From the extraordinary alpine landscapes to the extreme continental climate, this region is bold and captivating.
In a landscape of steep mountains, roaring rivers and deep lakes, the hot dry summers and cold crisp winters have seen gold mining give way to sheep farming, then stone fruit orchards and now gorgeous wines.
Your restaurant table looks across a long alpine lake towards steep snow-capped mountains. A dish of New Zealand duck or lamb arrives as you swirl a full-bodied pinot noir with warming aromas of fruits. This is a typical dining experience in Queenstown – rich and surrounded by beauty.
Lakeside gourmet restaurants, such as Public Kitchen & Bar, Finz Seafood & Grill and Ivy & Lola’s source the finest ingredients and prepare them to perfection. Their top chefs and waiting staff are drawn to Queenstown by the abundance of exceptional ingredients and the adventure-filled outdoor lifestyle. The result is a long list of truly exceptional dining experiences such as Rata Dining, Botswana Butchery, Madame Woo, True South Dining Room (The Rees Hotel) and Eichardts Bar. Not short of spectacular spots to dine, we also recommend also visiting the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar at the top of the Gondola and cruising on Lake Wakatipu on the historic steamship – TSS Earnslaw – before enjoying a gourmet BBQ at a high country farm.
Downtown Queenstown offers a wide range of eateries in addition to fine dining restaurants that are equally appetising. Enjoy gourmet burgers (Fergburger is a local institution), fish and chips by the lakeside or dig into the sumptuous menu dished out by the many ethnic restaurants and casual eateries.
Central Otago’s wine regions are within a couple of hours’ drive from central Queenstown.
A short drive northeast of Queenstown is the Gibbston wine district. Friendly cellar door staff at wineries such as Waitiri Creek Wines, Chard Farm Winery and Mt Rosa Winery will lead you through a tasting of beautifully crafted wines. Vineyard restaurants, like the one at Gibbston Valley Winery and Amisfield Bistro & Winery offer fresh alfresco dining in summer and a warm fireside setting for superb winter lunches.
Other wine regions, including Cromwell, Bendigo, Bannockburn and Alexandra are equally appealing with their wine menu. Wanaka is home to the Rippon Vineyard, one of the world’s most beautiful wineries and a pioneer of the regions’ wine evolution.
Apart from stunning pinot noir, Central Otago’s is also known for elegant white varietals. To make the most of your time, get in touch with Appellation Central Wine Tours or Queenstown Wine Trail Daily Tours for a personalised tour.
North of Queenstown, the picturesque historic village of Arrowtown has a tasty assortment of restaurants and cafés. These include the award-winning Saffron, Postmaster’s and Stable’s restaurants. You can also shop for magnificent local ingredients - fish, meat, game, fruit, nuts, cheeses, olives, herbs and vegetables.
In Wanaka, Wanaka Beerworks offers daily tasting tours along with a host of other eateries. South of Wanaka, the historic Cardrona Hotel (established in 1863) is a popular stop for a drink or a meal.
Besides acclaimed vineyards, the Cromwell and wider Central Otago region is also a renowned producer of fine foods. Wild thyme honey, saffron, blueberries, stone fruit, olives, walnuts and fresh vegetables are just some of the ingredients local chefs have available. Most producers welcome visitors and many offer informative tours. Local markets are another fantastic place to source these artisan products.