Follow the Gold - 3 Day Private Photography Tour - Remarkable Imagery

Follow the Gold PhotographyTour

Experience the wide splendour of the Maniototo Plain

The Māniatoto - 3 Day Private Photography Tour

The name Māniatoto, derived from Māori, is said to mean `plains of blood’ and refer to the `flowing’ red tussocks that once covered the land.

This is the region that inspires Graeme Sydney, painter of some of New Zealand’s most iconic landscapes. Home to tiny towns and locations that once swarmed with settlers, toiling to win riches from this sparse, rugged and graphic landscape.

Imposing mountain ranges edge the wide splendour of the Maniototo Plain. Candid skies of brilliant blue dance across the land. When evening falls, a tantalising magenta sunset slides behind flinty, tussock-clad ranges.

Humble, close-knit farming settlements are dotted thinly across the plain, huddled on long, straight roads that never end. Isolated they may be, but these are involved, connected communities where people look out for each other.

Steeped in nature’s rhythms, locals share an enduring bond with this place. The sweeping silent spaces, the loyal guardianship of mountain ranges, the contrasting hues of seasonal changes and the expansive beauty of starry black nights.

Our 3 Day Maniototo Tour is packed with iconic and awesome locations. Priced at $5500 for 1 person, and $2900 per person for 2-4 people. We can accommodate groups up to 12 people on request.  Please get in touch with us for details and pricing.


Day 1

Embark on an eastward journey from Queenstown, tracing the rugged Kawarau and Cromwell Gorges—the very paths once tread by gold miners who pioneered The Southern Lakes and Central Otago. Along the way, we pause in historic Cromwell and Clyde, towns steeped in pioneer heritage.

Our route leads us into the Maniatoto, a sparsely populated high country characterized by tussock-covered hills and craggy, rock-studded ranges—a landscape that vividly recalls the struggles of early settlers. Notable stops include Ophir, with its iconic wooden suspension bridge, and St Bathans, where a cyan-colored lake stands as a legacy of industrial mining in the late 1800s. The Vulcan Hotel, still operational, graces the bustling high street.

We end the day in Ranfurly, the central town in the region, known for its art deco architecture. This will be our base for the next 2 nights.


Day 2

Choose from several captivating options:

  • Falls Dam: Discover old fisherman’s huts against the backdrop of the Hawkdun range—a snow-and-ice-clad wall that frames the Maniatoto landscape during winter.
  • Ida Valley: Experience vast sheep farms under expansive skies, stretching toward tor-covered ranges.
  • Hayes Engineering Works & Homestead: Step into a fully operational early 20th-century engineering workshop and a 1920s villa. Here, innovative pioneers Hannah and Ernest Hayes once raised their family. Explore the chilly workshop filled with lathes, drills, and pulleys—where Ernest Hayes crafted useful farm devices, including his renowned fencing wire strainer.
  • Poolburn Dam: Famously featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this otherworldly high country reservoir nestles among hills adorned with rocky crags. Its shores host a collection of Kiwi fishing bachs, often charmingly dilapidated.

We conclude the day with an evening review and workshop session for editing the day’s images.


Day 3

Our return journey to Queenstown includes a side trip to The Nevis Valley, situated 1000 meters above Cromwell—the highest public road in New Zealand. From Duffers Saddle, the highest point, take in spectacular vistas: snow-capped Remarkables in one direction, the meandering Nevis River valley in another, and views across to Cromwell and Lake Dunstan.

En route, explore the hidden remains of a gold mining village dating back to the 1800s. Our final stop, the Goldfields Mining Centre, allows us to delve into the original Chinese miners’ village, wander through gold sluicings, and marvel at the machinery that once extracted gold from the landscape.

Capture the stunning morning and evening skies against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains and endless valleys. Explore towns with evocative names like Drybread, Becks, Cambrians, Ophir, Omakau, Oterahua, St Bathans, Wedderburn, Moa Creek, and Lauder.



  • A fully customised tour tailored to your desires
  • Vast sheep farms under expansive skies
  • Tour Hayes Engineering Works & Homestead
  • Explore a region steeped in history and marvel at the stark, sparse landscapes 


  • 2-nights accommodation in Ranfurly at Hawkdun Lodge, complete with breakfast
  • Expert tuition and guidance throughout the journey
  • Convenient transport and hotel pickup from Queenstown or Wanaka
  • Printed workshop notes to enhance your photography


  • Yourself and your warm clothing
  • Your camera, accessories, chargers, and tripod
Duration: 3 days
Pickup Location: Queenstown or Wanaka
Product code: PCTKVC

Book Here!

Please note:  On this page, you will see variations in the spelling of Māniatoto.  This is because the official spelling (Maniototo) is currently in dispute. 

The name is thought to be a contraction of Mānia-o-toto, plain of blood.  The rūnaka have a long history of association with the Māniatoto area that pre-dates the establishment of settler farms.

The region was named after the Maniototo station, whose homestead is 6 kms west of Ranfurly. The plain covers roughly the same area as the former Maniototo county, which existed from 1876 to 1989.

We respect Māori cultural, spiritual and economic ties to their traditional land and resources, so we have altered the spelling on this page to include the correct spelling, as well as to use the current official spelling.

All of our Private Tours include...

Exclusive locations and local knowledge
Itineraries to suit your style. Landscapes, rural life, history or even a creative theme
Custom itinerary based on your preferences, weather and light conditions
Refreshments – tea/coffee and cookies
Lunch stop in a local village on full day tours
Itineraries to suit your style. Landscapes, rural life, history or even a creative theme.
Pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation in Queenstown. (Tell us where you are staying, allow 5-10 minutes for pick up).
Creative and compositional advice from our expert guides will help you with get the most out of your camera
Nikon DSLRs are available for rental
We're prepared! We have extra SD cards available to buy if needed
All levels of photography and all types of camera catered for
Comfortable 4WD transport with heated seats

What people are saying...

Don't just take our word for it! Our reviews speak for themselves...

Li Y
Li Y
23 March 2024
Extraordinary experience! Our guide Martin is an award winning photographer. He has strong passion about landscape photography. He taught us a lot about photography. He is very familiar with the Queenstown area. He narrated very well. He was very nice and the communication was great. We will definitely book a whole day tour with him next time.
Li Y
Li Y
23 March 2024
Amazing experience! Martin is the best guide I have ever met. He is a professional landscape photographer. He shared a lot of photography tips with us. He has a strong passion about landscaping photography. He is very knowledgeable about the local history. He told us a lot about the old gold mining days. He knows a lot of secret photo shooting spots and stopped the car several times to let us take photos. His driving skill is great. We felt very safe. His communication was great. We had very nice conversations with him. We liked his narratives very much! The Skippers Canyon itself is absolutely beautiful! The scenic road is gorgeous. The experience is amazing!
Sandra W
Sandra W
6 March 2024
Awesome - highly recommendable We went to two different locations. First we went to the Remarkables and did some very good shots of the area from high up and some artsy shots of a winding street. After that we took Skippers Road and wow, what a great landscape. It was even better than the first location. Martin was great and took the time to show me how to take the best pictures. I can highly this tour. Time was over way too soon.
21 February 2024
A wonderful experience! My wife and I were absolutely thrilled with this day tour. Martin, our tour guide, did an outstanding job. He took us to places that we would not have gone on our own. One such place was Skippers Canyon. We would never have driven that ourselves. The scenery was magnificent! He also showed us photo tips on our smartphones that were very helpful; features we didn't know about. The tour was money and time well spent. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Thank you, Martin. Kind regards, Dave and Helen Horner, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA.
Andrew P
Andrew P
5 December 2023
A great day out photographing the area around Queenstown The day was well spent with Martin showing us a number of locations around Queenstown that were would definitely not have found on our own. He was very knowledgeable about the area and can accomodate photographers at any level. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone considering doing it.
14 August 2023
Great way to get up close and personal with Queenstown! This is a great option for someone looking to get a "local's perspective" of Queenstown and take a trip to lesser-known spots. I was (am) new to photography (I bought my first camera specifically for this trip) and Martin was a patient teacher. He was great at adapting his approach to my level of skill. During the day, not only did I learn and practice different techniques to compose photographs and learn some of the features of my camera, but I got to visit many "off the beaten path" spots to photograph! This trip left me feeling like I had really gotten to know Queenstown and the surrounding areas. Martin was very flexible, friendly and helpful. I couldn't recommend this trip more to someone looking to get to know Queenstown and capture some great pictures!
25 June 2023
Great experience Martin was extremely knowledgeable and helped me take some amazing photos. Highly recommend his tour!
Wade G
Wade G
14 March 2023
Great tour. Not just the canyon Small group tour was great. Martin was extremely flexible on the schedule as well as sites to see. Very knowledgeable and personable as well We didn’t rent a camera but Martin was very accommodating regarding taking photos at various spot on the tour. We had another couple who almost canceled but we’re very glad they did the tour. Highly recommended Read more about Half Day Skippers Canyon Photography Adventure -
7 February 2023
Well worth day of photograph around Queenstown and Southern Lakes Had a great day with Martin taking photographs around Queenstown. We were able to visit many places ordinary tour group, or self-tour won't able to find and get to. Martin is great teacher, helped me in composition, using of light even operating my own camera. Specially enjoyed the "local" touch at the lunch spot and visiting around Kingstown.
Richard W
Richard W
4 December 2022
Wonderful private photography tour Thanks to Martin for a great day of photography. With Martin's inside knowledge of the area, we were able to get to some areas well away from crowds and photograph the beautiful varied landscapes around Queenstown. And to learn and practice getting compositions that work.

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