Old Dunstan Road: Ultimate 4wd destination in NZ

Old Dunstan Road is a 4x4 track located in the Otago Region in the South Island of New Zealand.

Old Dunstan Road

Is the Old Dunstan Road paved?

The road, also known as The Dunstan Trail, ranges from a sealed road to a graveled track. In wet conditions, parts of the trail are unrideable because of sticky mud. Much of the route is only suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles. The road is sealed at the start and turns to gravel after 9.2km. It then varies between gravel, clay and bare rock. It is rutted in places, slippery when wet, dusty when dry and can be closed in winter by snow and ice. There is no shelter from the weather, which can change quickly, and it is bitterly cold in a southerly. Because of the fragile environment, vehicles and mountain bikes must keep to the track.

How long is Old Dunstan Road?

It’s 46.1 km (28.64 miles) long, running south-north from New Zealand 87 State Highway, at Clarks Junction to Upper Taieri-Paerau Road. The road was part of the original route called the Mountain Road taken by hardy people seeking their goldrush fortunes in the early 1860s, to travel from Dunedin to the goldfields in Central Otago.

Is the Old Dunstan Road open?

The drive has steep parts and tops out by Rough Ridge, at 1.040m (3,412ft) above the sea level. Closed for about four months each winter (usually from the first Tuesday in June to 30th of September), the Old Dunstan Road is best traversed with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. It can be done on a rainy day too but the road will change into a single mud track. The difficulty by wet condition is that the rain fill up the road and it is possible that the water level is front wheel depth. Underneath the water is the original track which is heavily used by 4X4 cars, and the cars left big drive lines behind which are not visible from the bike so the risk is very high to slope and slide to the side in the middle of one of the mud pools and drawn down the bike. It is a great fun drive in dry weather conditions but can get a bit hairy during rain. There are a few fords to cross, thus better use a 4WD. But by dry condition the track is fine to ride, there are few passages which need extra care since flat gravel is very loose on the driveway the bike could slip on those medium size flat rocks, especially if you travel downhill.