The Crown Range

After finally catching up on some backlogged photos, I’ve arrived at our trip to Wanaka in the beginning of December for Sarah and Michael’s wedding. We flew down to Queenstown on a Friday, picked up our rental car and set off for Wanaka via the Crown Range Road. Known as a particularly serpentine thoroughfare, it winds up into the mountains and often requires chains in winter, or is closed entirely due to inclement weather. There’s another route to Wanaka, but of course we chose the most scenic one. It didn’t take long for the road to start snaking up above the valley.

I’ve been on this road before, maybe 12 years ago, but this drive was like seeing it for the first time. The views were absolutely jaw-dropping.

We got out at a pullover spot to take in the view, where a trail lead up into the hills. There are a lot of hikes that start off from here, but we didn’t have time to go far since we wanted to get to Wanaka and check into our Airbnb before going to dinner that night.

Back on the road, we headed toward Cardrona, a tiny ski town where the wedding celebration would be held the next day. It’s home to the Cardrona Bra Fence, a.k.a. Bradrona. While I didn’t have any spare bras to leave behind (those things aren’t cheap!), it was a unique sight nonetheless, colorful undergarments against a backdrop of rocky hilltops.

In Wanaka, we checked into our gorgeous Airbnb guesthouse just outside of town, complete with resident cat and dog, visited local brewery b.effect, then had a fabulous dinner at Kika, where Gordon Ramsey dined when he visited the area.

The next morning, we had some time to explore before the post-wedding celebration that afternoon. We drove up Lake Wanaka to peaceful Glendhu Bay. The weather was overcast and rain passed through from time to time, but it was a beautiful spot nonetheless.

Sarah and Michael got married in a helicopter ceremony, dropped off atop a peak overlooking Lake Wanaka. It was just the two of them and a celebrant, along with the photographer. Afterwards, they’d arranged a celebration at the Cardrona Hotel for all their friends, and about 30-odd people travelled down, mostly from Wellington, to join in the festivities. The weather was perfect and we had a great evening. Here are a couple snaps!

Can’t forget the food, of course.

On our last day, we said farewell to our idyllic Airbnb and headed down to the lake for a walk along the shore.

From afar, we could see glaciers high in the peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park.

As the first weekend of summer, it was peak lupin/lupine season. Even though they are invasive in New Zealand, they’re still beautiful in this land of lakes and mountains.

After our lakeside wander, we drove the Crown Range Road back toward Queenstown, leaving plenty of time to stop off along the way, since our flight back to Wellington wasn’t until the late afternoon. Our first stop was the Cardrona Hotel again. Established in 1863, it really has a personality all its own. I’d love to come back in winter sometime when the ski season is in full swing and the fires are all roaring, but I bet it’s different when it’s crazy busy.

We had some tea and coffee in the beautiful back garden, enjoying the lush landscape.

After relaxing for a while, it was time to hit the road again.

Down down down, we were back in the valley again. Our next stop was the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown, for a meal and a wander.

Along the Arrow River on our post meal walk, the lupins were out in their full glory.

After a fabulous whirlwind weekend in Central Otago, it was time to head back to the airport and home to Wellington. We knew we’d be back soon, though, for our two-week South Island road trip after Christmas. Stay tuned for that…

1 thought on “The Crown Range

  1. I remember coming across a few remnant lupines while in Arrowtown. Great place. This looks like a perfect getaway. So nice of your friends to provide an event to get you out Wanaka-way. Sooooo beautiful.


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