Off-road to our Gold Rush Heritage
Did you know there is a deserted gold-mining town in the middle of remote Otago? See for yourself on this day Adventure, perfect for families and groups who want to get away from the tourist crowds in stunning Arrowtown.
Close to Queenstown, this tour is a good mix of bushwalking, off-road driving and – of course – gold panning. There are magnificent spots along the Arrow River that only locals know how to get to, and I’m one of them.
What a lovely trip this was. The surprise for us was setting up to gold pan and then turning around to see all the picnic items laid out across our small, private beach next to the river. Very much enjoyed the local stories and having the ghost town all to ourselves, no other people around! Would highly recommend doing this.
Don’t spend a typical day in Queenstown, come and spend it with me in Arrowtown’s wilderness. You will experience:
- Local culture and shops.
- Gold panning in secret, peaceful spots only locals know how to get to.
- Macetown – the abandoned, historic village.
- A gentle but rewarding hike.
- History and information about the region.
Let me show you some very special "off the beaten track" places in our beautiful southern South Island region. Having led tramping and walking trips in this region for over 45 years I have a good understanding of what makes a safe and enjoyable trip. My trips are at a moderate pace and allow ample time for photography and to fully appreciate your surroundings. I am passionate about protecting and enhancing our environment and volunteer with Predator Free Arrowtown, Wilding Conifer Control Group and the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust. I love sharing my passion for our unique landscapes, fauna and flora with visitors to the region. I have a modern, high clearance 4WD vehicle that helps with access to more remote areas and with snowy or icy conditions. My region is a land of contrasts. From the semi-arid tussock and schist rolling hills of Central Otago to the temperate rain forests, incredible towering peaks, glaciers and snowfields, waterfalls and crystal clear rivers of the Southern Alps.
- Worked in Ski Field management
- Worked for NZ Land Search and Rescue; rescued people from the Routeburn track in winter on foot
- Has traveled in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia (including the Tour Du Mont Blanc)
Our plan for the day
We’ll start our trip in historic Arrowtown (a quaint high street resembling a time from the cowboy era). Here, I’ll show you my favourite spots and shops showcasing the jade and gold nuggets found in the area. Afterwards, we’ll jump in my trusty 4×4 and drive towards the original highway system of New Zealand – the Arrow river.
Around 23 river crossings and several lookouts across the Arrow Gorge later, we’ll reach deserted Macetown in the middle of our remote backyard. We’ll take our time to explore the remains of NZ’s golden past and can go on a short bushwalk to a gold stamper left behind in the wilderness.
On our way back to the Ghost Town, I’ll tell you more about my home and why this region means so much to me. There is more to Otago than just bungy jumping, jet boats and beautiful lakes (although our Kiwi ingenuity is pretty impressive).
Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying our luck at some gold panning.
It’s not only incredibly relaxing and provides a chance to observe the curious fantails, but it may also bring you riches! Afterwards, there’s time to enjoy lunch and take a dip in the river, before we head back into town to round up our day.
Not your typical day
The trip is perfect for families and friends looking to spend a day in the backcountry surrounding our popular riverside town. No less than 23 river crossings await us with my trusty Toyota 4×4. When we reach the ghost town, which was once the bustling base for everyone caught in the gold rush, you’ll experience true New Zealand heritage and the challenging situations people once put themselves through all for the shining beauty of a gold nugget.
You can still find some gold flakes today, if not the odd nugget. You can almost smell the history here and feel the ghostly presence of a time so different from ours. To ensure you leave this place with a connection, I make it my absolute mission to answer any and all questions about the region.
Gold panning is a popular activity in Arrowtown and many find ways to do it including booking group tours in a 4×4, but I’m a local. I’ve lived here my whole life and know every stick and stone in the region. The real stories of Otago, New Zealand’s Wild West, are often kept between the locals and are seldom high up the list of discussions elsewhere, but I’m happy to share them with you. I want you to clearly see why I passionately call this place home.
All tours require the proper gear to ensure you’re having the time of your life, and are well prepared if things go south. It’s the real and rugged New Zealand out there!
750ML Water Bottle
Sunscreen & hat
Top Base layer
Warm hat & gloves (March to October)
Cutlery & cup
Lighter / Matches
Personal First Aid Kit
Torch & Batteries
There are add-on extras for this tour. These are the little things that’ll either make your Adventure easier to organise or more rugged - your choice. You can add these during the booking process.
Hike to old gold battery stamp
We can visit an old gold mining structure not far from Macetown. A physically spectacular site, the four-storey-high stamper battery sits on the Otago hills like a giant coffee grinder. Half the gold produced in New Zealand was pounded out of quartz rock in stamper batteries like this. The short hike is a great way to explore more of the area and suitable for all experience levels.Free
Q & A
Your Bushman has added a couple of answers to questions other Visitors have asked in the past to help you with your booking plans. Once you book a tour, you'll be in direct contact with your Bushman for more support.
Will my children enjoy this?
Yes, definitely! This trip is perfect for families and gold panning is always great entertainment for young and old alike. Just seeing the shimmer and shine of a gold spec brings with it so much joy. However, offroad driving is not safe for babies and toddlers - I am happy for you to bring children older than 5 years that do not need a baby seat.
My kids and I have never done offroad driving before. Is that a problem?
Not at all. I know every trick there is to safely navigate our NZ rivers and 4x4 accessed roads, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
In my experience, visitors that have never done offroading before usually have the most fun on this trip as it’s such an exciting activity. I can also give you some insights on my 4x4 and river-crossing techniques to perhaps inspire you to take up the hobby one day, too.
What clothing do I need to bring?
In summer, it’s usually hot and humid around Arrowtown. Breathable clothes and sun protection like a hat will help against the heat and is a must (you will burn out there).
I always recommend bringing a rain jacket for the occasional shower and hiking shoes/boots, as we will do some bushwalking once we’ve reached the Ghost Town. Don’t forget your towel and togs if you want to take a dip in the river.
Here’s a few answers to the more general questions about the whole journey. You can visit our help and support area for any further information or contact us via the chat function.
What is the refund and cancellation policy?
Bushman Tours sets a standard cancellation policy that can be found via our Terms & Conditions. This is globally set at 48 hours notice. However, Bushmen may add to this depending on the requirements for the Adventure (e.g. - hiring gear and renting equipment on your behalf). The final policy will be located at the bottom of the checkout, or you can reach out to us to check.
What happens if the tour is cancelled due to weather?
In most cases, the Bushman can arrange another day to run your tour, but this also comes down to when you're available if travelling through New Zealand. We recommend ensuring you have insurance for cancellation of any tours. If the Bushman has to cancel due to a health risk, we will call you to arrange another option.
What gear do I need?
Although we have a minimum requirement of gear, you will need the right equipment and gear that is relevant to the Adventure you're booking. This is usually found at the bottom of each tour page, but for our minimum, please visit our FAQs & blog page.
Can I hire gear/equipment?
In some circumstances, your Bushman will have equipment for you to hire. This is available to browse and book through the checkout. We may also have options through our checkout. Although you may be able to borrow gear during the tour, it's important to reserve it now.
What food shall I bring?
Depending on the length, this can vary. Your Bushman will advise on the tour page what is recommended for this particular Adventure, but typically, what we offer at checkout via the add-ons section is what you'll need. Keep it lightweight and nutritious if you buy your own.
Where do I meet my Bushman?
We always try to pick the closest iSite (Visitor Centre) to your Adventure's location. Instructions on precisely where to meet are sent after the booking is made. However, you can also message your Bushman and arrange another location as long as it's close enough to the region.
How much extra is it to add family/friends onto the booking?
If you book and find that more people want to come with you, we can arrange to add them onto the booking (this is dependant on the Bushman's preference to the number of people to take out). The more that book on the original checkout option, the cheaper the fee for each individual - so spread the word before you go to book! Please note, you cannot add or bring extra people 48 hours before the tour starts.
Can I talk to my Bushman before the Adventure?
Absolutely! Once you book, you will be able to login and chat directly to your Bushman through a private, secure chat. Here you can arrange some extras you would like to do, timings for pick up and much more.
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