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.



The first visitors were Māori hunting moa on the tussocklands of the Garvie Mountains and Old Man Range. As a results of gold discoveries further up the valley in 1862,  a rambunctious town known then as Switzers grew complete 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. Starting early, we drive South to Lumsden, then turn inland to the small Southland township of Waikaia. From Waikaia we pass through stunning beech forest at Piano Flat beside the Waikaia river before the 4WD section starts. The Waikaia Bush Road climbs very steeply up to the tussock country. This track is not for beginners, it has extremely steep and narrow sections, rock steps and generally requires a good background in off roading. The rock steps require vehicles that have good entry and exit departure angles (vehicles with low overhanging front or rear bumpers and tow-bars are not suitable for this trip). 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. We have two main exit points for this trip, either the Obelisk and down to Alexandra, or extending on to Duffers saddle and Cromwell.

Due to safety with conditions, if it is wet or raining at Piano Flat we will not attempt the Waikaia Bush Road.




Article about the Waikaia Bush Road








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




Vehicle requirements

  • Four wheel drive
  • All terrain tyres preferred with minimum 70% tread
  • Hi/low ratio
  • Due to safety with track conditions, if it is wet or raining at Piano Flat we will not attempt this track.
  • Experience off-roading is a must for this tour. It is not considered a beginner trip.





Passenger tour price

  • $399 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





Full day tours depart 7:30am or as arranged.




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

Please contact us to discuss dates.









click on image to view


Gold mine sited near Waikaia / Switzers MuseumChinese on the Otago goldfields / Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of OtagoChinese at work near Winding Creek, Waikaia / Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of OtagoA dredging operation, 1890s / Toitu Otago Settlers Museum The original Switzers, 1867 / Otago Witness The Otago GoldfieldsChinese Miners at Muddy Creek, Waikaia / Toitu Otago Settlers Museum Miners on a claim / Toitu Otago Settlers Museum The Rev. Don at a Chinese house near Waikaia / Toitu Otago settlers Muse umChinese Village, Waikaia / Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hakena, University of Otago A sluice at Switzers Claim. Five men stand on either side of the stream of water.The image above of a notice in Chinese characters from a 19th-century gambling house in Switzers (Waikaia), Southland, sets out rules for gambling. The text, translated into English, reads: A notice announcing to people that:, Gold rings will be taken by weight, If you pawn your ring you have one month to redeem it, One ounce of gold is worth 90 shillings, You cannot pawn your suit or watch, You must follow these rules, You can compare these rules with other places, these are considered fair rules. Dated the 21st day of the 9th month [1887].<>6 - 12x


4WD Expeditions Limited

PO Box 1046

Queenstown 9348

New Zealand


From New Zealand

Email : info@4WDexpeditions.nz

Freephone : 0800 4WD FUN (493 386)

Cell : 021 244 3920


From Overseas / International

Email : info@4WDexpeditions.nz

Phone : + 64 21 244 3920

Mobile site

© 2018 4WD Expeditions. All rights reserved.