An easy drive and a recommended day out from Queenstown, is a visit out as far as the Gibbston Valley. You could also cycle this tour as the Queenstown Trail goes out as far as the wineries – bikes are available to hire at several places, including some of the vineyards.
Starting your day out of Queenstown, see if you can take a few minutes out from the day, to trip down to the Old Shotover bridge – signposted “Historic Bridge” just before you cross the Shotover River. The Cycle Trail will take you this way anyway if you are on two wheels, but otherwise, there is a Car park down by the old bridge. Wander past the lupins and wild plum trees to the river bed and skim a few stones – the variety of river-tumbled quartz stones down here is like an artists palette – the natural beauty of this area is stunning. Nearby, on the opposite bank is the Old Ferry Hotel, now a lovely B&B.
As you venture back onto State Highway 6, take a left at Lake Hayes – this incredibly picturesque body of water has it’s own loop walk/ride around the shores, and is ridiculously Instagram-worthy. You’ll be on the road over to Arrowtown – which is well worthy of detour in itself. This is a gorgeous wee town of century old cottages, historic mining heritage and shallow babbling river begging to be explored.
However, stick to the plan, and take a stop at the top of the lake, into Akarua, at 265 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road. This is the second outlet for Akarua in the Central Otago region – the other Tasting Room over at Bannockburn is at the site of their first vineyards. In an old cottage, originally the office for the Wakatipu Flour Mill, tucked off the road, and handily open from 9am for a gourmet breakfast stop, is ‘Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan’. The Cellar door is open 11am-5pm daily. A wide range of varietals are on offer here – match yours to whatever you’re eating, or if just tasting, I’d recommend the Pinot Gris and the Bannockburn Pinot Noir.
Breakfasted, the next stop is at 10 Lake Hayes Road, and one of the jewels of Central Otago wine – Amisfield. This was my late Mother’s favourite spot in New Zealand. It also happen to have one of the best food offerings in the country (I think those last two facts are related).
It won the NZ Winery Restaurant category in the last Cuisine Magazine Awards; and the evening offerings of degustation dining should not be overlooked if you are after a tastebud sensation. The food is as terroir-driven as the wines. The Cellar Door is open 7 days a week 10am-6pm. Don’t go past the Pinot Noir, but they also do fumé style Sauvignon Blanc that’s divine.
A relative newcomer to the scene is along the road at 1 Bendemeer Lane, beside SH6, at Wet Jacket wines. At the Bendemeer Woolshed, this is the new venture from Greg Hay, and nestles in a building of huge historic importance, at the beginning of the Gibbston Wine Trail. Summer Sessions see food trucks in attendance, and decent beer and even cheese is available, alongside the range of wines.
A few minutes skip along the highway will bring you to the tourist mecca of the AJ Hackett Kawerau Bungy. Located at the Kawerau Gorge Suspension Bridge, this is definitely worth a stop – you can grab a coffee whilst watching the tourists bungy-jump off the bridge. It’s so picturesque – just walk across the span away from the mayhem, and there’s a lovely thyme-lined track with sparkling views back along the river. Big car park, toilets, nice little break.
Watch out for the turning off to the right after about 100 metres, which loops back around the Kawerau River towards Chard Farm – founded by the Hay family, and still managed by Greg’s brother Rob. Despite warnings that “Chard Farm as a vineyard is a waste of bloody good merino country”, they were the early pioneers for the region. The Cellar Door is open for tastings 7 days a week. Pinot Noir here is special.
Return the way you came and just back along the main highway is the main tourist attraction in the area – The Gibbston Valley Winery. It’s quite a big site, encompassing a new Lodge and Spa that opened in December 2019, a Cellar Door, Restaurant, Gift Shop, Cheese, cycling hire hub and a unique Wine Cave. Oh, the winery is here too, plus some of the oldest vines in Gibbston.
You can grab cheese for a picnic, or eat at the Cellar Door, or the exquisite Restaurant. Don’t miss a trip into the Wine Cave – combine the tour with a Tasting. # types of Methode Traditionelle are made here, and the China Terrace Chardonnay is exceptional. Try the Glenlee Pinot Noir too for a true taste of Gibbston.
Tel 03 442 6910
Cellar Door, Restaurant, Gibbston Valley Cheese, Gift Shop, Cycling Hub, Winery and Cave Tours. Now also open – the Lodge and Spa
Restaurant open 12-3pm; Cheese Tasting 10am-5pm. Cellar Door open 10am-5pm – also offers platters and light bites.