Summer 12/13 roadie, day 3, part 3
The Cardrona Valley is accessed by the Crown Range Road, an alpine pass that connects Wanaka and Queenstown/Arrowtown. It’s a very scenic road though treacherous in winter, and gave Mike some practice with snow chains on our last winter break here.
Along the road is the blink-and-you-miss-it settlement of Cardrona. Memorable for its historic looking hotel (a guaranteed photo-puller), you might otherwise wonder why such a place exists. Maybe it services the ski / snow fields that branch off both sides of the road nearby – but it doesn’t have the hallmarks of such a place, like a gas station, supplies shop or gear shop.
The answer is gold, discovered in the valley in 1862. It spawned two settlements in the valley though the lower of the two was wiped out in the massive South Island floods of 1878. The upper village, Cardrona, actually named for a village in Scotland, is where the settlement is today. It’s hard to imagine there were a few thousand residents, four hotels, four butchers and several other businesses. A large percentage of the prospectors and workers were Chinese.
Eventually the gold traces dwindled and people moved away, leaving the valley in the sole hands of farmers until the skifields arrived. Of the very few buildings that remain from the gold rush days, the Cardrona Hotel is the main one and where we would be staying the night. We were looking forward it, having experienced the bar a number of times over the years but not the accommodation.
We were last here during a winter storm a couple of years ago, staying nearby to go snowboarding. I loved being in Cardrona when it was carpeted and draped in white – so beautiful. We enjoyed this summer-time stay though I would love this region any time of the year.
Tomorrow we headed to Queenstown, taking a not-so-common longer route and it proved to be one of the highlights of the trip.