Chard Road

Today, Chard Road is a quiet back-country byway, used by neighbouring farmers and visitors to the Chard Farm vineyard.  In days gone by however, it was part of the old main coach link between Queenstown and Cromwell.

The precipitous bluffs on the Southern side of the main road at the entrance to the Kawarau Gorge from Queenstown, have proved a major obstacle to traffic into the Wakatipu Basin since William Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelman first settled in the area around 1860.

The original route through Gibbston - known as the "Gentle Annie" track, followed the northern side of the valley and went behind the Judge & Jury rock formations descending into Arrowtown via "Tobins Track".  In the early 1860's, the residents of Arrowtown pushed for a new road to replace this hazardous track and in 1866 a track more suitable for horse and cart was forged along the Southern side of the valley.

Chard Road, 1874

Kawarau Bridge, just after completion, July 1880

The "Chard Road" was formed through sheer bluffs and followed much the same line as the old Maori greenstone trail - used by Maori when passing through the area in the search of greenstone on the West Coast.  The Morven Ferry punt took travellers across the Kawarau river 3 miles upstream of Chard Farm.  The cutting of the track through Few's bluff - a mass of rock at the start of Chard Road must have tested the perseverance of the early road builders, for in those days before gelignite, holes had to be hand drilled in the rock, then filled with black powder.  The drill marks can still be seen today.  Picks, shovels, wheelbarrows and drays were used to clear the rubble. 

There is a charming story about a close friend of the Chard family who in the 1930's took his honeymoon bride to visit them.  As they proceeded around the most precipitous part of the road, a loving arm on her shoulder, the bride suggested to her new husband that he "might be better off using both hands"- "and to my alarm" as she told the story, "he proceeded to take me at my word!"

The Kawarau Bridge - an engineering masterpiece itself and now known as "the Bungy Bridge" was constructed to bypass the unreliable Morven Ferry punt and was officially opened on 30 December 1880, making this piece of road a side road but an important "lifeline" for Chard Farm and the neighbouring Conepeak sheepstation.



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