Cardrona Alpine Resort is one of our favourite winter playgrounds in New Zealand and we’ve had many magnificent days snowboarding there. If you're planning a winter visit, check out our guide to Skiing and Snowboarding at Cardrona.
Luckily when the snow melts the fun doesn’t stop at Cardrona! Mountain biking is an extremely popular outdoor activity in New Zealand and Cardrona offers an awesome bike park which I wrote about recently. But there's more - we returned to Cardrona sans bike to see what else was on offer.
We started our day with a ride up McDougall’s Chondola to take in the amazing views back to Queenstown and over the Cardrona Valley. Next, we slipped on the hiking shoes and went tramping on the Captain’s Circuit. Last but not least, we got some adrenaline pumping action with a session on the Mountain Carts. What a great day!
Cardrona Alpine resort is about an hour from Queenstown and 35 mins from Wanaka. Well signed posted, the last section is via a gravel road, stretching about 12kms from the intersection of the Cardrona-Valley Road. As always around this part of the world, make sure the camera is handy as the views back to Queenstown from the Crown Ranges (the main route from Queenstown) are spectacular.
Cardrona Alpine Resort has on-hill accommodation but if they’re all booked out there are plenty of options close by too. Consider staying in the Cardrona township for a relaxed, out-of-the-way stay. You can stay at Benbrae Resort, Cardrona Hotel, Cardrona Valley Lodge and Waiorau Homestead. Across the valley, Snowfarm also offers accommodation.
Staying in Queenstown or Wanaka is the most popular choice but consider some of the above options for a different experience.
Tickets & Facilities
If you already have a Cardrona pass, the easiest way to grab your tickets is online. In summer, the lines at the ticket office on the mountain aren't long so getting your tickets when you arrive is no big deal. If you like to be super organised, you can visit one of their offices in either Queenstown (37 Camp St) or Wanaka (20 Helwick St).
The Lounge is the only food and beverage outlet open for summer, offering coffee, alcoholic beverages and a variety of food options. Once your adrenaline has settled, be sure to enjoy the atmosphere on the sundeck while enjoying a hard-earned beer at the end of the day!
Ride the McDougall’s Chondola and take in the views back to Queenstown/Lake Wakatipu and the Cardrona Valley. Do the short hike up Summit Return to see out to Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
There are three hiking trails at Cardrona – Summit Return, Captain’s Circuit and Skyline (the hike from the base to the top of the Chondola and back). Look out for the interpretation points along the way.
As above, Summit Return is a great taste of what’s on offer if you don’t want to commit to the full Captain’s Circuit. Just head up to the peak after you get off the McDougall’s Chondola.
If you’re feeling energetic and don’t fancy jumping on the Chondola, take Skyline from the base building all the way to the top of McDougall’s.
We tackled Captain’s Circuit, which in total took around 2 to 2.5 hours, with plenty of photo stops. Save the link to the map before heading out as the trail can get a bit hard to find at times. The beginning of the trail is just up from the Chondola. If you lose your way once out on the track, look for the pink spray paint on the scattered cairns. We definitely used these markers to link the trail points together. Worst case, you’re not going to get lost as you can see for miles - you just might have to do some cross-country tramping!
Adventure seekers will have a blast on the Mountain Carts – we certainly did! If you love go karting you’ll love these downhill carts. And although there’s no motor, the combination of gravity and a loose surface really gets the heart pumping.
The 3-wheeled carts are so much fun and even the timidest will be drifting by the end of the session. Jen was pretty much drifting by the second corner and I was giggling like a school girl watching her ‘backing-it-in’! And for all you nerds like me, they have independent rear disc brakes (for added drifting – plenty of thrills and spills, just take a look at our vid!) and the chassis is aluminium so it’s nice and light.
Enough talk, check out the video below which includes a little tumble I took right after I gave Jen advice on how NOT to tumble! We can’t wait to take a bunch of our mates out when they’re next in town, it’s going to be carnage! You know who you are…
Are you having fun yet?
As if you don’t already have enough to do in this amazing adventure capital, now you’re going to have to add a summer visit to Cardrona. So much fun to be had!
Have you been to Cardrona Alpine Resort in summer? Or do you have any questions? If so, please leave a comment below.
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Mick is a lover of speed runs and hitting every feature on the mountain. Ex road bike and motocross racer with plans to dabble in mountain bike racing. Spends a lot of time looking at fast cars and bikes. Jen’s instagram model and selfie camera holder due to long arms. Sometimes an optometrist.