Back in 1860, Henry Campbell acquired Criffel Station as part of the new Wanaka Station. The initial intention was to use the land for sheep mustering and to enjoy the stunning views in relative solitude while other parts of Otago where teeming with people in search of their fortune in gold.
Only 20 years later, two prospectors found gold on the eastern summit slopes of Criffel range and for the following 20 years, the Central Otago gold rush reached deep into Criffel’s 1,350m high ranges. Two water races – one 24km long – were constructed in the early years, bringing water from the Luggate creek to the diggings. It is estimated that 1,200 ounces of gold were produced from the station.
The original mining races were replaced with a galvanized steel water race in the early 1900’s as the focus for the station moved from mining to farming. Irrigating in this dry alpine environment was critical. The huge Wanaka Station was eventually broken into smaller farms, and Criffel Station, as we know it today, was established.
Dr. George Morris of Cromwell purchased the farm for his son (who was serving in WWI) in 1910. Due to the luck of a ballot, upon returning to New Zealand, George Jr. drew neighbouring Lake McKay Station in a ballot and combined it into the family’s land on Criffel.
It was George Jr. who built the Woolshed (in the 1940’s) that is today host to many weddings and events.
It was in 1965 that Hector Bell and his family purchased Criffel Station. Hector led a team of farmers to establish New Zealand’s then-largest private irrigation scheme providing water to Criffel Station and surrounding farms, irrigating 2,000 acres and costing approximately $16,000.
Jerry and Mandy Bell purchased Criffel Station from Jerry’s parents in 1993, they converted it into a commercial and stud breeding deer farm. They expanded the farm further purchasing Frenchman’s Creek and combining it with the station. Today the Station runs several thousand Eastern European hinds and produces venison and velvet.
It was in the early 2000’s that Criffel began to venture into tourism and events. Initially, it was at Criffel Station Woolshed with locals choosing to get married here. Increasingly people looking for a rural experience in stunning Central Otago were hosted as part of international delegations. This provided the background to extend the Criffel hospitality and a few years later Criffel Station Stay, Discovery and Crossfire were added, further expanding the Criffel Station stable of brands and offerings.