were Māori hunting moa on the tussocklands of the Garvie Mountains and Old Man Range. Gold discoveries further up the valley in 1862 brought a rambunctious town, known then as Switzers, with hotels, dancing halls and gambling dens. The last productive claim was King Solomon’s Mine, which closed in 1937. A rail line operated from 1909 to 1959.





This is a big day.

From Queenstown we head west through the Kawarau Gorge  to historic Bannockburn. From Bannockburn we start climbing steeply to 1280m on the Duffers Saddle Road, providing commanding views over Lake Dunstan and Cromwell. This area has an average annual temperature close to zero degrees Celsius. As a result the ranges are dotted with distinctive schist rock tors and bisected by fields of freeze-thaw hummocks and mounds, creating a wave-like effect across the slopes and basins.

We negotiate the old gold mining tracks and trails traversing the Old Woman and Old Man Ranges which run from north-west to south- east, creating a rain shadow that blocks and absorbs southerly fronts, making Central Otago New Zealand’s driest area. Attaining the height of 1740m we start travelling through the Kopuwai Conservation area, with stunning Central Otago vistas on our left, and the Nevis Valley and Hector Mountains on our right.


Unlike our Kopuwai tour which exits via the Obelisk Rock, this tour proceeds onto the Waikaia Bush Road,  Piano flat and Waikaia. Once we hit the ridge the countryside has commanding views over the Garvie and Umbrella mountains. Rock tors are a common feature in this landscape adding to the dramatic views.

There is a  rock step section that requires vehicles have good entry and exit departure angles (vehicles with low overhanging front or rear bumpers and tow-bars are not suitable for this trip).

From the ridgeline we descend via a zigzag track down through stunning beech forest at Piano Flat beside the Waikaia River and onto Waikaia township, Lumsden and back to Queenstown.


Due to safety with conditions, if it is wet or raining at Piano Flat we will not attempt the zigzag track section before Piano Flat. Instead we will exit as per our Kopuwai tour at the Obelisk and Central Otago.







    • Waikaia Bush Road
    • Umbrella Range
    • Old Man Range
    • Obelisk rock
    • Potters
    • Historic Clyde
    • Mitchells cottage
    • Gold mining history




    • $950 single vehicle - private tour
    • $POA - 2 or more vehicles




    • 8-12 hours ex Queenstown




    • Fully guided day
    • Hand held radio use
    • Morning tea
    • 15% NZ Goods and Service Tax


We offer discounts off the standard price with the following.

    • Booking 2 or more vehicles
    • Multi day bookings




  • Vehicle insurance suitable for this tour.
  • All terrain tyres preferred with minimum 60% tread.
  • Hi/low ratio.
  • This tour requires a medium level of off-road driving experience. It is not considered a beginner trip. There is one section of track with rock steps, vehicles need good clearance front and rear.
  • Due to safety with track conditions, if it is wet or raining at Piano Flat we will not attempt this track.
  • A full list of vehicle requirements is on our booking form. Contact us for details.
  • This tour operates on farm tracks and DOC land. As per most backcountry routes this tour has narrow tracks, and tracks at height. Drivers need to be confident driving on back country roads.
  • Due to hazard identification over hand held radios, English must be your first language.




Three steps for booking


  1. Email us at
  2. We will send you a link to the booking forms. Please read, sign and return. We can collect these on tour day.
  3. Payment options
    1. Online link we will supply - visa, mastercard, eftpos
    2. Direct bank transfer
    3. On the day, visa, mastercard, eftpos or cash




Full day tours depart 7:30 am




These trips run from mid December to mid April, depending on snow conditions.

Please contact us to discuss dates.








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Waikaia bush road 4x4 tour
4wd expeditions queenstown new zealand

4WD Expeditions Limited

PO Box 1046

Queenstown 9348

New Zealand


From New Zealand

Email  :

Freephone : 0800 4WD FUN (493 386)

Cell : 021 244 3920


From Overseas / International

Email  :

Phone : + 64 21 244 3920

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