Our Hotel History, Heartland World Heritage
Before a hotel was even considered on this site, it was the local alcohol supply point for fishermen from Jackson Bay. Orders would be regularly taken and relayed to the Cromwell pub – a couple of crates for each fisherman was the usual order. The weekly bus carrying mail and passengers over the Haast Pass to the West Coast would drop off the drink orders – a dozen crates or so of beer, all labeled with the names of those who had ordered them. Often the crates would sit on the side of the road for up to a week, as the fishermen would be out in the Tasman Sea plying their trade. But they could be sure their orders would still be sitting there, on the side of the road, waiting for them on their return.
The Haast Hotel was built in the 1960s and originally comprised the Selbourne Wing and a Restaurant and Administration block. The Landsborough Wing was built in 1970 and the hotel has undergone progressive building and renovation projects since then.
The hotel, like the area, has attracted some interesting and colourful personalities.
Joe and Marcia Martini managed the hotel under the DB brand. The ‘pub dog’, the Martini’s red setter, would catch the daily bus from the corner – the same bus that used to drop off the beer – and the bus driver would let the dog out some 5-10km from the pub, letting the dog run it’s way home. A very ‘Coast’ form of exercising the dog!
Marcia had a quirky sense of humour – travellers would occasionally see her out at the pub washing line, adorned in wetsuit, flippers and mask and snorkel, hanging the hotel laundry on the line.
Mike Chibnall later owned and managed the property and was known to sit at the corner of the bar every night and smoke his way through a couple of packets of cigarettes – something that would be unheard of today. He also had a penchant for a certain whiskey and had a singular dislike of footwear.
A group of investors from Queenstown took over ownership of the hotel in 2003 and invested in refurbishment and repair as the property had become rundown. The Southwestland environment is very harsh and constant maintenance is essential for all private and commercial buildings.
Scenic Hotel Group took over the management of the hotel in December 2008 when it became the Heartland World Heritage Hotel
in recognition of its magnificent location in the heart of the World Heritage Te Wahipounamu site that encompasses the Aoraki / Mount Cook, Fiordland, Mount Aspiring and Westland National Parks.