William Fox’s unwitting discovery of gold at Arrowtown in 1862 quickly brought prospectors along the Crown Range and into the Cardrona Valley, where gold was discovered later that year. Five years on, the Europeans legged it to new fields on the West Coast, leaving the dregs to Chinese immigrants, who themselves had drifted away by 1870.

Tiny CARDRONA, 25km south of Wanaka, comprises little more than a few cottages, a long-forgotten cemetery, the Cardrona Hotel and the similarly ancient former post office and store.

South from here, the road twists over the Crown Range Road (SH89), the quickest and most direct route from Wanaka to Queenstown, though it is tortuous enough in places to discourage anyone towing a caravan or trailer. Reaching an altitude of 1076m, it is one of New Zealand’s highest public roads and is sometimes closed by snow in winter. Nonetheless, on a fine day the drive past the detritus of the valley’s gold-mining heyday is a rewarding one, with views across bald, mica-studded hills to the tussock high country beyond. At the pass, a great viewpoint overlooks Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, before it switchbacks down towards SH6 and Queenstown.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
How to find the right New Zealand for you

How to find the right New Zealand for you

While it may not loom large on the world map, New Zealand feels incredibly vast and imposing on the ground, especially to those who try to visit the North and S…

23 May 2016 • Eric Grossman insert_drive_file Article
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks are dotted with wildlife and beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every co…

07 Mar 2016 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month