Danseys Pass Road
An adventurous trip in the South Island is to drive Danseys Pass Road across the Kakanui Mountains from Naseby in Central Otago’s Maniototo Plain to the Waitaki Valley in Canterbury. The drive only takes about an hour and a half, but there are multiple points of interest, so we recommend allowing a couple of days.
William Dansey was one of the first Europeans to cross the pass. He arrived in NZ in 1854 to build a fortune by finding and acquiring a large tract of land. He crossed the pass over the Kakanui Mountains from Waitaki Valley in 1855 in search of suitable farmland in the Maniototo Valley but instead became the lessee of the huge Otekaike Station from 1857 to 1871. This station stretched from the pass into the Waitaki Valley to Duntroon and Kurow. Allan and John McLean, brothers who owned regional sheep stations, subsequently built the road. Prospectors discovered gold around Naseby, Mount Buster and Kyeburn in 1863, around the south end of the road.
On the Naseby side, Dansey Pass Road starts with outstanding views of the string of mountain ranges that run northwest to southeast from the Lindis Pass towards the east coast between Moeraki and Shag Point. These ranges tend to have reasonable snow coverage in winter, which provides a stunning backdrop to the golden and green flats in the Maniototo.
On leaving the plain, the road enters a historic gold mining area around Kyeburn Diggings. There is a historic cemetery and some evidence of the diggings around the Kye Burn (the river). Shortly after the cemetery you will find the Danseys Pass Hotel, also known as the Danseys Pass Coach Inn. It dates back to 1862 and is worth a visit. Stay a night at the hotel or the nearby DOC campsite.
From there, it is a steep, often rough and narrow drive up to Danseys Pass at 935 metres, mostly through golden mountain tussock, with several fabulous viewpoints. The remote 1,300 metre Kakanui Mountains are to the east, and St Marys Range rises to 1800 metres to the west. There is access to the Oteake Conservation Park in St Marys Range.
The road crosses into the Waitaki region at the pass. The views are spectacular and a section of the road, where it becomes sealed, is along the edge of a deep gorge created by the Maerewhenua River. The road connects to Livingstone Duntroon Road in the heart of the Waitaki Whitestone area and follows the River to Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.