A Queenstown firm’s ploughing $20 million into farm tourism at Walter Peak.
Real Journeys, which ferries visitors across Lake Wakatipu on the historic Earnslaw steamer, plans sweeping improvements to its lakefront facilities.
A 400-person capacity amphitheatre for farm demonstrations will be built this winter.
Historic Ardmore House will cater for conferences and other events.
A wedding chapel, with stunning views across Lake Wakatipu, is also planned.
And the woolshed – where farm tours are currently based – will be extended and converted into a delicatessen and licensed cafe, and the gift store will be upgraded.
Since 2013, when it bought the Walter Peak property it formerly leased, Real Journeys has upgraded the Colonel’s Homestead restaurant, adding gourmet BBQ dining.
“Its popularity has grown even faster than the current growth in tourism,” boss Richard Lauder says.
The company’s board has now signed off on a masterplan to further enhance Walter Peak’s attraction to visitors.
The farm demonstration building will not only be the first new facility, but the most striking. Northwest of the existing woolshed, it will have a roof form reflecting the geological fans flowing down the sides of Walter Peak.
Visitors will watch shearing demonstrations and wool displays from semi-circular tiered seating. They’ll also be able to view sheep dogs rounding up sheep beyond the arena.
An earth bund will wrap around the rear of the building.
While this is being built in time for next summer, Real Journeys will also undertake infrastructure works like moving its wastewater plant and upgrading the power supply.
The company also plans to get into conferences and weddings.
“We have constant enquiries for weddings,” Lauder says.
“Our problem is usually people want weddings in summer and it just displaces our summer business.”
As a result, it will build a multi-denominational chapel.
It’s also converting Ardmore House into a separate restaurant and conference and function centre for 150 people.
With the new facilities creating more jobs, Real Journeys will also upgrade and extend its staff accommodation.
It currently houses 17 staff but will eventually cater for up to 50.