To Queenstown via the Old Dunstan Road
Summer 12/13 roadie, day 4, part 1
From Cardrona we were driving to Queenstown. This wasn’t far as the crow flies – not that New Zealand has crows but I’m sure any bird will suffice – but for once we had time up our sleeves and it was the perfect opportunity to delve into the Central Otago countryside. I’ve banged on before about loving this region of the country and this time we were able to head a bit further off the beaten track. Queenstown could wait until later.
Crown Range Road
Initially we needed to get to Alexandra, south-east of Queenstown. To get there it was a toss-up between going north back to Wanaka and then down, or carrying on through the Crown Range Road. We chose that.
Off the beaten path
Beyond Alexandra we silenced the satnav as it was of no help and reverted to printed maps – how old school! We turned into a paved road which became a metal (gravel) road and started to wind up and over hills into the Ida Valley.
Old Dunstan Road
The main goal of the day was to drive up the Old Dunstan Road to the Poolburn Dam. The road was part of the original route called the Mountain Road taken by hardy people seeking their goldrush fortunes in the early 1860s. It was later superseded by a longer but lower-lying route known as the ‘Pigroot’.
Closed for about four months each winter, the Old Dunstan Road is best traversed with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. But we were going to see how far we could get with Mike’s 2WD car!
We followed the road up the North Rough Ridge, gawping at the landscape which typifies this region: schist tors and rocky outcrops peppered liberally across miles of brown grass. We were so happy to be here and tore around trying to capture the look and feel in a few simple snaps.
We made it intact to the Poolburn Dam. Not knowing what to expect we were fairly amazed at the sight that unfolded before us, but as there are a few photos (noo, really?) I’ll cover that in the next post.
From Poolburn the Old Dunstan Road continues over the other side, but that seemed to really be for 4WDs so we decided not to push our luck. We’ll return another day with more suitable wheels! We returned the way we came, past the remains of the Moa Creek settlement established as a rest stop along the old route.
We drove over the Raggedy Range again, but further north this time and popped out in the little settlement of Ophir. A very very quiet place on our previous couple of visits, it actually had a bit more life to it this time thanks to the opening of a shop and a cafe. We drove through though, only stopping at the historic bridge on the way out to join the main road.
We now headed straight for Queenstown.
It was late afternoon by the time we rolled into Queenstown. After checking into our accommodation, a short distance away in Arthur’s Point (quite a cool area, I’ll pick that up in a separate post), we shot back into town to visit one of Mike’s favourite shops, Quest. Then there was just enough time to say hi to the lakefront and go for a quick walk before meeting friends for dinner.
Among other things, we wanted to find out what the plans were for New Years Eve the following night. A 70s party boat?