After a day of adventure, there’s nothing better than discovering the best bars and wineries in Queenstown. Unwind with a cocktail or glass of pinot noir. Relax with a stunning backdrop of snowcapped peaks – winter fire essential.
Once a woolshed, Eichardt’s Bar is now a pivotal part of the grand boutique hotel it calls home. Come here for tapas, high tea, wine and whiskey flights – what better ways to celebrate tradition, position and heritage with a contemporary sensibility and service? The decor combines both old and new, with elegant sofas, a fireplace and picture windows framing the lake.
This downtown ‘winery’ comes replete with the atmosphere and comfort of a regional cellar door, allowing you to discover and buy a tipple or two (whether by the bottle or glass) from one of the world’s largest collections of New Zealand wines and spirits. Settle in for a tasting in the lounge, your beverage best accompanied by a platter of local cheeses, cured meats and breads.
Once a run-down apartment, this now sophisticated venue knows how to shake and stir premium cocktails – try the signature Bunker Vesper made with gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc. Quality is guaranteed, given that their mantra is ‘cocktails first, questions later’. Much later – they stay open until 4am. A roaring fire and chilled music maintain the vibe in this best-kept-secret space.
A bar that’s open for breakfast and serves cocktails at this early hour? How civilised. An offshoot of the beloved and internationally renowned Fergburger, Ferg’s Bar offers a substantial menu of plates to share, no matter the time of day. Not to mention the drinks list, featuring signature recipes such as the fantastic and fun Cookies and Cream (think house-infused vanilla vodka with gelato), with a separate section for ‘gin creations’. Like its parent eatery, the bar is bound to gain a cult following.
A hospitality offshoot of Kiwi menswear brand Rodd & Gunn, this bar has a style and pedigree that combines a seductive atmosphere and standout service thanks to a partnership between Michelin-starred New Zealand chef Matt Lambert and applauded Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas. Think exclusive club with grand views over Lake Wakatipu. It’s indulgent and exclusive, but also casually elegant, with an overarching commitment to (and a serious passion for) New Zealand’s finest food and wine.
The bar at No5 adjoins a restaurant by the same name, and is best known for its bespoke signature cocktails. If you’re a dessert fan, try the Parfait Martini: an irresistible concoction finished with honey, rhubarb puree, vanilla cream and burnt cinnamon. The pride of this venue is the extensive wine list, the only one in New Zealand exclusively featuring Central Otago tipples.
Bardeaux is perfect for pre-dinner drinks, that big night out or for après after a big day on the slopes. A huge fireplace and location among the central bars of downtown Queenstown see this establishment buzzing until late. The most discerning of guests are well catered for with specialty cocktails, an extensive list of local pinots, top-shelf champagnes and knowledgeable staff.
Regularly voted Queenstown’s best bar, Sundeck takes ambience to another level: the rooftop. Gather around your personal firepit, cocktail in hand, to enjoy sunsets over the lake and beyond to Cecil Peak. There’s also a menu of share plates, highlighting New Zealand flavours. This is the perfect place to meet early and stay late, to enjoy mellow vibes from local DJs and musos.
Partly hidden down a stone-lined alley in Arrowtown you’ll discover a blue door that leads to a subterranean whiskey wonderland. Open late, this gem of a lounge serves spirits neat and in cocktails, all accompanied by live music. Listen to psyche rock or funk, or everything in between. If you’re lucky you’ll be taken there by a local in the know to celebrate with a bespoke cocktail or a premium single malt in front of the fire. Settle in for a great night.
You’ll never hop in a minivan again after a day with Black ZQN. Bespoke touring is the name of the game on this company’s half- and full-day experiences that take place in luxury European vehicles. The tours are completely customised to your palate and preferences. You will while away hours visiting wineries in Gibbston, Bannockburn and Lowburn, including visits to actor Sam Neill’s estate, Two Paddocks, as well as the dreamy Cloudy Bay Shed. It’s not just about a smooth ride, with tour guides teeing up VIP experiences behind the cellar doors and permitting you rare time with winemakers.
Long lunches are synonymous with this single-estate vineyard, just a 15-minute drive northeast of Queenstown. The 92 hectares recently underwent a five-year conversion to organic viticulture, with the kitchen following suit. Organic produce is the star of the show in executive chef Vaughan Mabee’s kitchen. Ingredients are sourced within 250 kilometres of the restaurant. Pair four-course lunches and five-course dinners with estate wines to experience the full scope of the fertile land’s bounty. The pinot noir’s reputation matches that of the restaurant.
The drive from Queenstown across the Crown Range is dramatic, to say the least. Let the experts take the wheel for a day so you can enjoy the local scenery and drops on offer. A Mercedes GLS feels appropriate as you wind over the mountains to Cardrona. If you’ve been to Cardrona Alpine Resort, an hour northeast of Queenstown, you’ve probably popped into the famous Cardrona Hotel for a pint. You might not have been to Cardrona Distillery, a state-of-the-art spirits distillery just down the road. You’ll visit both on this customisable day tour, with lunch at the historic pub before stopping at local wineries and a few more in Gibbston on the way back to your base.
If you thought cheese and wine were a perfect match, tag along the Queenstown Wine Trail’s ‘Spa and Wine’ tour. This day of pure decadence kicks off with a 90-minute treatment at one of Queenstown’s luxe day spas. Muscles and mind sufficiently relaxed, a post-therapy winery lunch is in order. Follow it by tastings at three other cellar doors and a tour of the Gibbston Valley wine cave.
Linger longer at Kinross, where you have five different wineries on show in one cellar door, alongside a bistro, wine garden and 14 cottages to check in to. Nestled in fertile Gibbston, the Kinross cottages offer a front-row seat to the working vineyard during vintage. Year-round the cellar door is well stocked with the estate’s own range along with Coal Pit, Hawkshead, Valli and the Wild Irishman wines.
You don’t need to go all the way to France to visit a wine cave – not when one of Central Otago’s founding wineries and largest producers has its own. Sign up for a wine tasting, two-course lunch and a cave tour at Gibbston Valley and you’ll try the estate’s premium drops while surrounded by barrels, before sitting down to savour them paired with top local produce.
This article first appeared in the Signature Luxury Travel & Style Ultimate Guide to Queenstown ebook. To download the latest issue click here.
Lead image: Enjoy lunch with wines from five estates at Kinross