Behind the Facade: The Cardrona Hotel


Travel along the Crown Range Road, New Zealand’s highest highway, and you’re bound to come across one of New Zealand’s oldest and possibly most photographed buildings – the Cardrona Hotel.

Located just 20 minutes south of Wanaka and 40 minutes north of Queenstown,  the Cardrona Hotel has been the backdrop to many television and print advertising campaigns, but is probably best known, at least to most New Zealanders, as the star of the Speight’s Brewery ‘Southern Man’ ads.

Built in 1863 during the Central Otago gold rush days, this hotel (originally named the Empire Hotel) provided accommodation, livery services, and dining for miners and itinerant travelers as well as a social center for the local Cardrona community.

In the 1860’s the building’s false weatherboard front concealed a small corrugated iron clad, single-story building.

Today, the original false front remains but behind the façade, while much has changed, there’s plenty that has also remained the same.

Walk through the false front into the pub and it’s like being in a 1860s time capsule, complete with fireplaces and creaky wooden floors.

Pictures line the walls and relics from yesteryear sit on the shelves and hang from the ceiling.




A strategically place blackboard just outside the backdoor provides answers to frequently asked questions, including one that references a hugely popular Speight’s Better Half ad (see video here)









More relics of yesteryear are scattered out back amidst the trees and inside cluttered sheds.







And surrounding the garden, a number of stone walled and weatherboard buildings provide rooms with all modern conveniences for weary travelers.




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