The historic Cardona Hotel, one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels, has been serving up its special brand of hospitality for almost 160 years and is today just as much a commercial hub as it was in the 1860s goldmining era.
The beautifully restored hotel, situated on the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka, is an integral part of New Zealand’s heritage. The complex’s authentic memorabilia, original artwork and antiques combined with contemporary food and hospitality make an important contribution to the Southern Lakes tourism sector.
Publicans, Cade Thornton and Alexis Baronian, have embraced life in the Cardrona Valley and created a thriving hospitality business – so much so that at the 2018 Hospitality New Zealand Awards the Cardrona Hotel stole the show winning the overall Supreme Award as well the Best Country Hotel category, a nod to the high standards they have achieved.
“Winter is a very busy time and one we all look forward to,” says Alexis. “Our service is personalised with people spending up to a week here for skiing and we see families returning each year which is always a good endorsement.”
The hotel has a range of comfortable country style accommodation with 16 ensuite rooms offering a mix of configurations. Rooms open on to the appealing heritage garden or a private courtyard and the recent installation of a Stoked hot tub is a popular addition.
“Guests have priority for dinner reservations and early breakfasts from 7.00 am to ensure they get up the mountain early and there is a great atmosphere here with the buzz of winter,” says Alexis.
The hotel’s restaurant and bar have a cult following for après ski drinks and food with large outdoor fires and braziers providing a popular congregation point for skiers and boarders after a day on the slopes.
“Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served daily from the bar with delicious gourmet burgers, blue cod, hearty soups and stews on offer along with warming tasty snacks like nachos, fried chicken and loaded wedges. Morning coffee and our freshly baked scones are huge as are the Canadian style après ski delicacies, Frickles, which are crumbed, and deep-fried dill pickles. Children love our marshmallow sticks available to toast on the open fire,” she says.
The Cardrona Hotel restaurant is a destination in its own right and open nightly from 6.00pm with fully seated table service.
“The restaurant menu is designed and edited using locally sourced ingredients and products wherever possible. The dishes are fresh and vibrant and feature Cardrona Valley honey, locally grown venison and lamb,farm fresh free-range eggs and gourmet cheeses and are perfect for sharing. With candle lit tables and oil burners there is a special evening ambience in the restaurant.”
The hotel serves a full range of craft and traditional beers and a wide selection of Central Otago wines including the hotel’s own Cardrona Pinot Noir made locally in Bendigo.
As one of only two remaining buildings surviving from the goldmining days the Cardrona Hotel is a fine example of merging the old with the new, with the building’s historic façade hiding an award-winning restaurant, legendary beer garden and charming accommodation.