|The old hall at Cardrona.|
While I'm sitting here watching the cricket I thought that I might write up a small road trip I did in New Zealand last year, the Crown Range Road runs from Queenstown to Wanaka on the south island. The drive is not very long, at just over 50 kilometres each way, its not a 4wd adventure that will have you gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, but it is an awesome piece of twisting turning bitumen, traversing some beautiful scenery.
|The Crown Range Road.|
My tactics for the day were to enjoy the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka, testing out my hire car a bit, before having some lunch in one of Wanaka's many cafes and then cruising back to Queenstown stopping and taking in the sights on the way. And that's pretty much how it turned out, I was turning on to the Crown Range Road by mid morning and straight away the road climbs skyward via a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends. The little Corolla hire cars gear box may never quite be the same again as I played around with the paddle shift, having never owned an automatic car I always enjoy experimenting with the self shifters and indulging in my F1 fantasies.
After lunch I turned around and headed back to Queenstown, the weather had deteriated a little whilst I drank coffee and by the time I left the shores of Lake Wanaka there was a light rain falling. Leaving Wanaka the Crown Range Road starts of fairly benignly following a valley towards Cardrona, the road side was lined with masses of colourful lupine, which I don't think is native to New Zealand but looked very nice all the same.
The historic gold mining town of Cardrona was my next stop, Cardrona grew to service the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860's, over the years I'd passed through here but never actually stopped and taken the time to check out the historic buildings in the small town. First up I headed back to a nice manicured park to check out the historic church and hall, the hall dates back to 1879 and started its life as a school, it wasn't until 1954 that the school closed the old building became the community hall. The Catholic church is a little older again, the church however spent some of its time in Wanaka, before being transported back up the valley to Cardrona on a truck after its useful life in Wanaka finished. With the weather getting a little more inclement I headed back towards the car, on the way stopping to check out Cardrona's most famous building , The Cardrona Hotel. Dating back to 1863 the hotel is still in operation and would provide a welcome refuge in winter when a lot of this area would be snow bound, today however I was happy enough to get a couple of photos leaving the drinking for another day.
|The Cardrona Hotel is still serving weary travellers.|
Leaving Cardrona the Crown Range Road starts to climb through the tussock grass lined hills of the Pisa Conservation Area, the road is a great drive and it was hard to pull up and take some photos as I was having so much fun. I did stop at the high point on the road, with this being the highest sealed road in New Zealand (a few metres higher than the north islands Desert Road) it was pretty chilly when I got out to check out the lookout. The weather was co operating a little however and the clouds stayed above the hills and allowed me to take into the view down into the valley below, the valley floor being 100's of metres almost directly below me. Leaving the high point which is around 1100 metres above sea level (it depends which resource you believe in relation to the actual height), I headed down some more twisting, turning bitumen before turning onto the main road that travels between Queenstown and Wanaka through Cromwell. The main road marks the end of the Crown Range Road and I now tootled into town, enjoying another night in the bright lights of Queenstown.
|The Pisa Conservation Area.|
The Crown Range Road is a great drive in the warmer months, in winter however its snow and ice covered and would be a very serious drive. Wanaka is like a quieter version of Queenstown and has all the amenities you could want. Cardrona marks the turnoff to Snow Farm New Zealand also Snowpark New Zealand, two low key ski resorts that offer plenty of fun in winter. You can eat, drink and stay at the old Cardrona Hotel but apart from that there aren't any facilities for the length of the road. This is an easy adventure that makes for a fairly relaxing day, perfect if your looking to rest your tramping muscles between walks.
|Starting the descent to Queenstown.|
|There is no shortage of hairpin bends on the descent from the Crown Range.|
|The end of the Crown Range Road is as uninspiring as the start.|
|Back in the bright lights of Queenstown.|