A visit to New Zealand's most photographed lake - Lake Hayes - is a beautiful South Island day trip. But when you also consider that some of our favourite vineyard restaurants are dotted around this stunning lake... well, you may just want to stop for a night or two!
Central Otago has a global reputation for phenomenal Pinot Noir, and Lake Hayes is one of the prettiest pockets of this, the world's most southern winemaking region.
Just a short drive from the ski resort mecca of Queenstown, Lake Hayes offers visitors stunning mountain vistas (reflected in the mirror-like surface of the lake), historic cottages and architecturally-notable homes, and two of New Zealand's best winery restaurants...
Amisfield Winery & Bistro
First, Amisfield, a single estate vineyard that specialises in Pinot Noir of remarkable purity, intensity and vibrancy. The wine-making here is less about what they do, and more about what they don't do.
Nestled beneath the magnificent Pisa mountain range (formed over two million years ago) is Amisfield Winery's Bistro and Cellar Door. Made from local schist and with a sharply-pitched copper roof, the building is as dramatic and imposing as the mountains that surround it. But inside, you'll discover a welcome equally as warm as Amisfield's award-winning wine and roaring fire.
Visit the Cellar Door for a 'taste of this place' and then, with palette enlivened, head into (or through to the vine-covered courtyard of) Amisfield's acclaimed Bistro. The 'Trust the Chef' menu is a signature of the Amisfield experience. You'll be served multiple courses of smaller portions (some designed for sharing), all matched with phenomenal wine. Lonely Planet Wine Trails called Amisfield "arguably the region's ultimate winery experience"... we would second that!
Images via Amisfield
Akarua Wines & Kitchen
Close to Amisfield is another of our favourite winery restaurant destinations, Akarua Wines & Kitchen. Akarua has a portfolio of six vineyards in various parts of Central Otago, the varietals from which are all served here.
The chefs here have a palpable passion for handcrafted, made-from-scratch cuisine, using the freshest and finest ingredients sourced in and around the four coasts of the South Island.
Open 8am to 5pm, we recommend a long lunch that stretches lazily into the afternoon. Dine in the beautiful garden or Akarua's restored historic cottage, whether the atmosphere is comfortable and social.
Images via Akarua Wines & Kitchen