Something for everyone on the historic Tarras to Omakau route

A four-wheel-drive gravel road connecting Tarras to Omakau has fantastic views but is not...
A four-wheel-drive gravel road connecting Tarras to Omakau has fantastic views but is not suitable for general vehicles. PHOTOS: MARJORIE COOK
In our penultimate road trip around the region, Marjorie Cook heads to Omakau via Thomson’s Saddle.

Route

Tarras to Omakau via Thomson’s Saddle (40km, 3+ hours)

The drive

Narrow, undulating, gravel road for all-wheel or four-wheel-drive with a high wheelbase or mountain bikes. Gates, river crossings, stock. Pay attention to farming and Department of Conservation signs and follow Mountain Bike NZ’s off road code of etiquette.

The historic Come in Time battery surrounded by purple thyme on Doc conservation reserve.
The historic Come in Time battery surrounded by purple thyme on Doc conservation reserve.
Attractions

From Tarras, head north on State Highway 8 for 1km, then straight on to Ardgour Valley Rd at the 90-degree corner. Found the Tarras Golf Course? Wrong way! Head straight on to Cemetery Rd to reflect for a moment in the peaceful cemetery.

Backtrack to Ardgour Valley Rd and follow the sealed road for about 8km, before turning left on Thomson Gorge Rd. The gravel soon begins. Helpful red arrows become a red herring. They lead to a cherry orchard. Do not turn right on to Matilda Rise! Go straight through the gate, up the hill. Near the top, there’s a wide place to stop and enjoy the view back to Wanaka. There’s also a five-minute walk to the Come in Time Battery (circa 1880). Later, on the Omakau side, there is a cute stone shepherd’s hut and gorgeous Maniototo views. The road provides access to the Dunstan Range and conservation areas. There’s something for everyone: historic goldfields, skinks, hares, briar, kanuka, bellbirds, mountains, hunting. A bull likes to hog the road. Wait. He’ll get out of the way.

Fuel

About quarter of a tank one way. Best fill up at Tarras or Omakau if you want to return the long way on State Highway 8.

Tarras Cemetery, on Cemetery Rd, about 2km north of Tarras at the start of the Ardgour Valley.
Tarras Cemetery, on Cemetery Rd, about 2km north of Tarras at the start of the Ardgour Valley.
Eat and drink

BYO picnic at the Come in Time Battery or the shepherd’s hut. Fish and chips, coffee and ice cream at Omakau’s Muddy Creek Cafe.

History

The historic Maori greenstone route is now known as Thomson’s Track, Thomson Gorge Rd or Thomson’s Saddle. John Turnbull Thomson did a marathon survey of Otago between 1856 and 1858. The road crosses the Rise and Shine Basin, a 19th century goldmining site.

Scorecard

5/5.

 

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter