Exploring Walter Peak Station, a working South Island Farm

A relaxing cruise on the Earnslaw to Walter Peak Station, a tour of the farm and a gourmet barbeque was too much to pass up. It ended up being one of our favourite experiences on our South Island trip and is highly recommended for anyone visiting Queenstown! 

The Earnslaw at Walter Peak

The Earnslaw docking at Walter Peak Sheep Station in Queenstown

After a peaceful cruise on board the Earnslaw, we disembarked the old girl and were met by a very ‘Kiwi’ looking bloke wearing gumboots, a checkered shirt, and a leather hat leaning on a stockman’s stick. He had three weather-beaten looking dogs floating around his legs eagerly awaiting his next command. “Move over to the shed, the show is about to start” he yelled. Like a mob of trained sheep, a flock of 60 plus tourists started moving slowly toward the shearing sheds.

View of Walter Peak

Farm tour at Walter Peak Station

A view of Walter Peak Station from the Earnslaw & the farm tour

It was a stunning day, an absolute cracker! It was hot and I was dying for a cold beer. We found a perch up the back of the shed as the weary sheep were led onto the stage. Show time!

The shearing shed on the Walter Peak tour

 Inside the shearing shed on the Walter Peak Farm tour.

The demonstration was entertaining. A token sheep was shorn to the delight of tourists. Our MC told us about the station, its history and the challenges they faced farming in the rugged South Island land. After the sheep were all given haircuts, we were treated to a live mustering in the surrounding paddock. The dogs were amazing, stalking the sheep like missiles in the grass. You watch it on TV but seeing it live is something else. Bes, the main sheep dog, had a hard time rounding up the flock due to thistles in the grass. To the amusement of the crowd, the MC had to shout several times to get her to listen.

Walter Peak vintage farm tour

Watching the dogs round up sheep.  Part of the Walter Peak vintage farm tour.

Once finished, the celebrities of the show were let in so the audience could pat and feed them. A few minutes later, lunch was announced. Walter Peak Station offers two dining options, a tea and scones option or a gourmet barbeque. Thankfully, we opted for the barbeque lunch. We drifted slowly toward the main building to find a table for four. We found one on the veranda in the sun overlooking the crystal clear lake; placed a drinks order and waited for the chief to finished carving the meat. The smell was amazing and we were all salivating like wild animals at this point. I took a stroll to the barbeque and to my surprise; found every kind of meat you could imagine. All cooked on an open wood fire. I was in heaven!

Gourmet lunch at Walter Peak 

The chef carving meat for our gourmet lunch

BBBQ lunch at Walter Peak

Open wood fired barbeque cooking our gourmet lunch

Perfectly cooked steak at Walter Peak

Fresh sausages, pork and chicken for lunch, perfectly cooked BBQ steak – rare, medium rare and well-done.

I went back to the table, gazed out over the water and listened to the tourist next to us praising New Zealand’s beauty. “Your Heineken sir. Also, lunch is now being served” the waitress said. Music to my ears. I sipped on my chilled beer waiting for the lines to die down; five minutes later I went up to join the queue. Potatoes dripping in melted butter, crunchy green beans in garlic sauce, asparagus, warm Ciabatta bread, hot pumpkin & kumara, crisp salad, herbed lamb sausages, crispy pork, a moist chicken thigh and a healthy slab of medium rare tender steak. “Can I have another beer please?” I asked a passing waiter before I started shovelling food down throat…

My lunch at Walter Peak

My gourmet BBQ lunch at Walter PeakA must do activity when visiting Queenstown!

My partners Walter Peak lunch

My partners Walter Peak lunch – steak, pork, salad and fresh bread!

After lunch, dessert and several cold beverages, we were free to roam the station. The old farm buildings are surrounded by mature trees and colourful gardens. The smell of fresh roses floated in the warm breeze and reminded me of my grandmother’s garden when I was a kid. Families playfully wrestled on the grass in the sun while couples dozed in the shade under giant Poplar and Pine trees. It was an idyllic afternoon that we didn’t want to end.

The gardens at Walter Peak Station

Exploring the gardens at Walter Peak Station after lunch.

Cottage at Walter Peak Queenstown

An old cottage at Walter Peak Farm in Queenstown

Walter Peak wharf

Looking back at the Walter Peak wharf where the Earnslaw docks.

After lying in the shade for half an hour, we meandered past the old shearing shed toward the back paddocks. A dusty red Ute arrived with a bunch of young farm hands in it. They piled out and started unloading gear from the back, unfazed by the 60+ tourists wandering aimlessly around their office.

Shearing shed on Walter Peak Station

Looking back at the shearing sheds as farmers arrive to unload gear.

It wouldn’t be a farm experience without farm animals! In a paddock behind the old homestead lived a young buck (red deer), some sheep and a llama (or alpaca). After fifteen minutes of feeding and stroking, the whistle of the Earnslaw echoed off the mountain walls; sadly our experience was coming to an end.

Farm animals at Walter Peak Station

Farm animals at Walter Peak Station in the South Island

We all started to gather at the pier and watch the TSS Earnslaw arc around the front of the old homestead and alongside the pier. We waited as a new load of wide-eyed tourist shuffled off the boat before we boarded - Walter Peak is a well-oiled tourist machine!

The Earnslaw at Walter Peak2

The TSS Earnslaw docking at Walter Peak Farm

Within ten minutes we’re boarding this beautiful old ship again bound for Queenstown. I took the time to walk the lower decks, examine the steam room (including the engineer’s diagrams), and the onboard museum located in the bow. I look at black and white photos of a younger TSS Earnslaw from early 1900, before it was a tourist attraction. It once transported sheep but is now a cherished treasure of Queenstown – thank god it was saved! I walk back to my spot at the back of the boat, stretch out and doze in the sun admiring the mountains on other side of the lake. The water is glacial blue, the sun is hot and the breeze warm. I take one last photo looking back at Walter Peak Station. We have full stomachs and a holiday memory we will all remember for a long time. 9/10!

Looking back at Walter Peak

Looking back at Walter Peak Station after our farm tour.


This story and great photos are courtesy of Isreal Hartley.