Exploring Arrowtown and the Cardrona Valley

What? We’re leaving Wanaka? Our time here has flown by! That might be because we’ve had a generous mix of adventure, fear, achievement, adrenalin, reunions with friends, beer, and ending every day with stunning views of Lake Wanaka from the Wanaka Bakpaka. With skydiving, having a macho thrill day with Oxbow, climbing waterfalls, jumping into airbagsbeer tasting, and getting lost in the Great Maze of Puzzling World, we feel fulfilled but a little sad to be leaving Wanaka.

It’s a common feeling when travelling around New Zealand, but we can’t deny we are a little excited about the next leg of the trip: going to the Adventure Capital of the World.

A Cardrona Valley Road trip

But first, the journey between Queenstown and Wanaka is a trip in itself! We plan to take the scenic Cardrona Valley road and make a pitstop in Arrowtown along the way.

Campervan loaded up and ready to go, we hit the road to the Cardrona Valley. We make our way up into the Crown Range without really realising we have gone up into the mountains. (There are no winding uphill roads for once… at least from the Wanaka side of the mountain range).

The famous Cardrona Bra Fence

Halfway through the journey we make an all important stop at the renowned Cardrona Bra Fence… Yes, you read that correctly: the Cardrona Bra Fence or “Bradrona”.

Someone someday ages ago decided to start hanging bras on a fence along the Cardrona Valley Road. The bras have come down a few times probably by some angry locals, but bras just kept appearing! Now the bra fence has evolved to support a breast cancer charity. Now, no one can say no to charity, can they?

Well, Laura does, because no matter how much Robin begs her to put a bra on the fence, she just doesn’t want to have to buy a new bra, Ok?! Besides, there are plenty on the fence. Just look at the googly-eyed bra!

First stop from Wanaka to Queenstown, the Cardrona Bra Fence First stop from Wanaka to Queenstown, the Cardrona Bra Fence
Epic viewpoints along the Crown Range Epic viewpoints along the Crown Range
Arriving in the historic Arrowtown Arriving in the historic Arrowtown
The moment someone licked Laura's bum actually thinking she was a stamp The moment someone licked Laura's bum actually thinking she was a stamp

Crown Range lookouts

Back on the road, we journey through tussock-covered mountains with a little bit of snow still clinging to the tops. As we reach the highest section of road, there is a huge car park and viewpoint overlooking the downhill road we are yet to take leading towards Queenstown. A pang of excitement grabs Laura as she gets a glimpse of the town in the distance where she lived when she first arrived in New Zealand.

It’s all downhill from here, as we wind our way down towards Arrowtown. (So here are the winding roads! We knew it couldn’t be that easy)!

Exploring Arrowtown

Arrowtown is famous for it’s gold mining days and still keeping it’s historic buildings intact looking quaint and lovely as ever (we assume – we were not here 100 years ago)! The main street looks like stepping into another era except for all the street parking. Other streets are lined with trees, flowers are blossoming between buildings… All in all, Arrowtown is so darn pretty!

We pop into a few places. First up is the Lakes District Museum with a few old tractors sitting in its courtyard and a wee exhibition of the town’s relics: gold, skis and crates? The museum also has a temporary art exhibition of Vanuatu art.

Free fudge tastings!

Further along the main street of Arrowtown, we don’t miss the sign saying “Free Tastings” at The Remarkables Sweet Shop! Rows and rows of different flavoured fudge lies behind a cabinet. The chipper store worker from Uruguay asks what flavours we’d like to try (of course you would be chipper if you worked in a sweet store). Creme brulee, chocolate nougat, fruit nougat, M&Ms, cookies, and other sweet flavours melt in our mouth. We can see ourselves liking Arrowtown more by the minute!

The only gold we found was in the Arrowtown Museum The only gold we found was in the Arrowtown Museum
Arrowtown just screams PRETTY! Arrowtown just screams PRETTY!
Free fudge tasting? Yes, please! Free fudge tasting? Yes, please!

Ice creams by the riverside

Now that our sweet tooth has woken up, we start to walk along the riverside when we spot Patagonia Ice Creams, a store seen only in Wanaka, Queenstown and Arrowtown. Are we really going to stuff ourselves with ice cream after we just stuffed ourselves with fudge? Hell yeah!

The thing with New Zealand is that they tend to be over-generous with their ice cream portioning (hey, we aren’t complaining). So Robin gets what we can only describe as a mound of chocolate and macadamia ice cream and banana ice cream, while Laura has a slightly smaller mound of white chocolate and hazelnut ice cream.

Gold panning in middle-earth

We pick the perfect spot to indulge on the sweet melting goodness along the riverside. We watch the faces of disappointed tourists walk by every so often with a gold pan in hand.

This river also just happens to be a Lord of the Rings filming location in a small portion of the: “If you want him, come and claim him,” scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. So we are sitting in Middle-earth stuffing our faces with ice cream? Perfect!

Welcome to Queenstown

As early afternoon rocks around, we become increasingly aware that we should get to Queenstown to find somewhere to park an effin’ great campervan in one of the busiest places in New Zealand!

In order to not get fined for parking a self-contained vehicle overnight, Robin has to make some phone calls to the councils. Then we can check into the large and spacious Nomads Queenstown. The purpose-built and one of the largest hostels in the town complete with balconies so we can soak up some of that Otago sun!

Tomorrow, the Adventure Capital of the World stay begins with a hike on the Routeburn Track! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

The pretty Arrowtown riverside
The pretty Arrowtown riverside Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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  1. You should have actually gone inside the museum. It has 2 large floors showing lots of excellent things from Māori, to mining, to early settlers. It set around 2 original buildings and has a replica street scape,grog shanty, school, hilarious toilet. It’s really interactive and constantly receives awards for it’s excellent displays.

    Comment avatar Annie
    04/11/2016 at 4:34 pm
  2. I’m using all your travel tips and advice to plan my own road trip around NZ, but how could you miss out the Cardrona Hotel?! I work there and it’s definitely worth a visit!

    Comment avatar Hannah
    01/08/2018 at 6:42 pm
    1. We always try to pack sooooo much in every day, sadly sometimes it means that we have to make some cuts sometimes 🙁 The real story is that we had a plan to stop by for a photo op but we ran out of time…

      Comment avatar Robin
      02/08/2018 at 5:54 am
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