January 2019


Otago, South Island



Vehicle type

High clearance vehicle

Track type


The historic village of Macetown was in its gold mining boom in the late 1800s, and there are still a lot of cool old buildings and pieces of equipment along the road, making it an awesome place to explore. The road starts in Arrowtown, just north of Queenstown.

We arrived in Arrowtown just in time for the lunch rush at the height of the summer holiday - traffic was insane! Having to pull into the riverbed before we could find space to park up and air down was an exciting start to the trip.

As is often the way in the NZ overlanding community, we immediately met up with a cool group of people who were heading out at the same time. They’d done the road before so we asked for any tips before letting them pull ahead, which turned out to be for the best… more on that later. We were off, and Daniel had the wheel.

There are 23 river crossings on the way out to the old town, and some of them can be pretty deep at the wrong time of year. Thankfully we were there in summer, so it was a chill cruise through some awesome countryside to get to the old schoolhouse.

When we stopped off for lunch we got chatting to a group who had just pulled up in their stock Ranger and rental Hilux, both on road tires. It must have been a bumpy ride, but it just goes to show that anyone can get out there and give it a shot! However, we do recommend checking the limitations on your rental car agreement before heading off the main roads.

Traffic jam on one of the river crossings

Bit deep in the middle

Beyond the schoolhouse the track gets a bit more gnarly, especially if you’re me and go the wrong way. We had to pull a dodgy 5-point turn in the middle of the Arrow river to get back on track.

There’s a campground out by the old battery which would have been amazing to stay at - as it was still early afternoon and a busy time of year, we headed on, but will definitely be back to camp with a bit more planning. Just watch out for the most savage mosquitoes we’ve ever seen!

The old bake house

The old battery

Hills in the distance

We headed back to Arrowtown, stopping to take in the waterfalls, mountain views and bright blue rivers along the way. Daniel loves being passenger for the photography opportunities - until I realised, in the middle of a river crossing, that I’d lost the exit point and he had to get out in knee deep mountain water to go find the track. Luckily our old mates from the start pulled up behind and passed us to lead the way home. Cheers guys!

For the most part, the Macetown road is just a rutty gravel and dirt track, but the many river crossings and big drops can make it dodgy at the wrong time of year. We went out solo but there were a lot of other people around, so we knew we were all good.

Macetown has to be my top trip so far. Lots of water crossings, recent history and amazing vistas - all of my favourite things. It was an awesome day out and we can’t wait to do it again!