We positioned ourselves in Wanaka both coming from and heading back to Christchurch. For simplicity’s sake we decided to stay at the same B&B both times and we’re glad we did. Suzy and Caroline at the Criffel Peak View B&B were friendly hosts and the breakfasts were perfect to sustain us for a full day of sightseeing. While both women didn’t necessarily agree on our planned itineraries (they thought we were driving too much and suggested more tramping) they were still very helpful with advice and food recommendations. Breakfast was a chatty affair with all guests describing their plans for the day and trading suggestions. As a favor, I even snagged a few highly sought after Otago wine maps for them when we came through the second time.
We were in the king room for all three nights and while the bed was comfortable and the room was quiet, my only complaint was that the private bathroom wasn’t en-suite. This meant you had to go out into the hallway to use the next door bathroom, shower, etc. The bathroom itself, however, was large and the amenities were also very good. After a long day of driving it was nice to simply walk downtown for dinner because of the good location of the B&B. Parking was a bit snug but we always had a spot either behind the house or in front near the driveway so it wasn’t a problem for us.
After wandering around downtown for a bit we decided on splitting a margherita pizza and beer at Urban Grind. The tomatoes were not sun dried, as advertised, but the flavor was decent. I went for the Renaissance Brewing Voyager, a fairly hoppy English IPA, while Eric tried the Three Boys Golden Ale, a moderately hopped American pale. We were seated just before they shut down the kitchen, around 9pm. I guess the open till late(!) sign on the door really is relative!
two hoppy beers for two non-hop heads
After a day of driving, we parked the car and headed for Happy Hour at Trout Bar. I started with the house red (which was strangely from Australia) and Eric had the clearest cider we have ever seen. It seriously looked like ginger ale. We weren’t in a hurry, so before happy hour ended, I got us a local “real ale” to share while we continued to people watch and enjoy the views from a picnic table out front. Eventually, we made our way to Francesca’s Italian Kitchen for our fanciest dinner on the South Island. Eric ordered the gnocchi with beef cheek, which was falling apart and quite tasty, while I tried the braised lamb with pappardelle, spinach and green olives. I thought the dish tasted a bit strongly of lemon but the overall combination was still nice. We each had a glass of local Otago wine, a pinot noir for me and a pino gris for him.
Liking the menu from our earlier scouting mission we choose Alivate for dinner on our way back through Wanaka. We were seated outside on the patio overlooking the lake and while service was a little slow at least we didn’t have anywhere to be. Eric tried the Desert Heart Pinot Gris (creamy and delish) with a thai-style venison red curry, while I opted for the green-lipped mussels and frites and a Beer Works black peak coffee stout. It was a Central Otago holiday, so some restaurants were closed, making us extra lucky to have a nice view of the lake on this evening. Bonus points to the restaurant for not adding the 15% holiday upcharge as some restaurants were doing.
We were definitely happy with Wanaka given the good restaurants in a relaxed small-town feel, plus the location was quite good for us on this trip.