New Zealand Recs - Otago Region

I would love some winery, hotel, transportation, tour (private as well) recommendations for the Otago Region in New Zealand. I will be there in early April for about 5 days. I will be flying into Queenstown Airport, if that makes a difference.

I have seen several options for tours on Trip Advisor, but I’d rather receive first hand info from true wine lovers.

Also - I’m thinking of taking my wine suitcase - anyone know if there are any issues bringing that back to the states full of wine (12 bottles)?

Thanks, all!

I’ll try this again. You deleted a post, and I lost all my work.

I posted the below for a friend, so it may sound funny reading it. She was there to run the marathon.


The town of Queenstown is fairly compact, particularly the tourist area. Tons of activities outside of town, from hiking, to river rides, to bungee jumping, skiing, etc. It’s also the jumping off place to the Milford Sound, which is still a half-day trip just to get to. (We did not go to Milford Sound due to it is a time commitment, hiking can be four days.)

We stayed at the Novotel Queenstown Lakeside. It overlooks the lake. It’s part of the Accor hotel chain (which most people know the Mecur hotels in Europe). Bunch of hotels of various sizes, costs, types around (including Hiltons, Marriotts). We got a good deal, and it was ideally located. Be careful getting some place on the other side of the lake. It can have its advantages, but it can be a hike to get into town. But the lake is good for running around.

For a good dinner, we went to Botswana Butchery. It’s sort of like a Ruth Chris for NZ. Very good, but a meat-lovers place. A top-rated place we could not get into was Rata. Probably a better mix of foods. Reserve in advance.

Some cheap eats – The Cow is an institution, pizza and beers. NZ is getting into craft brews. Another place we ate, and don’t laugh, was Taco Medic. It’s on a side street. By the time we got to Queenstown, we were getting tired of some food (been 2 weeks since Auckland), and a taco sounded good, and it was. Was a top Trip Advisor rec.

The wines in NZ can be great. Go to a place called The Winery. Sort of clubby feel – with leather chairs, fireplace. You pre-pay a debit card, and go around and get samples out of machines. Great experience, and TONS of wines on tap, and for purchase (honestly, you could do all your wine shopping here and be done). Each of you get a card, and get various samples to share. But after you run! On one wall was a machine with some NZ whiskey. Try the one using the Manuka wood – delicious, and horribly expensive by the bottle. BTW, the Manuka honey is overrated and expensive. And don’t pass on some of the sweet dessert wines.

Just above the roundabout is Avis, where we rented a car, in case you drive anywhere. I think Hertz was across the street from our hotel. The water is the main focal point for town. Lots of stuff on the water, and the town is full of tourist offices offering tickets to all the outdoor activities.

I have Starred these places on the map:

Just outside of town along Highway 6 are a bunch of good wineries. Could be worth a daytrip. Some I would recommend include:
(Note: Many wineries in NZ also have good places to eat)
• Amisfield – You might find their wines here in the US. Make a great rose. Fun place to visit. Great place to eat. We visited and ate.
• Gibbston – We went there. Big touristy winery. Not sure I would recommend.
• Peregrine – nice wines
• Felton Roads – Did not go, but great wines
• Mount Difficulty – Same, did not go, but great wines
• Carrick – nice wines
• Pisa – nice wines
• Rippon – If for some reason you drive up through Wanaka, you must go here. One place you can’t eat, but their wines are phenomenal, and the place is spectacular, beautiful scenery.


Thanks so much, Paul. I really appreciate it. I will incorporate these places into my trip. I was trying to figure out if 5 days is enough, and it sounds like it is. I may do 3 days there, then head north so I can SCUBA dive afterwards. Thanks again!!


Queenstown is beautiful and has very some good, but expensive, restaurants. However, if you’re serious about wine though you’ll want to spend less time there and more time in Cromwell 40 mins to an hour away from the airport and you’ll need a rental car …

Leaving Queenstown, Amisfield is worth stopping at but IMO more for the high quality restaurant than for the wines. Gibbston Valley does make some good wines but there are SO many tourists and buses it’s not worth visiting in my view.

Heading towards Cromwell, Peregrine makes good wines and is worth stopping at as definitely is Chard Farm. Chard Farm makes decent pinots and no tourist bus can get up their gravel drive. Plus their views are spectacular …

Cromwell is a nice town and the old part has some interesting touristy bits to explore.

Less than 10 kms away from Cromwell is Felton Road, Bannockburn, the home of Felton Road, one of the best wineries in all of NZ. It’s appointment only so go on their website and make a booking before you leave.

Mt Difficulty has a public tasting centre and great restaurant - with spectacular views - and is 500 metres away on Felton Road. They are also one of the best wineries in Central Otago.

Other top local places in Cromwell to visit are:

  • Valli - they make separate wines for each of the Central Otago districts (Bannockburn, Gibbston, Waitaki, Bendigo …). It’s the best place to get an idea of the different Central Otago terroirs. Another private booking needed …

  • Quartz Reef and Burn Cottage - two top wineries to visit, again you’ll need to book via their websites.

  • Carrick - good wines and a very good restaurant.

  • Bannockburn Hotel - a country pub near Felton Road with one of the best wine lists in all NZ, a great place to taste Central Otago wines. Great cuisine too …

From Cromwell take the 40 mins drive up to Rippon in Wanaka. It’s a beautiful spot and one of NZ’s longest established - and best - pinot noir producers.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

Cheers, Howard

On wineries… i’ll echo a lot said here.

In my opinion the top tier are:
Felton Road - Need an appointment
Valli - Need an appointment
Burn Cottage - Need an appointment
Rippon - Appointment not needed (although you may want one if you;re hoping for a tour/longer tasting). Note Rippon is in Wanaka so a longer drive away.

After those some worth considering:
Akarua - Also a good place for lunch. Their wines are on the upswing, I was particularly impressed with the 25 Steps Pinot Noir
Amisfield - Especially for lunch. Wines solid all around if a little glossy and quite pricey
Mount Edward - A good option in Gibbston Valley (you should do at least one here, this or Chard Farm for me)
Wet Jacket - A small producer with a cool tasting experience in an old wool shed with a great garden lounging area. Wines are solid and quite restrained
Mount Maude - worth visiting if you go to Wanaka

I do think it’s worth getting to vineyards in a few of the sub regions, especially Wanaka, Gibbston Valley, Bannockburn, and Pisa/Lowburn/Cromwell. Will give you a better understanding of the terrior in play.

On food some good suggestions here…
Rata in Queenstown
Bannockburn Hotel

One last thought. For me, the actual town of Queenstown is terrible. It’s developed in a really tacky way over the last decade. It’s sort of like a B grade Niagara Falls. Lots of tacky souvenir stores, silly “adventure” experiences, haunted house, casino etc. ALso one road in and out in both directions, choked with traffic. April might be OK though, although i think there may be a harvest festival some time around there.

All of the surrounding towns are great. Also not the drive up to Glenorchy is well worth it if you enjoy drives. As is the drive over to Wanaka through the crown range (drive back the long way for less stress).

Howard! Thank you for the recs! I’m very serious about wine, so it sounds like I should stay in Cromwell. I am, however, extremely nervous about driving on the other side of the road. I’ve never driven on that side before and am afraid I may end up going the wrong way. That’s my hesitation with renting a car. But it sounds like I may have to in order to get the most out of this trip! Thanks so much!!!

Clayton! Thanks for the info - looks like I definitely need a car; I really want to go up to Wanaka and Rippon! Hopefully I can manage driving on the opposite side! Can’t wait!!

I agree with all of Clayton’s excellent suggestions [Clayton, sounds like you’ve been doing a bit of visiting lately!].

One little suggestion with the rental car is to perhaps to do Queenstown without a rental car. Then rent the car from the Queenstown airport and drive straight towards Cromwell. That way you avoid most of the busiest roads around Queenstown … You’ll be fine …

Yes, you will Marilyn–you’ll be surprised at how quickly it comes to you. Just don’t get a standard/stick shift car—changing the shift with the left hand took me some getting used to! Enjoy your time there----my memories of Otago and Queenstown remain very vivid—and that was over 20 years ago.

I’ve also switched my current avatar—if you can do this, which is the subject of the picture, I can’t recommend it more highly—a flightsee over the southern Alps. Probably the greatest thing I did in my whole 8 week trip to Australia and New Zealand other than singing in Cathedral Gorge in the Bungles.

I love Queenstown, my recs:
In Town
The Bunker - Tiny place, fine dining
Botswana Bakery as mention is terrific.
Smiths Crafts Brews is the best bar for great beers and food.
Have to have a Fergburger…go for breakfast for their breakfast pies.
The Winery - try lots of local wines by the glass.
Have to do the Luge.
Bardeaux for drinks by a huge fireplace.

Go to Chard Farm.
Try to find some Wild Irishman Pinot. Think it can be found at Valli.

Out of town:
Arrowtown is a cool little village to shop and eat in, shot drive away.
Glow Worm Caves were worth the trip.
Absolutely take a day to go to Milford Sound, getting there is coolest drive ever(take a bus!)

Howard… was down there at Christmas. With the kids in tow so it wasn’t a wine trip but we popped into a couple of places.

Marilyn - i saw i had a typo on drive up to. The suggestion was the drive up to Glenorchy is well worth the trip (if you enjoy driving).

Clayton, cool. Did you try anything good? (I hear Felton Road’s 2019s are spectacular).

Mike, nice avatar, it’s a great experience to fly over the Southern Alps. (And Marilyn need not worry, stick/manual drive rental cars are no longer a thing over here).

As Clayton recommends, Glenorchy is a great drive, about an hour each way from Queenstown.

Howard, Thanks for the faith in me on driving. It does make me quite nervous because I’ve never driven on the other side of the street. I’m not worried about drinking and driving since I spit when I taste, I’ve just never done it. I would definitely want to explore that whole region actually, so I think I have to just put on my big girl pants and rent a car. I found a “hop on/hop off” wine tour in Queenstown itself, so I may do that the first day I arrive to get my feet wet. Then I think I’ll take your suggestion and rent a car and head up north. I really want to see Rippon.

Mike, thanks for that beautiful photo! I am planning every detail right now, so I want to see if I can fit in a small flight over the mountains. It looks absolutely stunning. I will be prioritizing wine as that’s the whole purpose of the trip. If I have a pocket of time I’ll see the mountains. I’ll be coming from Antarctica to defrost in New Zealand so I may be sick of the cold :slight_smile:

Chuck, thanks for the recs. I’m working on a spreadsheet where I’m cataloging all the recommendations and mapping out a course - I’m going to try to fit in as much as possible.

Clayton, What is up in Glenorchy? I do enjoy driving actually, very much. Here in California, the longest I’ve driven non-stop is about 7 hours (Outside of Los Angeles traffic). I really do enjoy driving, especially with beautiful scenery.

This is the first wine trip I’m taking on my own since my husband passed away in 2017. We did a lot of wine travel together; I finally feel strong enough to begin exploring on my own again. I’m thankful for all your recommendations!! I’m working on my spreadsheet of wineries to visit. Once I map it out, I am going to see about hotels and locations for stays. I’m kind of kicking myself for only allocating 5 days in Queenstown. [swearing.gif]

Flightsee trip was out of Lake Tekapo. My recollection was 1 to 1.5 hours. I hope this rejuvenating trip is everything you will want it to be. Above all—Kiwis are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Thanks Mike, we love you to

Must agree - everyone I’ve ever met form NZ has been incredibly nice.

Just booked my flights, and car rental for Queenstown. Organized the wineries by region. Now just need to find places to stay. I’m almost done!! :slight_smile:

Wineries that were our favorite:
Rippon. So memorable. Also an in town hike that over looks the lake.
Valli- shows restraint for the area. Loved the complexity.
Burn Cottage: not many offerings but all were delicious.
Felton rd and Mt difficult are bigger wineries and both do a great job.

Best cheap eat was Pedro’s House of Lamb. You will get enough for leftovers and was just as good the next day. Local grocery stores have great wine selections too.

Thanks, Stephen! I got all those on my list. I organized them by region and will definitely hit up those places.
Is the lamb there the same as NZ lamb you can buy here in the states? I’m a pretty good cook and lamb is one of my specialties. Just curious if the lamb there is better than what we can find here from NZ.