This is one of my favorite Central Southland routes, on a clear sunny day the road is absolutely heaven for adventure riding. It can be done on a rainy day too but the road will change into a single mud track. I have done the road on both conditions and had at the end a big smile on my face despite the rain and mud challenged me to keep the bike up. 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. 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 down hill.
My journey started in Alexandra and I drove up to Galloway, from there I turned onto Crawford Hills Road, where the Gravel road begins. It is a very well prepared road with some nice lookouts on the Dunstan Mountains and North Gough Ridge. The Old Dunstan Road is just a short drive from this point and it is sign posted on Old Dunstan Road or Poolburn Reservoir. The scenery changes from now on many times beside the road pile up rocks and pillars which are very impressive.
My favorite camp spot is above the Poolburn Reservoir, with a great 180 panorama view, by day and night. Just few kilometers up the road is the first gate, from this part of the road start private land, please stay on the track because the environment is very fragile. After the second gate is a junction if you go to the right you get access to Long Valley Ridge Road which is connected to Serpentines. I decided to stay on the road and drive to Linnburn runs. There is many livestock on such as sheep and cattle, the road is very exposed and steep.
The Linnburn Runs is the first part of the Old Dunstan Road, follow the sign post Paerau which is a historic settlement, remaining of the Styx Jail and the Historic Hotel dated back to 1861 are a good opportunity for a short stop before continue the second part of the Old Dunstan Road. The road is like a highway on gravel, but not a single pot hole or bump. First highlight is just after the first crossing of the upper Taieri bridge, an old grave yard which is dated back to the time gold has been discovered in this time around 1861. The highest point of the whole road is around the next corner of 918m.
There is one more lake to come Longburn Reservoir, even though it is close to the highest passing point of the whole road it is a good place for camping out before continue to the next day’s journey to Dunedin. The whole road is about 190km off road with different kind of landscapes and changing sceneries, however there is no washroom along the road for a comfort stop.
Actually, Old Dunstan Road will be closed in the winter month from 1st June till 1st October. I highly recommend this trip and do some amazing back country camping, to do the whole road over 3 days is really worth it!