McKenzie Basin – Otago – Southland

NZ  4×4 Treks  High Country Wilderness 2019

Day 1….The assembly point for the start of the trip is Fairlie, an alpine village nestled at the entrance to the MacKenzie Basin with impressive views of the Dobson Mountains. This is a chance to meet the team, relax and discuss highlights of the trip ahead, evening meal and accommodation for this night are part of your package and for the next 7 nights. Our dinner will be at the Silverstream Pub in the  delightful village of Kimball and accommodation is at the Pinewood Motel on the main Fairlie – Tekapo road in Fairlie itself.

Meet at the Motel at 5.00pm for the trip briefing which will include details of the Safety Procedures required by the Adventure Activity Legislation in New Zealand and a run down on the upcoming trip before heading out for our meal at the Silverstream Hotel .

Day 2….Blue Mountain Station

Assemble on grass verge outside Motel for a briefing on our planned route for the day. Then we head North out of Fairlie taking Clayton Road through Sherwood Downs and Clayton with beautiful views of Mount Fox on our Left, the Four Peaks Range on our right and the Clayton and Ben McLeod Ranges to the North. As we progress North you will also get great Views of the Two Thumb Range in the Southern Alps. We cross the Orari River into a private High Country Station and follow the river through open country dotted with native bush, poplars and willows. The track heads East into the gorge of the Orari River with views of Mt. Peel ( 1717m ) in the north and the Four Peaks Range now South as we follow the river to finally  head out to Tripp Settlement at tracks end.

A welcome second nights accommodation this evening back in Fairlie where we relax, and discuss the days events and a chance to sample another of Mandy’s great dishes at the Silverstream Pub.

 Day 3 Fairlie to Omarama

Assemble at Fairlie at 8.15am, head to Black Forest High Country Station via Burkes Pass, do track on edge of Lake Benmore ( the turquoise coloured Lake on my Website heading ) in the morning with amazing views of the Lake  and then follow pylon track in the afternoon through very rugged country more akin to Afghanistan landscape, chance of encountering Wallaby in this area, the native NZ Falcon and Deer .Exit from this track over the Benmore Dam, part of the Pukaki Hydro scheme, the biggest and most ambitious hydro scheme undertaken in New Zealand until construction of the Clyde Dam .

Stay at Omarama’s Ahuriri Motels that evening, with a meal in the Heritage Hotel , an easy walk from the Motel and a chance to stretch the legs after a great day’s 4WD’ing.

Day  4 –Omarama to Alexandra

 Head up and over the Dunstan Mountain Range ( 5000ft ) , one of the most stunning views in the South Island, Mt. St. Bathans  (7000ft), Mt. Aspiring (one of the highest peaks in NZ), the MacKenzie Basin, and the Hawkdun Range. Our track takes us along the tops of the mountain range with the Maniatoto Basin extending way out below us to the South as far as the Old Man Range and the Hector Mountains where we will be on Day 5.

This is a landscape like no other with amazing schist outcrops in all directions and scenery that conjures up visions of Lord of the Rings battles , some of the most beautiful Tussock lands to be seen anywhere in the mountains will really impress as we make our way along the ridge at 5000Ft altitude.

Our accommodation this evening is at Centennial Court Motel in Alexander where we will also have our evening meal on site at the Sixty Six Restaurant and get to meet our very friendly host for the evening , Benn , who serves up a great traditional South Island menu. 

Day  5  – The Pisa Range to Cardrona

Follow Lake Dunstan formed by the damming of the Clutha to a private High Country Station in the wine growing country of Central Otago. Trek through the grapevines at the start of the trek then on up through the schist outcrops and into the alpine scenery of the Pisa Range stopping for lunch beside one of the many tarns in this area. Climb on up to Mt. Pisa, ( 6000ft ) one of the highest tracks on our itinerary and take in the glorious vista out over the valley with Lake Dunstan in the foreground and the Dunstan Mountains where we trekked on Day 3 forming the perfect backdrop. The alpine scenery on this range is different from anything else on the trip and feels more like being on the moon. From these lofty heights we head to the famous Cardrona pub which is featured on my website via the testing facility where the worlds top vehicle and tyre manufacturers test their products in controlled conditions under extreme temperatures. This evening we will hosted by Cade and Elaine at the famous Cardrona Pub, one of New Zealand’s iconic Hotels full of memorabilia from the Gold Rush days in this area and always a memorable stop.

Day 6 –Cardrona to Kingston

Today we will guide you over the Crown Range to the famous Queenstown Basin,we then follow the Kawarau Gorge and Kawarau River which is the confluence of the Shotover and Arrow Rivers and runs into the mighty Clutha. From here we climb up over Duffers Saddle East  of the Remarkable range and trek through to the isolated Nevis Valley which is snowed in for 6 months of the year. There are multiple crossings of the Nevis River as we make our way South taking in the local gold mining history and stopping at the Nevis crossing for a sobering visit to the old cemetery.

A climb of 5000Ft to the saddle crossing out of the Nevis Valley with stunning views of the picturesque Kingston Valley brings us into Southland, quite different from the MacKenzie Basin or Otago where we have been so far, it is now one of the richest dairying areas of NZ but is very sparsely populated.

This evening we bunk down at the Kingston Motel in the pretty lakeside village of Kingston with it’s rich early settler history and meal right across the road at the Kingston Corner Café and Bar. A walk down to the lake’s edge before dinner is highly recommended.

Day  7 –  –.Mavora Lakes , Mt Nicholas , Kingston

Heading South from Kingston we look forward to a  mandatory coffee stop in Mossburn , on this  pretty drive we will pass the Mataura River , one of New Zealand’s most famous trout fishing rivers , go   through Five River’s and finally on  to the stunning Mavora Lakes between the Thompson and Livingston Mountains where scenes from the movies “ Lord of the Rings” were filmed.

Today’s track starts at the Mavora Lakes where we will enter an iconic Beech Forest , walk on a swingbridge across the Mavora South Lake outlet , travers the North Mavora Lake shore , then on the return we will take you into New Zealand’s 2nd biggest High Country Station , Mt Nicholas bordered by the Eyre Mountains , one of the southernmost mountain ranges in New Zealand.

A welcome second night’s stay this evening at Kingston and a chance to sample more of Paul’s great selection at the corner café.

Day  8  – —  Skippers stay Queenstown

Our trip to Queenstown takes us on one of the most scenic drives in the South Island along the Eastern edge of Lake Wakatipu  and brings us to the adventure capital of New Zealand and this evenings destination , Queenstown.

Today we climb up the Coronet peak Road to access the amazing Skippers Canyon Track . With it’s twisting contortions this is an engineering feat that still commands respect, taking 20 years and many lives lost to punch through a route to supply the miners working the Shotover which the “ Otago Daily Times” described as the  “richest river in the world”!

This now famous access to the Branches High Country Station was first carved into the side of the cliff overlooking the mighty Shotover River by Goldminers looking to make their fortune in what turned out to be one of the most productive but treacherous gold recovery areas in New Zealand. The track winds through Skipper’s Canyon with some great photo opportunities before dropping down to the entrance to the Branches High Country Station.

The track takes us through the 274m long section called Pinchers Bluff, the most difficult section cut through sheer rock face using only picks shovels and a lot of Dynamite, to the old mining town of the same name.

Here we can take a breath and browse through the old schoolhouse with it’s classic photos and memorabilia of the mid 1800’s when gold mining was at it’s peak and 10,000 people inhabited Skipper’s. 

Accomodation this evening is in Queenstown at the remarkable Nugget Point Resort with prizegiving in the spectacular reception area of the Hotel sitting several hundred feet above the Shotover River, and dinner is at the incomparable Skyline Restaurant accessed by climbing several thousand feet by cable car and views to die for over a buffet offering a magic variety of dishes.

Please note all tracks are weather dependant and NZ 4×4 Treks reserves the right to change the itinerary at any time to accommodate adverse conditions which could affect access and compromise Station Owners, safety of vehicles and safety of clients.