Kia Ora: Gibbston

Elisabeth Easther gets lost in a picture-post-card town of bunnies and quaint buildings.
There are stunning views on the drive along SH6 through Gibbston Valley. Photo / Destination Queenstown
There are stunning views on the drive along SH6 through Gibbston Valley. Photo / Destination Queenstown

Origin of name: A contraction of Gibbs Town, Gibb being the owner of the valley's first hotel when the area was a hotbed of miners.

Population: 170 and growing fast.

Local slogan: Valley of the Vines.

Sight for sore eyes: Gibbston is home to swags of quaint buildings, and old wagons and wheels, barrels and cream cans adorn people's gates and gardens. Even the recycling station is cute.

Town mascot: It's a toss-up between the peregrine falcon and the hundred thousand fluffy bunnies.

Pioneer spirit: Thomas Kinross was the original postmaster at Gibbston, holding that post from the late 1860s for 50 years; he and his wife raised 11 children in the valley while also running the trading post.

Local heroes: Despite being told it was impossible to grow grapes in the valley, Alan Brady planted the first vines in the 1980s - and look how well that turned out. Grant Taylor from Valli Wines is also a bit flash, having won an international Best Pinot Noir medal four times, a feat no other winemaker has matched.

Best website: gibbstonvalley.com

Facebook: Gibbston Community Association.

Big business: Pinot and merino.

Sources of pride: Voted Community of the Year in 2011, in part thanks to the Gibbston River Trail.

Town fiestas: The annual Gibbston Harvest Festival each March is popular and the summer music concerts at Gibbston Valley Winery are massive.

Best time to visit: Winter for snow business, autumn for turning leaves, summer for cycling, hiking, eating and drinking and spring to admire the blossoms and sigh. It's lovely 365 days a year.

Best reason to stop: Because it's a dandy base for exploring wineries, cycle trails and snowfields. Or bring your easel and paint it all for posterity.

Kids love: Panning for gold, although come to think of it, adults dig that too. Plus there's bike riding, playing Frisbee golf among the vines, offroad driving to the top of Coal Pit Rd and free ranging.

Best park: The great outdoors, everywhere you look is a big fat park; be sure to visit Gibbston Reserve for the Easter egg hunt and drive-in movies.

Best playground: Kinross Cottages welcomes little visitors with open arms; the play area is ideal for under 7s and keeps the kids occupied while Mum and Dad relax. Plus the hot chocolates are loaded with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Best walk: You can walk the cycle paths or go for a hearty hike over Mt Rosa and down past Nevis Bluff.

Best views: Looking out from the Kawarau Suspension Bridge is beautiful, as are the vistas from the hillocks behind Kinross and Villa Rosa where handily placed seats will let you know where to park yourself.

Photo opportunities: Up the valley or down, dawn to dusk, the mountains, vines and river will make a legendary slideshow when you get home.

Starry starry night: Cross your fingers for clear skies because Gibbston's stargazing is amazing.

Best swim: Aside from the spanking new hot tub at Kinross Cottages, there are several swimming spots along the river - but be warned, it is a fast-flowing waterway.

Best museum: The information panels at Gibbston Valley Winery and Kinross Cottages give a great sense of the old days, from mining to wining.

Nice arts: Admire the life-size merino sheep fashioned from river-worn wood outside Villa Rosa.

Holy cheeses: Stop at the Gibbston Valley Cheesery where, aside from serious cheese products, you can sample their extensive range of condiments and relishes, plus their doorstep ham, cheese and mustard toasties are epic. Teapots, tea towels and biltong are also for sale.

Present tense: The gift shop at Gibbston Valley is perfect if you're after souvenirs.

More shopping: The trading post at Kinross could give an Auckland delicatessen a run for its money - fancy breads, dips, fruit and veges, a wide range of groceries and beverages, and big fat jars of sweeties.

Fruity fare: The historic schoolhouse is so pretty, with two gigantic sequoia trees standing sentry out front. Leah hosts pop-up antique events known as Found - see found.works

Cream of the coffee: Kinross Cottages, it's unanimous, the baristas here know their beans.

Baked: Kinross again, the cakes they sell are created at Queenstown's Cup and Cake and made by a bona fide MasterChef star.

Best food: There's plenty of eating to be done in the Valley. Kinross Cottages do an ace eggs bene, pizzas, salads, full meals and snacks and almost everything is made from scratch. And all the cellar doors do impressive platters to encourage responsible drinking. Cheers to that.

Wet your whistle: For big nights or quiet drinks, Gibbston Tavern is built around a wee collection of historic buildings and is grand for a beverage or two, plus they serve tantalising Hot Buttered Rum.

A matter of taste: There are so many cellar doors to check out, from the architecturally imposing Peregrine to Gibbston Valley, where you'll find the Southern Hemisphere's largest wine cave. Plus there's Mt Rosa, Chard Farm, Brennan Wines, Waitiri Creek Wines and Coal Pit Wines.

Fun fact: Brennan Wines have a product placement deal with The Big Bang Theory. Seriously.

Heavenly digs: Staying at Kinross Cottages is like taking a step back in time, only it's comfortable and luxurious.

Roughing it: At the other end of the sleeping spectrum, pitch a tent at Rum Currie's Campground by the river, named for an old war veteran. Handy interpretation panels tell his story.

Best bike ride: Ride the 22.6km Gibbston River Trail from Gibbston to Arrowtown. Almost entirely off-road, it follows the Kawarau River, through farms and past vineyards and the world's quaintest cottages. Or go hard and cycle the full 120km Queenstown Trail.

Feeling fearless: Bungy from the Kawarau suspension bridge at least once in your life.

Gone to heaven: Drink a local pinot in front of an outside fire on a crisp Central Otago autumn night.

Wildlife: At Kinross Cottage there's a gang of endearingly friendly peking ducks.

The verdict: Like climbing inside a postcard.

Checklist

WHERE IS IT?
In Central Otago, half an hour from Queenstown and 20 minutes from Arrowtown.

- NZ Herald

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