Queenstown buzz: making honey in NZ’s adventure capital

Want a buzz that lasts longer than a bungee jump? Try beekeeping – it might just change the way you see the world.

Bees approaching a hive
  • Jetstar
  • April 2019

I am suddenly realising how little I know about honey, let alone bees, yet here I am bottling my own syrupy concoction using a blowtorch to carefully melt it off the wax honeycomb.

In a converted woolshed on the outskirts of Queenstown, I’ve spun the honey to 35ºC, poured it into a jar, then used the leftover beeswax to make my very first candle. This is all totally new to me, a hands-on experience that’s humbling and enlightening: who knew so much went into getting honey from a bee to my toast?

This crash course comes courtesy of the Buzzstop Honey Centre, the ingenious creation of fifth-generation beekeeper Nick Cameron who opened his bee-and-honey mecca just north of Queenstown in June.

Buzzstop not only holds the largest selection of honeys anywhere in New Zealand but offers unique activities like bottling and spinning your own honey, DIY beeswax craft-making and even donning protective suits to play beekeeper.

Nick’s done all of this to drive home the importance of bees in our world. These tiny creatures are the most common pollinators of all plants, from food to flowers to trees, yet they’re disappearing rapidly due to habitat loss, caused reportedly by pesticides and climate change. Losing them would be catastrophic.

Nick has us enthralled from the get-go, preceding the honey spinning and bottling with a highly entertaining summary of life as a bee. “The males do basically nothing,” he explains. “Then at the end of the honey-making period, they are marched out of the hive to die in the cold.” As for the females, they fly the equivalent of four times around the world to produce one kilogram of honey, and while the queen bee rules the roost for up to five years, when her progeny deem her too old, Nick says she is surrounded, stung to death and ripped apart. “So it’s like what happened to Julius Caesar,” one visitor observes. Nick can’t help but agree.

It’s less Roman castles and more rustic chic here though. Nondescript on the outside, inside are the original 70-year-old woolshed’s timbers complemented by modern tables, shelves of honey and lounges. There’s even the odd bee flying around, as the hives are just outside. As I sip rich, dark coffee from local roasters Roar in the cosy on-site café, Nick has us taste some of the country’s rarest and most special honeys.