Old Dunstan Road


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Old Dunstan Road is one the country’s most historic roads, having been constructed, for the main part by 1862, to facilitate movement between Dunedin and Central Otago. Its most important period of use was right at the start as it was the main route to the Dunstan goldfields until 1864. Built in a fairly direct line from the Taieri Plain to the Manuherikia Valley, the road crossed four mountain ranges and was by far the most direct route for those on foot or horse. The biggest difficulty was the exposed nature of much of the highland of the route, which left users vulnerable to poor weather. Dunstan Road was planned and work was underway well before the gold rush to the Dunstan began in August 1862. The road was conceived as one of several routes to the interior of the province, at a time when pastoralism was in its infancy. The road almost certainly followed a general line established by early drays moving between pastoral runs. In common with many other early roads, the Dunstan Road took a high route to avoid the difficulties, in time and cost, in crossing water courses. The first coaches to make the trip from Dunedin to the Dunstan on the road crossed in November 1862. While the route was much quicker than any other at the time, it was often impassable in winter and eventually this led to the decision by coaching companies to abandon the road in favour of low-level but longer options. The road still had mining traffic but within a few years users were mainly confined to the local and farming-related. The road continued to be used by such traffic in sufficient numbers to warrant its maintenance. This low-level care ensured the road remained open and today, with tourist traffic and an increasing awareness of the road’s significance, the road has had a significant increase in use. The section of Old Dunstan Road which is registered is a smaller, but still substantial, portion of the original road. It begins in the east at Clarks Junction and ends at Galloway Flat in the Manuherikia Valley. Composed mostly of a metalled road, the registration excludes those parts of the road under tarseal or which have been substantially widened or realigned, with the exception of a portion at the beginning of the registered road. The road is characteristic of the pre-motor vehicle era roads, with generally easy grades for horse-drawn traffic. However, there are steeper sections, which required passengers to alight (when climbing) or for rocks tied to the coach to be slung off the back as brakes when descending. The road moves through a range of landscapes from pasture to tussock and exposed rock, interspersed with lakes and rivers. In characteristic Central Otago fashion there are virtually no trees. Old Dunstan Road is one of the country’s premier heritage roads, by virtue of its historic importance and association with the very early days of Central Otago gold mining, its rarity as one of the country’s oldest extant roads, and its length, which is far in excess of any other recognised heritage road in the country. It remains a well known and highly regarded historic feature in Central Otago, visited and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Old Dunstan Road approaching the Poolburn Dam, Rough Ridge, from the north-east | Owen Graham | 01/06/2008 | Heritage New Zealand
Old Dunstan Road. View of road winding down Lammermoor Ranges towards Rocklands Station | M Kelly | 01/12/2008 | Heritage New Zealand
Old Dunstan Road. Fenceline with stone corner post | M Kelly | 01/12/2008 | Heritage New Zealand



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 1


Able to Visit

List Number


Date Entered

10th October 2010

Date of Effect

10th October 2010

City/District Council

Dunedin City,Central Otago District


Otago Region

Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the extant portions of the Old Dunstan Road (Road Reserve; Sec 24 SO 301570 (RT 47421) Otago Land District), from the intersection of State Highway 87 and Old Dunstan Road at Clarks Junction, to the intersection with Tiger Hills Road, Galloway Flat, Manuherikia Valley, as marked on the Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the registration report. The breadth of the item is 20 metres (legal width) from the centre of the road, or the formed road where it varies from the legal road. Registration includes any features within the legal width, road linkages on original alignments, and any historic associated structures (such as bridges, buildings, ruins, culverts, embankments, revetments, fences, ditches, abandoned alignment [immediately adjacent], and signs). Note: Known deviations are shown in Appendix 2 of the registration report; the deviations are still legal road and are included in the registration, except where under water.

Legal description

Road Reserve; Sec 24 SO 301570 (RT 47421), Otago Land District.

Location Description

The road covers a large distance from Clarks Junction, inland from Dunedin, to the Galloway Flat in the Manuherikia Valley, following an approximately north to north-west direction. The full address is Old Dunstan Road, Clarks Junction, Lammermoor Range, Rock and Pillar Range, Paerau (Styx), Linnburn Runs Road, Rough Ridge, Ida Valley, Poolburn, Webster Lane, Raggedy Range, Manuherikia, Galloway Flat, Otago.

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