A full day exploring the stunning Skippers Canyon with full commentary and interpretation at each stop. From Coronet Peak to the mighty Shotover River, we journey along the infamous 1889 road following the trail of the 1860s gold rush.





We meet at the Skippers Canyon turn off up Coronet Peak Road for a compulsory safety briefing, radio distribution and the plan for the day.


Following this, we begin our adventure by crossing Skippers Saddle to get our first views of Mt Aurum, the Skippers Road and a view of the high country terrain which we will drive through.


Highlights of the day include:


  • Hells and Heavens Gates
  • Lighthouse Rock
  • Historic gold mining relics
  • Shotover River
  • Major Lord of the Rings locations
  • Engineering marvel Pinchers Bluff
  • Traversing Skippers Bridge (1901)
  • Skippers School (1889)
  • Skippers Cemetery
  • and much more..


Your local kiwi guide, Del has guided tourists into Skippers Canyon since 1990. His knowledge and experience on the road conditions, history and region make this a truly remarkable adventure into the high country.


We aim to be out of the canyon by late afternoon.





Gold was discovered on the Shotover River at Arthurs Point in October of 1862 by Thomas Arthur and Henry Redfern. Thousands of miners travelled to the region and undertook extreme journeys to reach the gold in Skippers Canyon.


Access to the upper Shotover River was very difficult, this created the need for formed tracks, and in 1863 a man by the name of Armstrong constructed a pack trail from Arthurs Point, up through Coronet Saddle and down Long Gully to Maori Point.


Some of the early mining sites turned into permanent settlements. One of these was at Skippers Point, overlooking Skippers Creek, a tributary of the Shotover River. This settlement became known as Skippers. There are various explanations as to how the area become known as Skippers. One is that it was named after a former sea captain, “Skipper” Duncan, who was the first to sight gold in what is now Skippers Creek.


For over twenty years Armstrong’s Trail was used until the Skippers Canyon Road was opened in 1889.  The Skippers Road is an amazing feat of engineering and today remains mostly unchanged from the early days.  It took six years to build with four different contractors building different sections of the road. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust recognises the "Skippers Road as an iconic New Zealand road of outstanding heritage significance”.


People started to settle in the Lake Wakatipu area around the 12th century when the lake was first visited by the Waitaha people searching for pounamu (greenstone). By the 17th century Kāti Mamoe, who later intermarried with Kāi Tahu, were visiting the lake on a seasonal basis. At the junction of the Kimi Akau (Shotover River) and Kawerau, they established a settlement known as Tititea.


However, because these settlements had been mainly used on a seasonal basis, they had been deserted by the time the first Europeans arrived in the area in 1856. William Gilbert Rees (1827–1898) was a settler who had considerable influence on the area, establishing a sheep run on the eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu in 1860. In that same year Rees gave Kimi Akau its English name, the Shotover River, in honour of his associate George Gammie Maitland‟s country estate, Shotover House, in Wheatley, England.


History text credit DOC





click on image to view


Date: [circa 1880s-1930s] Photograph taken by Edgar Richard Williams. Pinchers BluffDate: [circa 1880s-1930s] Photograph taken by Edgar Richard Williams. Pinchers BluffDate: [circa 1880s-1930s] Photograph taken by Edgar Richard Williams.Date: [circa 1880s-1930s] Photograph taken by Edgar Richard Williams. Exiting Hells GateWelcome Home Hotel, Long Gully.Date: [circa 1920s-1930s. Photograph taken by William Williams or Edgar Williams. Deep creek and Shotover river.An unidentified person on a two horse drawn wagon on Skippers Canyon Road. circa 1917Devils Elbow looking towards deep creek, Shotover River. 1891-1910. Edgar Williams Collection, Alexander Turnbull LibraryThe Chair, Shotover River.View towards Lighthouse rock, Skippers Road.Blue Slip, Skippers Canyon.Entering Heavens Gate, Skippers Road.Coming off Pinchers Bluff.Bottom of Bell Hill, Skippers Canyon.Julien Bordeau, a French Canadian who had his stores depot at Junction Corner (better known today as Coronet Peak turnoff).  Goods from Queenstown would be delivered to the store where they were broken down into smaller lots suitable for pack horses to carry.Sluicing for gold using high pressure water canons.Aspinalls Terrace with the Otago Hotel to the left, and the Skippers Hall and Library to the right.An unidentified person on a two horse drawn wagon on Skippers Canyon Road. circa 1919<>4 - 18x



  • Full commentary at each stop
  • Explore the infamous 1889 Skippers Canyon gold mining road
  • Visit the 1879 Skippers school
  • Full day of exploring
  • Try your hand at gold panning on the mighty Shotover River
  • Includes morning tea





    • $895 single vehicle - private tour
    • $POA - 2 or more vehicles



    • up to 8 hours



    • Hand held radio use
    • Morning tea
    • Includes 15% NZ Goods & Services Tax



All our trips are run on demand.

We are able to confirm for one vehicle.

Full day tours depart 8:00 am


Different start times can be arranged if necessary.  Pick-ups at local accommodation by prior arrangement.




  • Vehicle insurance suitable for this tour.
  • 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 if necessary.
  • Hi/low ratio.
  • A full list of vehicle requirements is on our booking form. Contact us for details.
  • This tour is suitable for people with beginner off-road driving experience, however the tour operates on backcountry 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, clients must be fluent in english.
  • Skippers Canyon is a public road. Private and rental vehicle insurance policies must be checked to make sure they include Skippers Canyon. We can direct you to rental companies in Queenstown that allow their vehicles in Skippers.
  • During summer the road does not require 4WD vehicles, but further up the canyon there are small creeks to cross and areas that require vehicles with suitable ground clearance. Please contact us to check vehicle suitability.




3 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 - visa, mastercard, eftpos
    2. Direct bank transfer
    3. On the day, visa, mastercard, eftpos or cash













4WD Expeditions Limited

PO Box 1046

Queenstown 9348

New Zealand


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Freephone : 0800 4WD FUN (493 386)

Cell : 021 244 3920


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