Bannockburn: There’s gold in those hills

Beat a retreat to Bannockburn.

Photo: WANAKA.TV

Fancy a road trip with a friend or beau? Fuel up and put the foot down for Bannockburn, the not-so-sleepy goldmining town of yesteryear, now basking in anew golden era of viticulture and foodie heaven. Just 45 minutes down the line from Wanaka, Bannockburn is an ideal hub from which to visit the award-winning vineyards of Mt Difficulty, Felton Road and Carrick Wines.

Tipping your hat to the early settlers, you can promenade against a backdrop of lavender fields, rose hips and other-worldly vistas. Here, you can wander into the hills and discover forgotten goldfields, sulicings and ghost towns, then stroll through the historic village to scope out the gorgeous General Store (now host to a contemporary design outlet) and stop in at the Bannockburn Café. Musts on the menu include a coffee made by teen wunderkind/gold medallist barista Joel Neilson; the chef’s special lemonade scones and my personal favourite, the creamy dreamy mushrooms on toast. Like the locals, I suggest you take time to savour a long repas at the café: read the weekend paper and scour the vintage trinket collection for gifts for those you’ve left behind. You’re bound to find something that captures your imagination – I’m enamoured with the dinky cake tins, locally-grown saffron and cutie-pie prints.

There’s a resilience of spirit in Bannockburn. I think it’s something to do with the pioneering history, the rugged landscape and dramatic climate. Here, things are not done by halves, the frosts are hardcore and the people disarmingly friendly. You’ll know what I mean when you go there.

Until then, just consider my final recommendation: A smooth finish to any Bannockburn sojourn should include a velvety Pinot from a nearby winery and maybe a nip in to the pub down the road. Shapeshifter played there once, you know.

ANNABEL WILSON

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