Deer Park Heights reopening after 11-year break

After 11 years, the gates to Queenstown’s Deer Park Heights will lift open again for the public from next week.

The iconic Peninsula Hill, at Kelvin Heights, has been in the Mee family since the 1960s and, until it shut in 2009, it was the area’s only successful non-sporting attraction.

Since then it has been operating as a breeding and finishing/working deer farm, which would continue, but owner Mike Mee said it was time to share the place with the public again as a scenic drive and animal encounter.

The new toll gates would start working from Tuesday morning.

"We’ve been trying to get it open for two years," Mr Mee said.

"The last time it would have been closed for 10 years and it took six months to reopen.

"It’s just taken a long time and, of course, we’ve got a farm to run and that keeps us fairly busy, but it’s nice to be finally opening again."

Deer Park Heights owner Mike Mee will reopen the Queenstown attraction to the public from Tuesday...
Deer Park Heights owner Mike Mee will reopen the Queenstown attraction to the public from Tuesday. He expects the deer to become friendlier once they get used to people. PHOTOS: TRACEY ROXBURGH
No commercial activity, hikers or cyclists and only vehicles with seven seats or fewer are permitted on the 600ha hill.

Mr Mee said visitors would notice a bit of a change in terms of technology - a new online booking system had been created to give an access code for a specific day - but once they got through the gate, everything else was pretty much as it was.

"We were one of the Queenstown tourism pioneers when we opened at the same time as jet-boat company KJet and Skyline. Now we want to welcome visitors to a great fun, good value family day out for those who want to spend time in the outdoors and with our animals," Mr Mee said.

"It’s such an amazing location and it seems a shame to not share it."

The late Frank Mee and his wife, Jean, spent 10 years creating the dirt road to the top of the hill and also got, initially, a one-year zoo licence from the Government to keep pet deer.

The attraction opened in the late 1960s and after two years of legal wrangling, the Mees successfully petitioned to get approvals for other animals, like goats, kunekune pigs, miniature ponies, bison, alpacas, llamas and Highland cows.

Deer Park Heights also proved popular with film scouts, featuring in movies like The Lord Of The Rings, Wolverine and Pete’s Dragon.

A makeshift North Korean prison, built for the 1988 teenage adventure thriller The Rescue, sat atop the hill - but was unconsented and was pulled down, Mr Mee said.

The park will be open, year-round, in daylight hours.

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

Comments

Brilliant! Always loved going up there with the kids, and taking visitors up. It was one of the best (and comparatively cheap) options around Queenstown.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter