Purchased in 1860 by Henry Campbell, what we now know as Criffel Station was but a small section of the newly formed Wanaka Station spanning all area west of the Upper Clutha, to the foot of Lake Wanaka, out to the Kawarau River. 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 were teeming with people in search of their fortune in gold.
However only 20 years later, two prospectors found gold on the eastern summit slopes of the Criffel range and for the following two decades, the great Central Otago gold rush reached deep into Criffel’s 1350m high ranges changing the landscape forever. It is estimated that 1,200 ounces of gold were produced until 1900 when the land started to exhibit signs of drying up. That in combination with the extensive rabbit problems in the area lead to government intervention in the early 1900s, the method – acquisition and division of the land into smaller blocks of land, to be balloted to the World War 1 Veterans.
In 1910 the station was purchased by Dr. George Morris of Cromwell for his son serving in World War 1. In an instance of sheer luck of the draw, upon his returning George Jr. drew neighbouring Lake McKay Station in the ballot. It was this combined land which Hector Bell purchased in 1980 and operated as a high country sheep station until its sale to his son Jerry and his family in 1993 when its farming operations changed to Deer.
Today the Criffel Station runs several thousand Eastern European hinds and produces venison and velvet. The property runs as four farming operations – hill breeding, venison finishing, velveting and a stud operation. The stud operation utilises breeding values with a primary focus on venison growth to 12 months. DNA technology is used to produce top quality breeding hinds and stags. The genetics are passed directly to the commercial operation and other commercial buyers.
It was in the early 2000s that Criffel Station began to venture into tourism and events. Initially, it was at the Historic 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.