The historic Cardrona Hotel has been welcoming hardy locals and adventurous travellers since the 1860s gold rush and its well-earned reputation for hospitality saw it awarded the Best Country Hotel tile for the second successive year at the 2019 Hospitality New Zealand Awards.
Publican Cade Thornton has co-owned the hotel, nestled in the Cardrona Valley between Wanaka and Queenstown, since 2013 and is proud to continue a historic tradition.
“The place has its own timeless character but we’re constantly investing in the business because we know people will only come back if we deliver a consistently high level of service every time they visit,” he says.
This consistency helped Cade, his partner Alexis Baronian and their team of 40 staff win the coveted Best Country Hotel award, underlining their ongoing commitment to the venture.
The hotel is a huge part of the après-ski scene throughout winter but Cade says the venue, which is one of the oldest in the country, offers quite different experiences throughout the year.
“Autumn is beautiful here with calm weather and golden colours. It’s usually warm enough to enjoy an evening drink in our beer garden but we’ll often get the big stone fire roaring outside anyway, just to add to the vibe.”
Autumn also sees the return of Annie’s Kitchen the restaurant’s annual series of changing weekly menus.
“It’s an opportunity for our head chef Angela, nicknamed Annie, to unleash her creative flair and try out new dishes. We keep the same bar and snack menus but there are completely different evening choices every week featuring fresh, local ingredients,” says Cade.
The hotel has 17 en-suite bedrooms, several of which have recently been refurbished.
A contemporary take on classic South Island accommodation, the newest room has been named Captain’s and is the hotel’s most romantic room with a plush wool-covered headboard behind the king bed, Argentinian aged-leather chairs and appealing black-and-white tiled bathroom.
“Captain’s used to house the Stoked hot tub but we moved that outside for moonlit soaks,” he says.
The Old School House gift store next to the main building is an attraction for visitors and hotel guests. Celebrating local artisan crafts and memorabilia there are many souvenir options from small coasters to $5,000 works of art.
“The Cardrona Hotel means a lot of things to a lot of different people,” says Cade. “Whether you’re here for a wedding or family celebration, a romantic getaway or meeting friends over a craft beer I think we embody the true spirit of a rural Kiwi hotel, one which all New Zealanders can call their own.”