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If you’ve never gone mountain carting, then I hate to tell you this, but you’re missing out. But the good news is that New Zealand’s only mountain carts can be found just an hour outside of Queenstown, on Cardrona Mountain!
Cardrona is a ski field that’s one of the best places to see in Wanaka if you’re visiting New Zealand in the winter, but during the summer you can get your adrenaline fix by zooming down the side of the mountain in a specially designed cart. You can even get competitive and race against your friends, and this can also be a great activity for families with slightly older kids.
Having adventurous activities like mountain carting so close by is a big part of why I love living in Queenstown so much. I had a lot of fun when I went mountain carting at Cardrona, and I definitely recommend it if you’re here during the summertime. Who knows, I might even see you out on the track!
Don’t have time to read the full article? Mountain carting is essentially zooming down a mountain on a safer version of a go-cart. To be honest, I found it a little scary at first but had a great time, so I highly recommend trying it out. This 2-hour carting session at Cardrona Mountain lets you race down the mountain multiple times and includes all the gear you need.
1. About Cardrona Mountain Carting
Mountain carting is still a pretty new pastime and there aren’t really that many places in the world that you can do it (unless you fashion your own cart, of course), so I’ll start by explaining what it actually is.
A mountain cart is a 3-wheeled cart with a low center of gravity, and they’re designed purely to take you zooming down mountains for fun! They’ve got hydraulic disk brakes, which basically means that they’re safe to use on steep routes and won’t send you flying into the air if you brake hard. It’s a little bit like a safer version of go-karting, where gravity does the work instead of an engine. They’re also very light, so you actually bring them on the chairlift with you when you head up the mountain.
This Cardrona Mountain carting session lasts for 2 hours, and you can race down the mountain multiple times during that window. The price includes chairlift access, so once you’ve put on your helmet and overalls, you can take your cart up the side of the top of the ski resort and race back down on one of the three tracks available.
The tracks vary in length and difficulty level, but the longest track is over 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) long. You really do get some speed up, and honestly, I was actually a little scared at first! It was so much fun though, and you don’t have to go fast if you’re not comfortable. As I mentioned, these things have good brakes, so you’re in control of your speed.
Another thing I should mention is that this activity is only available in the summer! During the winter, Cardrona Mountain is a ski resort, and the snow really wouldn’t be ideal for mountain carting anyway.
The exact dates that mountain carting is available vary according to the season, but you can usually book online between mid-December and early March. There are multiple time slots available throughout the day and you can come as late as 8 pm on a Friday! It’s something that you can easily add to your Queenstown itinerary.
2. Where is the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
Cardrona Mountain Carting takes place at the Cardrona Alpine Resort. This is 58 kilometers (36 miles) from Queenstown, and it takes about an hour and 10 minutes to drive there.
You can also get here from Wanaka, which is a 45-minute drive away. However, it’s also worth allocating a little extra time to drive along the Cardrona Access Road, which I’ll talk more about in just a moment.
The road itself is gravel and steep in some sections, so take it easy on this drive.
3. How do you get to the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
The only way to get to where Cardrona Mountain Carting is located is to drive yourself. To do this, you’ll need to drive along the Cardrona Access Road, which is a gravel road up to the ski resort. Since the road is unsealed, you’ll need to take it slow and be careful. Save the speed for the mountain carts!
Related Read: Need a car while visiting? Read everything you need to know in our guide about renting a car in Queenstown!
4. How much does Cardrona Mountain Carting cost?
Cardrona Mountain carting costs $163 NZD for adults and $82 NZD for kids aged 8-17. Parking at the resort is free so there are no hidden extra fees, and you won’t need to fight for a space during the summer.
For that price, you get 2 hours of unlimited fun. You can go up and down as many times as you want!
Why I Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
5. What is included in the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
The Cardrona Mountain Carting experience includes everything you need for a safe and fun experience. The price covers the cart hire, your lift pass, a helmet, goggles, and overalls to keep your clothes (somewhat) clean.
Basically, everything you need to enjoy this activity. Just be sure to wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty!
6. Is the Cardrona Mountain Carting dangerous?
It’s as safe or as dangerous as you make it. The carts are in good condition and you’re truly in control of your speed, so it all depends on how fast or slow you want to go. There’s a safety briefing before you begin and you get all of the proper safety gear, including a high-quality helmet, but your safety is ultimately in your hands. Going really fast is obviously going to be more dangerous!
7. Who can do the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
It’s suitable for kids over the age of 8. Kids older than this can drive their own cart, but they do need a parent to participate at the same time for supervision purposes if they’re under 12. It’s also a no-go for pregnant women and anyone with back problems, mobility impairments, or heart problems.
8. Will you get dirty during the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
Yes, you definitely will. The overalls do protect your clothes, but speaking from experience, you will still get dirty and want to take a shower afterward. Don’t go wine tasting or to a fancy restaurant straight after mountain carting!
9. Can you do the Cardrona Mountain Carting if you have no experience?
Yes, it’s easy to learn. There’s really not that much to it – gravity does the work, and you apply the brakes as necessary. I had never done it before but had no problems picking it up.
The best part is, when you book the carting experience, there are a few different tracks, including a beginner track for you to practice on first. I highly suggest doing this just to get the hang of it! Then, head for the hard tracks and have some real fun!
10. How long do you get to do the Cardrona Mountain Carting?
Cardrona Mountain Carting lasts for two hours. You can tackle the tracks as many times as you want during that time! It’s a lot of fun but remember to take a second to enjoy the views from the top before you zoom down again.
11. Facilities at the Cardrona Mountain Carting
There’s a shop here that sells lots of outdoor products. It’s handy if you’re planning to enjoy other activities like mountain biking or hiking in the Wanaka area. And of course, they’ve got plenty of Cardrona merchandise.
Restaurant and bar
You may well be hungry or thirsty after your mountain carting experience, so you can grab some food or a beer at the bar and restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so it doesn’t matter what time you come, although you should hold off on that beer until after the carting!
Related Read: If you’re on a budget, make sure to check out my guide to free and cheap things to do in Wanaka after you finish mountain carting!
12. Is Cardrona Mountain Carting worth it?
Yes! I loved it. I won’t lie – it was a little scary at first, as you can pick up some serious speed, but I had a great time.
Other Things to do in Wanaka
Whether you’re looking for more adrenaline-filled activities or maybe something a bit more relaxing, Wanaka is full of fun things to do! These are a few of my favorites:
- ATV ride – Zip up into the mountains on this Cardrona Valley Mountain Quad adventure! This tour makes sightseeing a little bit more thrilling as you’ll follow your guide through winding dirt tracks past lush farmland. You’ll stop to take in the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains of the Cardrona Valley. It’s only a 2-hour tour, so you will still have a lot of time for other activities.
- Wine tasting – You’ll get to taste wine right from the land of the indigenous Maori people in Wanaka on this Wine and Maori Culture Tour. It’s a half-day experience that includes round-trip transport, so you don’t have to worry about driving. Just focus on the wine and beautiful landscapes as you visit the different wineries and enjoy the provided cheese platter.
- Horseback riding – This is the perfect leisurely sightseeing activity that takes you up into the countryside and past historical gold-mining locations for some fabulous views. On this horse riding trek, you’ll navigate through cattle farms and across a river and end the day with a free beer from the Cardrona Pub on the way back.
- Combo adventure tour – The Jet Boat, Hike, and Raft Adventure is one of the best tours in Wanaka for thrill seekers! It’s a full day of activities including a jet boat and rafting ride on the Matukituki River and a nature trek to take in the beautiful landscapes of Mount Aspiring National Park where you’ll stop for lunch at the base of a glacier! It costs $379 NZD, but it is more cost-effective than booking these activities separately.
Where to Stay in Wanaka
There are tons of places to stay in Wanaka. Seriously, you’ll have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Wanaka countless times and can recommend the accommodation options below:
Hawea Hotel – $
The Hawea Hotel is the perfect budget option for anybody looking to save a few dollars. That said, the rooms are really comfortable, clean, and offer incredible lake views! It is likely the best value for money hotel in Wanaka, with all rooms including a flat-screen television, a private bathroom, and a balcony too.
A one-night stay here starts from around $180 NZD per night, with budget dorm rooms as well as double rooms and family rooms available. You can check your dates and reserve your room here on Booking.com.
Archway Motel & Chalets – $$
When I travel, I often like to stay in apartment-style hotels so that I can cook my own meals. The Archway Motels & Chalets offers studio apartments, one-bedroom apartments, as well as two and three bedroom apartments for really reasonable prices! These are great for families or people traveling in groups (I stayed here last time I traveled with friends).
The motel is located only a short drive from town in a peaceful area – talk about holiday bliss! Room rates start at around $200 NZD per night, averaging around $350 NZD in the high season. You can check availability and book your stay online on Booking.com here.
Club Wyndham Wanaka – $$$
If you’re visiting Wanaka to relax and spoil yourself, then there’s no question that you should stay at Club Wyndham! This hotel is located right in town only minutes from Lake Wanaka and features an outdoor heated pool, waterslide, hot tub, sauna, and an onsite bar and café.
All rooms here come with a kitchenette or full kitchen, and many also offer lake views. You’ll also have access to their fitness center too if you fancy working up a sweat before hitting the sauna! Rooms here at Club Wyndham start at around $300 NZD and can be booked here on Booking.com.
For more detailed information, check out my blog all about where to stay in Wanaka! It includes different areas to stay in and the best hotels for all budgets!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. My top choice for a motorhome company is Star RV because they have beautiful motorhomes at affordable prices. You can check prices and availability for Star RV motorhomes online here. Alternatively, you can use Motorhome Republic to search all motorhomes in NZ. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
Going mountain carting at Cardrona is an experience unlike any other. Hopefully, this guide has helped prepare you to try it for yourself!
I really hope you loved this blog and found it helpful. If so, be sure to check out more of my blogs. I’ve been busy writing about Wanaka, Queenstown, and New Zealand in general. Or enjoy some of my more popular posts below: