Exploring the Gibbston Valley
Queenstown's adrenaline junkies might be happiest dangling off a giant rubber band, but as they’re plunging towards the Kawarau River, they might not realise they're in the heart of Gibbston, one of Central Otago's main wine subregions, accounting for around 20% of plantings.
Strung along Gibbston Hwy (SH6) is an interesting and beautiful selection of vineyards. Almost opposite the Kawarau Bridge, a precipitous 2km gravel road leads to Chard Farm, the most picturesque of the wineries. A further 1km along SH6 is Gibbston Valley, the area's oldest commercial winery. As well as tastings, it has a restaurant, cheesery, tours of NZ's largest wine cave and bike hire. It also operates its own bus from Queenstown – you could always take the bus and then hire a bike to get between cellar doors.
Another 3km along SH6, Peregrine has an impressive, award-winning cellar door – a bunker-like building with a roof reminiscent of a falcon's wing in flight. As well as tastings, you can take a stroll through the adjoining barrel room.
The Gibbston River Trail, part of the Queenstown Trail, is a walking and cycling track that follows the Kawarau River for 11km from the Kawarau Bridge, passing all of the wineries. From Peregrine, walkers (but not cyclists) can swing onto the Peregrine Loop (one hour, 2.7km), which crosses over old mining works on 11 timber and two steel bridges, one of which passes through the branches of a willow tree. A 30-minute loop track from Waitiri Creek Wines heads to Big Beach on the Kawarau River, with views of Nevis Bluff.
While you're in the area, be sure to call into the rustic Gibbston Tavern, just off the highway past Peregrine. It stocks Gibbston wines, fires up good pizzas and has a small art gallery.
If you're keen to explore the valley's wineries without needing to contemplate a drive afterwards, consider staying among the vines in Kinross Cottages, where the heritage-looking cottages are a front for modern, luxurious studio rooms. It has its own cellar door, representing five Central Otago vineyards, plus a general store with good meals.
Ask at the Queenstown i-SITE for maps and information about touring the area.