This full day expedition provides a wonderful opportunity to explore some of Central Otago’s best kept secrets, namely: historic Ophir township, Poolburn Dam, the Serpentine Road, one of New Zealand's most remote Churches and the Old Dunstan Road.







From Queenstown we head to Central Otago, stopping at the historic Clyde township for a quick stroll and morning tea and then on to Ophir. Ophir,  originally known as Blacks, was a thriving gold mining town built on the back 1863 gold rush. During these years it became a commercial and social hub with a population of 1000, a far cry from its current population of 50! It is of historical interest due to the many original buildings including the restored Post and Telegraph Office, the 1895 Courthouse, and the 1870s Police Station. After a stop at Pitches Store, we travel to the Ida Valley and climb up to the Poolburn Dam to navigate our way through a very different and expansive Central Otago landscape. From here, we make our way towards the old gold mining township of Serpentine, named after the winding path of the nearby Waimonga Creek. Then, depending on conditions, we can either carry on along the Serpentine Road to exit the Serpentine Conservation area on the Upper Taieri Plain or travel to Lake Onslow and exit near Roxburgh township.






Over 1,000 m above sea level, the Serpentine church was the most elevated in New Zealand when it opened in 1873. Today it is the only remnant of a once-bustling village. Much of the town’s rich heritage is hidden beneath the tussock: tailings, water races, dams, sod pits and the remains of buildings.


The area became known as the Serpentine after the discovery of gold in 1863 transformed this remote area into a vibrant gold-mining town. A settlement quickly sprang up, with two store-hotels, a church, blacksmiths, a cemetery, and huts of sod, wood and thatch with gardens and potato-storage pits. The formed road you come in on follows part of the original dray track used by miners. The Serpentine reached its peak population (150 Chinese and 80 Europeans) around 1873.





Built in the early 1930s for irrigation and a great depression employment initiative, the Poolburn Reservoir (also known as Poolburn Dam) and its striking scenery has been popularised by being used as a location in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.





  • Available on our guided tour or tag along or passenger tour
  • Serpentine Road
  • Remote 1873 Church
  • Poolburn Reservoir
  • Original Dunstan Road
  • Historic Clyde
  • Historic Ophir
  • Pitches Store, Ophir
  • 1878 stamping battery




Vehicle requirements

  • Four wheel drive
  • All terrain tyres preferred with minimum 60% tread
  • Road tyres can be used on dry days but will need to be deflated to a lower pressure
  • Hi/low ratio





Passenger tour price (min 2 adults)

  • $349 per adult, $50 per child, Full day.

These prices are for vehicle charter and guide. You will only be with your own group.


Tag Along tour price

  •  $799 per vehicle

We offer discounts off the standard price with the following.

    • Booking 2 or more vehicles
    • Family bookings
    • Multi day bookings





Full day tours depart 8:00 am or as arranged




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

Please contact us to discuss dates.








click on image to view


The stamper battery, waterwheel and shed in 1931.Photo: Battery Shed and waterwheel, Serpentine, 1931, L.G. Penfold photographBogged carriage. Transport to the Dunstan goldfields, c.1892Cobb & Co's Coach gold escort, RoxburghGoldminers right. Issued to William Rocheford. Date 13th February 1862Transport to the Dunstan goldfields, c.1892Serpentine area, date unknownThe sod huts built here may have looked like this one. Reverend Alexander Donand an unidenti ed Chinese miner outside a sod house, Mitchells Flat, Otago. <>1 - 7x


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