Australasia / New Zealand

Adventures in New Zealand: Wonderful Wanaka – Cardrona and Karawau Gorge

Today, we decided to take another gander over the Crown Range Drive and stop at the town of Cardrona.

Cardrona is one of New Zealand’s gold rush towns that sprang up in the 1860s alongside the Cardrona river. The town itself is now home to a few historical buildings and is mostly known for it’s alpine resort and ski-field.

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Stopping on the Crown Range Road at Cardrona, where we inspect the site of our dream house (wishful thinking!)

It wasn’t wintertime when we were visiting, so we parked our car near the picturesque Cardrona Hotel, and went for a little ramble by the riverside. We picked a trail that is normally used for horse treks, so it was quite well marked out – although we did have to step around a few piles of manure at times!

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A riverside ramble

It was pretty relaxing tramping through the countryside, accompanied by the tinkling sound of the river and chirping of little birds, with the sweet, clean smell of dry grass in the sunshine.

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An easy path for little feet

We crossed over several little bridges and came across a cool, shady area bounded by tall pink and purple lupins, where we stopped to rest. We spent some time racing leaf boats and throwing pebbles in the water.

J started picking wild poppies and dandelion flowers, which The Barn Owl game stuffed into all the buttonholes on his shirt.

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A short rest by the lupins

When J tired of picking flowers, he found a huge dry branch on the ground with crinkly brown leaves still clinging to it. He played with it for a while and found that made a satisfying rustling sound. He decided that it was a steamroller, or perhaps a plough. He dragged this behind him for the rest of our walk.

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J and his tree

Little E was asleep on my back for most of this walk, lulled into a stupor in her sling. However, towards the end of the walk, we hit a golden profusion of yellow broom flowers, she awoke and was quite mesmerised by the sight of them spilling over the path.

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Surrounded by Cardrona’s gold

We’d worked up quite an appetite after the morning’s tramping through the countryside, but unfortunately the Cardrona Hotel‘s restaurant wasn’t yet ready for an early lunch.

Tummies rubbing, we headed further down the Crown Range Road towards Karawau Gorge, stopping at a little out of the way place called A Drop Of Red.

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Feeling cool in the rose garden at A Drop of Red.

We enjoyed rather a lovely light lunch finished off with a rich and indulgent dessert, which was served by the quirky owner proprietor. It was wonderful dining al fresco in the rose garden, surrounded by dozens of red and white blooms, heady and sweet.

Sadly, this cute little restaurant changed hands soon after our visit and is now a cute little vintage store called Papillon! However, if you happen to the area and you’re hungry, I have heard good things about the Wild Earth winery restaurant.

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Watching thrill seekers off Karawau Bridge

We finished off our day by stopping by the spectacular Karawau Gorge. This was the site of the “Argonath” in the Lord of the Rings movie, the giant statues of Gondorian kings, and we were just so thrilled to see that it was every bit as dramatic a sight as it is in the film.

J also enjoyed running up and down the Karawau suspension bridge, which spans 141 feet over the deep turquoise waters of the Karawau River, and features a wooden platform where bungee jumpers leap, shrieking, into the gorge.

If J had been a lot older, we would have considered taking river raft tour or gone for a hike around the area, but the steps leading up and down into the gorge was about as much as his 3 year old legs would take! I guess we’ll have to come back here again when he’s much older!


Cardrona Hotel
Crown Range Road · RD1 · Wanaka · New Zealand
Tel: +64 3 443 8153 · Fax: + 64 3 443 8163
Email: info@cardronahotel.co.nz
For more information about Cardrona Hotel click here

Karawau Suspension Bridge
State Highway 6, Gibbston Valley, Queenstown 9384, New Zealand
For more information about Karawau Gorge click here
For more information about Karawau Bridge Bungee click here 

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